- a supporter of teaching creationism in the schools
- anti-gay marriage
- a “lifetime member of the NRA”
- a previous supporter of Buchanan for president
- has no foreign policy experience
- a person who does not believe in human contribution to global warming
- How exactly does this brief record make Palin an “important new voice” in the election from a Democrat’s stand point?
- How are her politics “important” to the rights of all women let alone women in the Democratic party?
- If Clinton’s praise of Palin was about women’s leadership, regardless of politics, then why is Palin anymore worthy of praise than Clemente?
- And if Clinton meant her qualifier about the direction of the country, why praise a woman who will help lead us so far from Democratic as well as feminist principles?
- for those invested in “any woman,” and unwilling/able to recognize the other women running this season, she re-invigorates the rhetoric of her sole ownership of opening the door for women across the board to dream of the white house (or rather the line she draws goes from Seneca to her, skipping over a long list of other women who ran esp. Shirley Chisholm)
- “subtly” reinforced permission for her supporters to vote Republican in her name, because after all, Clinton herself called Palin an “important voice” something she has not been able to consistently afford others in this campaign
- Gave the McCain camp their next ad “Even Clinton likes our choice”
- Do you want a nation on the same path it has been on for the last 8 years?
- Do you believe women, here and abroad, have thrived under such politics?
- Are you willing to gamble key legislation in the lifetimes of 3 newly appointed Justices (b/c it does not matter who runs in 2012, the Justices will likely already be appointed and they are appointed for life)?
- Are you so committed to the rhetoric of a woman who is neither the first woman to run on a major party ticket nor be entered into nomination at the DNC that you will give up your own rights and the rights of your children to express your wrong? And if so why?
- received emails supporting Palin from feminist academic listservs, calling for compassion and support in viewing her nomination that never sent out anything about Clemente (or McKinney or M. Obama), in defense of the listserv however, it took less than 24 hours for other feminists to point out that Palin’s record does not support feminist causes and give documented examples
- seen multiple academic feminist blogs that wrote extensive deconstructions of sexism aimed at her the same day she was nominated that have yet to address sexism against McKinney, Clemente, or Michelle Obama or have only done one or two posts on M. Obama since the election (even lynching threats did not warrant comment from feminist academic historians who know exactly how lynching was both a raced and gendered form of state sanctioned violence used in many instances to thwart political participation of African Americans in this country – as well as feared or real “miscegenation”)
- seen a page go up to record the sexism against Palin within 24 hours when it took a prominent black feminist blogger to put up a page on Michelle Obama and then many of the same women critiquing sexism against Palin and Clinton disparaged it as irrelevant b/c M. Obama wasn’t running. (Never mind all of the feminist analysis available to us about how women’s bodies are the battleground upon which means political and national aspirations are fought.)
- feminist bloggers actively engage critical analysis of sexism against Palin when they used mocking and tongue-in-cheek analysis of sexism against M. Obama or simply used it as a “humorous” jumping off point to discuss Hillary’s campaign again.
Palin images come from her official Gov Alaska website
Cindy Sheehan. unattributed
1950s cartoon image unattributed
Rosa Clemente. unattributed
Women’s Political Caucus Meeting. photographer Bettye Lane
Palin and family driving home. unattributed
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Clinton 1960 unattributed
Clinton 2007 unattributed
Wonder Woman Issue 25 (1947) artist unattributed
BBC News/ unattributed
Newman. White Women’s Rights: The Racial Origins of Feminism in the US. cover art unattributed.
I sat down this a.m. to write a quickie about McCain’s choice for VP Sarah Palin. As someone who has only held office for a short period of time her record is small and easy to digest with bullets. Moreover, McCain’s manipulative decision is fairly obvious, as was his discomfort and urge to stop her gushing during her acceptance speech. (Did you see how many times he drifted toward the podium as if to take the mic when she was talking about her kids?!) Then, questionable behavior from Democrats made me shift my focus somewhat.
Yesterday, Hillary Clinton said:
Governor Palin will add an important new voice to the debate.
Obama also said that Palin was
a compelling new voice
The difference between the two statements is that while Obama is still making peace with a segment of women in the party, Clinton’s praise is said in the context of her supporters leaning toward McCain anyway. While Obama is our candidate, Clinton had no obligation to speak on the VP pick. That being said, the record below calls both of their statements about import into question.
Palin has two years of service at the state level as Governor, as well as two terms in city council and mayor’s office in small rural towns in Alaska. she has no national service whatsoever.
