Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I don't think Sarah Palin is qualified to be Vice President of the United States and, given her views on a range of issues, I wouldn't support her for any elected office. But I'd much rather have a beer with her than with any of he other candidates.
Palin is the beneficiary of the left-wing politics that she despises, and of Second Wave feminism which was part of that package. If she had been born 20 years earlier, and gotten her BA in 1967 instead of 1987, she would never have gotten a job as a sportscaster when she graduated. If she had been running for high political office in 1988 instead of 2008, her socially conservative, religious right constituency would have been horrified at the idea of the mother of a 4 month old baby working outside the home in any capacity, much less running for the vice presidency of the United States. And in 1988, she wouldn't have been running because there wouldn't have been an affirmative action pick on the Republican ticket.
Palin is the living symbol of what I took to be the goal of the feminist movement: to fix things so that women could be like guys. That was it. Very simple. To see to it that women had could get guy jobs and hunt moose--if, of course, that is what they wanted to do. The purpose of feminism as I understood it was to eliminate sex roles so that both men and women could do the jobs and live the lives traditionally reserved for men only or for women only--so that no one's options would be constrained by an accident of birth.
That's what I thought it was all about. But then strange doctrines started creeping in. First and foremost, there was the idea that feminism was inextricably linked to every other edifying sort of -ism. Gay rights, and the rights of every oppressed or marginalized group was supposed to be intrinsic to feminism. Peace was a feminist issue because, rather than freeing women, and men, from the constraints of sex roles, a significant vocal minority of feminists held that the aim was rather to valorize traditional femininity.
Finally, abortion took center stage as the defining feminist issue. To make matters worse the very rationale for making it the central issue was sexist. The working assumption was that if a woman had a baby then she must inevitably raise it, that women "bonded" with their babies through pregnancy as so that giving them up for adoption was unthinkable. Of course, the idea that a woman could simply dump the baby on its dad never crossed anyone's mind. That's what I'd do if I had a baby I didn't want: first stop out of hospital--dad's place. "Here's your baby. I'll come by from time to time to see how he's coming along, and send you a little money every once and a while if I remember. Bye."
Now Democrats are being skewered on the abortion issue because they will not compromise. And compromising would skewer Palin because most Americans wouldn't want to see the kind of draconian anti-abortion legislation she wants--with no exceptions for rape or incest, whatever the stage of pregnancy. Suppose some miserable 14 year old girl is abused and raped by her father. No morning-after pill for her. And then there there are those sweet, cuddley stem cells. Those atheistic pro-abortionists may trot out that actor who has Parkenson's and scientists may whine, but all human life is sacred (exceptions: capital punishment and war).
Even on the worst case scenario, if Roe v. Wade went down in flames, and a significant number of women did not have access to abortion, parenthood is a matter of choice--as fathers know. Work for most women is not a matter of choice and for the 2/3 of American women who are not college graduates, the labor market is thoroughly sex-segregated and sex discrimination is the norm. Feminist activists, members of the unisex elite, don't seem to notice and the Democratic party taking abortion to be the central feminist issue has not made workplace issues a priority.
Right now the Walmart class action sex discrimination lawsuit, involving over 1.5 million current and former Walmart employees, is chugging its way through the courts. Hundreds of women have told their stories--stories with which most working class women can empathize. Abortion is controversial but it is uncontroversial that women should get equal pay for equal work and, more fundamentally, that they should have equal access to on-the-job training, promotion, and a fair opportunity to get equal work.
Sarah Palin got to be a guy--to shoot moose, work as a sportscaster and, through the Republican Party's one-off affirmative action program, run for the vice presidency of the United States. Most women don't get the chance. If Democrats want to recapture the working class vote it might be helpful to do something for the millions of working class women who are stuck in boring, poorly-paid, deadend, pink-collar jobs.