Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gloria Steinem on Sarah Palin

My favorite line:

"To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, "Somebody
stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs."


Palin: wrong woman, wrong message
Sarah Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Hillary
Clinton. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.
By Gloria Steinem
September 4, 2008

Here's the good news: Women have become so politically
powerful that even the anti-feminist right wing -- the folks with a
headlock on the Republican Party -- are trying to appease the gender
gap with a first-ever female vice president. We owe this to women --
and to many men too -- who have picketed, gone on hunger strikes or
confronted violence at the polls so women can vote. We owe it to
Shirley Chisholm, who first took the "white-male-only" sign off the
White House, and to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who hung in there through
ridicule and misogyny to win 18 million votes.

But here is even better news: It won't work. This isn't the
first time a boss has picked an unqualified woman just because she
agrees with him and opposes everything most other women want and need.
Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about
making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of
the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking
a new pie.

Selecting Sarah Palin, who was touted all summer by Rush
Limbaugh, is no way to attract most women, including die-hard Clinton
supporters. Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton. Her
down-home, divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a
Republican convention that has more than twice as many male delegates
as female, a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the
right wing and a platform that opposes pretty much everything
Clinton's candidacy stood for -- and that Barack Obama's still does.
To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, "Somebody
stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs."

This is not to beat up on Palin. I defend her right to be
wrong, even on issues that matter most to me. I regret that people say
she can't do the job because she has children in need of care,
especially if they wouldn't say the same about a father. I get no
pleasure from imagining her in the spotlight on national and foreign
policy issues about which she has zero background, with one month to
learn to compete with Sen. Joe Biden's 37 years' experience.

Palin has been honest about what she doesn't know. When
asked last month about the vice presidency, she said, "I still can't
answer that question until someone answers for me: What is it exactly
that the VP does every day?" When asked about Iraq, she said, "I
haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq."

She was elected governor largely because the incumbent was
unpopular, and she's won over Alaskans mostly by using unprecedented
oil wealth to give a $1,200 rebate to every resident. Now she is being
praised by McCain's campaign as a tax cutter, despite the fact that
Alaska has no state income or sales tax. Perhaps McCain has opposed
affirmative action for so long that he doesn't know it's about
inviting more people to meet standards, not lowering them. Or perhaps
McCain is following the Bush administration habit, as in the Justice
Department, of putting a job candidate's views on "God, guns and gays"
ahead of competence. The difference is that McCain is filling a job
one 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency.

So let's be clear: The culprit is John McCain. He may have
chosen Palin out of change-envy, or a belief that women can't tell the
difference between form and content, but the main motive was to please
right-wing ideologues; the same ones who nixed anyone who is now or
ever has been a supporter of reproductive freedom. If that were not
the case, McCain could have chosen a woman who knows what a vice
president does and who has thought about Iraq; someone like Texas Sen.
Kay Bailey Hutchison or Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. McCain could have
taken a baby step away from right-wing patriarchs who determine his
actions, right down to opposing the Violence Against Women Act.

Palin's value to those patriarchs is clear: She opposes just
about every issue that women support by a majority or plurality. She
believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but
disbelieves global warming; she opposes gun control but supports
government control of women's wombs; she opposes stem cell research
but approves "abstinence-only" programs, which increase unwanted
births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions; she tried to use
taxpayers' millions for a state program to shoot wolves from the air
but didn't spend enough money to fix a state school system with the
lowest high-school graduation rate in the nation; she runs with a
candidate who opposes the Fair Pay Act but supports $500 million in
subsidies for a natural gas pipeline across Alaska; she supports
drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, though even McCain
has opted for the lesser evil of offshore drilling. She is Phyllis
Schlafly, only younger.

I don't doubt her sincerity. As a lifetime member of the
National Rifle Assn., she doesn't just support killing animals from
helicopters, she does it herself. She doesn't just talk about
increasing the use of fossil fuels but puts a coal-burning power plant
in her own small town. She doesn't just echo McCain's pledge to
criminalize abortion by overturning Roe vs. Wade, she says that if one
of her daughters were impregnated by rape or incest, she should bear
the child. She not only opposes reproductive freedom as a human right
but implies that it dictates abortion, without saying that it also
protects the right to have a child.

So far, the major new McCain supporter that Palin has
attracted is James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Of course, for
Dobson, "women are merely waiting for their husbands to assume
leadership," so he may be voting for Palin's husband.

Being a hope-a-holic, however, I can see two long-term
bipartisan gains from this contest.

Republicans may learn they can't appeal to right-wing
patriarchs and most women at the same time. A loss in November could
cause the centrist majority of Republicans to take back their party,
which was the first to support the Equal Rights Amendment and should
be the last to want to invite government into the wombs of women.

And American women, who suffer more because of having two
full-time jobs than from any other single injustice, finally have
support on a national stage from male leaders who know that women
can't be equal outside the home until men are equal in it. Barack
Obama and Joe Biden are campaigning on their belief that men should
be, can be and want to be at home for their children.

This could be huge.

Gloria Steinem is an author, feminist organizer and
co-founder of the Women's Media Center. She supported Hillary Clinton
and is now supporting Barack Obama.

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