The image above and to the right, is Palin’s own self-imaging from her official Governor website, including the decision to attach the two images.
For those who do not teach in conservative parts of the country, creationism is probably something you can shrug off. What I would like to remind you is that Palin does not just believe in Creationism she supports it being taught in schools and in regions of the nation like where I am that would help solidify embattled district that are currently trying to replace accepted science with creationist texts. As a Catholic, I do believe God created the world, as an educator I do not believe that my world view needs to be taught, nor trump or erase other intellectual models, in school.
While she supported a previous bill to grant partner rights to employed same sex partners by vetoing a recall bill, she has defined marriage as between man and a woman. She has also made it clear that she intends to support Supreme Court nominees who agree, ensuring that any future challenges for equality on the marriage issue will be shut down in the national courts.
In her acceptance speech, Palin spent a considerable amount of time praising her children and talking about her differently-abled newborn whom “she would never have aborted,” implying that pro-choice is about genetic engineering. (Sadly, in some camps, particularly with regards to the differently-abled, poor, and woc, it is. However, in the mainstream, it is not.) Besides that implication, it should be noted that Palin also does not believe in abortion for rape survivors or in case of life threatening complications. Her extensive focus on her children in the speech was thus more than a mother’s pride; it was a political statement about the definition of family and the “sanctity of the unborn.” She has made it very clear that she intends to support the nomination of Supreme Court Justices who agree.
Palin’s conservative construction of “wife,” “mother,” and reproduction are not only regressive, with Supreme Court nominations at stake and recent court cases/legislation challenging the existence of Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies, the teaching of multiculturalism at the grade school and high school levels, the challenges to title IX, protection of women, poc, and GLBTQ people in the work place that have been decidedly pro-corporate in the lower courts of late, and affirmative action in education and in the workplace (for which white women have been documented as the largest beneficiaries) we cannot forget what a McCain Palin ticket really means for women’s rights.
When protecting the polar bears threatened the most direct line to Alaska’s natural gas resources (which may have been tapped another way with study), Palin sacrificed the bears. Her refusal to list them as endangered means Polar Bears are now facing extinction. How many other animals and environments will she sacrifice for big business interests?
Her Conservation Commission focuses on the exploitation of oil and gas, not environment conservation. And her husband works for North Slope, an oil company. Alaska has long been protected against drilling for the sake of the habitats, indigenous land rights and culture, and ultimately against the impact studies have said will reach our food supplies, air quality, and other critical issues. Palin has an in to the Alaska oil that McCain thinks we should “drill here. drill now.”
Finally, as she said extensively during her acceptance, Palin is pro-war. Unlike many mothers who have sent their sons and daughters to Iraq and gotten them back broken, cheated out of educational benefits or proper medical care, terrified to return, or simply not returned at all (some under questionable circumstances), Palin is still willing to erase these failures of our government in the name of nationalism. Worse, as evidenced in her speech, Palin still believes there is a connection between 9/11 and Iraq when the majority of N. Americans, regardless of politics, know better. And obviously, her pro-war stance does not extend to queer soldiers who will not be protected from a repeal of don’t ask don’t tell on her watch. (Biden’s son also serves in the military but he is committed to: ending the war responsibly, ending don’t ask don’t tell, holding combatants responsible for sexual assault of soldiers and civilians, and also understands that the terrorists who brought down the towers are not in Iraq nor are the “weapons of mass destruction” b/c he’s read the reports that even Bush admits are true.)
The Politics of Praise
We should all be proud of Governor Sarah Palin’s historic nomination, and I congratulate her and Senator McCain. While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, Governor Palin will add an important new voice to the debate. (H. Clinton public statement)
Clinton’s comments deviate considerably from Obama’s in that while they both praised her “new voice,” which is starting to seem like when Senior scholars silence Juniors by praising their “new ideas,” she did so without additional criticism of the Palin platform; a single phrase is not the same as critical engagement (see the next subheading for a breakdown of what I mean). She also knows that her support or lack of it has been critical in swaying those “Clinton voters” who have repeatedly threatened to pledge allegiance to McCain.
While some will praise Clinton for issuing a congratulations to Palin because it shows solidarity with women in office, and despite the obvious ways that woman and feminist are not the same, that is a mistake.
Her praise is not only essentialist, ignoring women’s rights and feminism for the presence of a woman that most Clinton supporters would criticize on any other day, it continues historical and present day erasures that have been the saddest part of the campaign.
