Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cottle on Palin

Michelle Cottle is a powerful, successful woman. As senior editor of The New Republic, Cottle has made great strides in revitalizing her publication. She's also a strong, effective voice for feminism, something that's reflected in her take on Republican running mate Sarah Palin:

"...the strong, proud, fearless, gender-transcendent Hillary morphed into a disrespected, mistreated victim. Grievance feminism came roaring back with a vengeance. Clinton's supporters increasingly went from praising her gender-neutral success to celebrating her triumph over a male-dominated system and decrying the patriarchal forces still aligned against her. Obama wasn't just beating Clinton; he was behaving, as Hillary surrogate Geraldine Ferraro charged, in a "terribly sexist" fashion.

...just when you thought it was all over and the recovery could begin, Republicans handed us Sarah Palin.

The Palin pick is disheartening on so many levels. For starters, even what little we know about the Alaska governor's policy views is enough to make a traditional feminist weep. The staunchly conservative Palin not only opposes abortion rights (even in cases of rape or incest), she also supports abstinence-only sex education and takes a strict free-market approach toward health care.

Of course, these days, the feminist mantle is claimed by pro-life conservatives and pro-choice progressives alike. Palin herself is a proud member of Feminists for Life. Feminism seems no longer to denote a particular set of values or ideological agenda; it is merely a label appropriated to proclaim that one is committed to the best interests of women--whatever one believes those to be.

By far the most insulting aspect of Palin's candidacy is the McCain team's hope that placing a ballsy female on the ticket will attract some former Hillary supporters by stoking their gender-based resentments against Obama and the DNC. Palin has been happy to encourage this strategy by cheering Hillary's "eighteen million cracks in the glass ceiling" and offering herself up as a way to help women go even farther. Sadly, some Hillary dead-enders may be so blinded by bitterness that they fall for this nonsense. The rest of us should be outraged by a strategy so nakedly founded on the premise that Hillary gals were driven more by identity politics than by any interest in their candidate's values, ideology, or qualifications.

Am I suggesting that all of these setbacks for feminism are Palin's fault? Or Hillary's? Or that there is nothing at all to celebrate in their achievements? Of course not. Neither would I argue for a second that these smart, ambitious women shouldn't be pushing as hard as they can to get what they want out of life. But, as with any enduring movement, feminism has its shining moments and its discouraging ones. I just wish someone had warned me ahead of time that this election season would wind up falling with such a thud into the latter category."

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