First, it erases her own vocal supporter Geraldine Ferraro, who Clinton supported until her resignation from the Clinton campaign. Ferraro was the first female VP on a major party ticket (Democrat).
Second, Clinton has offered no similar congratulations to Rosa Clemente. Rosa was nominated as VP on the Green Party ticket several months ago. While she is not running on a major party ticket, like many presidential bids by women before hers, Clemente is intentionally choosing an alternative to the democans/republicats. It is not a failure, it is a radical choice.
Clemente is also part of a historic ticket. As far as I know, she is the first woman of color VP to run with a women of color Presidential candidate, making it the first all woc ticket in N. American history.
(The Greens have one more distinction that makes their absence from “the women’s candidate’s” talk either in her timeline for herself or her congratulations to Palin conspicuous: their 2000 election bid, with VP Winona LaDuke, is largely credited for having split the progressive vote. Thus, calling them a throwaway party to excuse the blatant unequal treatment of their current VP is also ahistorical.
35 years of service
First, Clinton could have congratulated the Republican choice by saying they had finally caught up with the Democrats. It would have reminded people that Palin is not the first major party VP. Doing so, would have put the focus back on how progressive the Democrats have been in comparison to the Republicans particularly with regards to women.
Where Clinton failed, Palin was clear about the Democrats contribution; by acknowledging it first, Palin also took the power for us to use it to deflate some of the questionable attention she is getting away from us:
Of course, she did manage to ignore Clemente (current Greens VP), LaDuke (1996 & 2000 greens VP), who we cannot forget garnered enough votes to reinvigorate both the Greens and the Democrats, and Condoleeza Rice’s important role in the current administration – which, as a Republican, I would expect her to mention (And I am not the only one). In so doing, Palin ensured that the trajectory of women’s leadership remains largely focused on a single group of women and also, however unintentionally, that from a VP position she is much more well aligned for a Presidential one some day. However problematic her nod to the Democrats was, Palin was still able to so when Clinton, the “women’s candidate” did not.
Second, H. Clinton could have issued a congratulations to “all of the women VPs running” and followed it with a brief statement about why she thought the Obama ticket was still the most important one, perhaps highlighting Michelle Obama and Jill Biden as she did at the DNC. (As I’ve said before, I too am disappointed about the fact that Obama is the only one not running with a woman. I still think Caroline Kennedy or Gloria Romero would have been much better choices, but that is not the point.) Had she done so, it would once again have shifted the focus from the McCain ticket to the political aspirations of N. American women in general and ground her comments in the larger context of praising the Democratic ticket.
Again, unlike Clinton, Obama praised Palin while actively critiquing her appointment:
We send our congratulations to Governor Sarah Palin and her family on her designation as the Republican nominee for vice president. It is yet another encouraging sign that old barriers are falling in our politics. (Followed by he and his camp critiquing McCain’s policies briefly in the statement and then more in depth over the next day and pointing out the difference between them and the Democrats.)
By neither mentioning the Democrats precedent setting for the major party VP bids or actively critiquing Palin, with the exception of one phrase, or simply not commenting at all since she is not our candidate, Clinton accomplished three things:
As proof of both 2 and 3, the women from the “Democrats for McCain” have already issued a glowing endorsement of Palin referencing Clinton’s comments.
Who/What are you in it for?
When Clinton asked if the Democrats were committed to her or to the ideals of the party this past week at the DNC, she reminded all of us what was at stake. As I said when I wrote praise for her speech, she shifted the focus of this election back to where it belongs: the issues.
That morning, and again in her speech, she made sure to condemn McCain’s use of her statements during the primary that lent themselves so easily to a Republican campaign against Obama. (Her comments that McCain would be a better president, that McCain was more prepared to handle foreign policy and the military, and that McCain had a long record of service while Obama had speeches. All of which she made as someone who has been in politics for 35 years and knew the consequences of painting the potential nominee as incompetent vis-a-vis the competition.)
The wording and timing of Clinton’s praise for Palin has undermined any such goodwill her speech may have garnered with me. For someone who was so clear about what was at stake, she continues to put her own agenda above that of our future. And sadly, many of her supporters continue to define woman, and citizen, so narrowly that they will applaud and defend Palin against sexism (rightfully) and afford no such analysis to McKinney-Clemente or Michelle Obama.
Barack Obama is also guilty of unhelpful praise here. Calling Palin an “compelling voice” undermines the fundamental differences between the vision of the nation Democrats have and that of Republicans just as clearly as calling her an “important new voice.” At the same time, he has to comment on the VP pick b/c he is the presidential nominee and he has to say something positive because he is still under scrutiny from a certain segment of women voters. Hillary Clinton does not have to do either.
So I will ask you, N. American voters, who and what are you in it for?
What is at stake
If we lose this election, we potentially lose 3 seats on the Supreme Court, so those of you fooling yourselves into thinking you can vote McCain now and then Hillary Clinton in 2012 need to wake up. Supreme Court Justices serve for LIFE. We will continue on in perpetual war. Social Security will be privatized. Jobs and industry will still be beholden to unfair trade agreements. The prison-industrial-complex and global insecurity will continue to increase – note women are the largest growing population in prisons. Environmental issues will be sacrificed to corporate gains – a key issue of Palin’s leadership. Educational programs will continue to be cut (including head start, ethnic and women’s studies, access to ed for immigrants, possible creationist teaching at the grade school level – b/c Palin is a creationist, etc.) and access to higher education will continue to be a luxury paid for by a lifetime of debt. Anti-immigration politics that has correlated with a rise in violent hate crimes, the incarceration of mothers with no regard for the welfare of their children, the sexual assault by some state employees, the needless deaths of undocumented people in ICE custody, and the violation of multiple inalienable rights (which always transfer to the civilian population sooner or later), will only continue and possibly get much worse. And core mainstream feminist issues like reproductive rights (access to certain contraceptions as well as abortion, sex education in the schools, women’s health clinics, etc.), LBT equality (not just marriage but also curriculum and federally funded advocate programs), the equal pay act, access to affirmative action (statistics prove that white women are the largest beneficiaries of affirmative action programs), and title IX may all see their end. And let us also not forget that under Republicans funding for DSV programs and women’s health research have been cut, sexual assault programs on campuses have come under negative scrutiny, and hate crimes have consistently risen while prosecution of hate crimes has been on the steady decline.
For feminists, the issue is not just a McCain win but also how we handle the continued election process and a potential Obama win.
I used to worry when my students said “I am not a feminist but . . .” Now I worry when they say “I am not a feminist because . . .” The difference is that they are savvy enough to watch and note disparity that harkins back to the days of Stanton suggesting that maybe Truth should not speak after all and Anthony mobilizing racist language against both black and Irish people to assert the rights of white women. The divides are blatant and raw in the classroom where the mainstream students are as guilty of erasures as some Democrats. And my black female body is no longer enough to sway anti-racist white students nor students of color into thinking there is room for us at the table.
Here is how another woc blogger put the attention:
While I believe that it is wonderful that feminists have gone on the immediate defensive, as a WOC I cannot help but be reminded that it took African American women pointing out the sexism faced by Michelle Obama for it to be recognized by the feminist movement. There was no instantaneous reaction to her being constructed as an angry black woman. In fact many prominent feminists to this day have still not spoken publicly against the attacks that Michelle received and continues to receive. What this tells me, is that feminism is still a movement that protects, validates, and honours white women. (Womanist Musing)
My Chicana TA was more succinct in an email she sent wondering about class Tuesday:
So, do you think the girls who have been refusing to talk about sexism against Cindy McCain are going to jump on the Palin bandwagon b/c of Hillary? Can we duck under the table when the woc start yelling back about why no one is de
fending Michelle or Rosa again? (comment reprinted by permission)
In the last two days, I have
The issue is not the critique against sexism aimed at Palin, that is wrong and we should all hold sexist media responsible. In fact, if I weren’t concerned about what motivates much of the critique (and my concern stems from disparity not just conjecture) I would applaud liberal feminists for finally standing up against sexism in this election regardless of the target.
The issue is: why it is so easy to defend the rights of a conservative white woman against sexism when she would not defend ours, but not to defend any of the women of color involved in this campaign season, or to do so so sparingly and so quickly as to render their analysis practically invisible.
The message: sexism only matters when it is aimed at certain women.
The same thinking helped craft Clinton as fully formed from the suffragettes’ heads instead of part of a long and arduous struggle by women across race, class, and politics.
The message: women’s political aspirations only matter when it comes from certain women.
This is the legacy of the election season. It is a legacy prominent feminist academics and activists warned against during the primaries. It is the legacy I believed Hillary Clinton was trying to undue with her speech at the DNC. And it is the legacy that we, feminists, must confront here and now if we ever plan to have a successful movement for all women.
I’m lucky enough to know and work alongside feminists who get that, do you?