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Posted in: Feminism

Published on Sep 09, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Is Palin a Law and Order Candidate?

This Veteran Feminist Sure Hopes So


I admit it, call me crazy, but I was utterly charmed by Governor Sarah Palin which is to say that, despite her beauty, her smiles, and her humor, I saw that she was also Annie Oakley-deadly and no man's pushover; indeed, I would not mess with her. (Well, did you think this veteran feminist would be charmed by a woman because she is a lightweight?)

After all, Palin represents a state that gave women the right to vote in 1912–New York State enfranchised women in 1917; a state in which women like Libby Riddles and Susan Butcher have won the incredibly difficult dog sled race known as the Iditarod. Butcher won it three times in a row–something that no man has ever done. The race covers 1,161 miles of Alaskan wilderness and the racer, known as a "musher," often faces 100 mile an hour winds, blizzards, wild animals, thin ice, avalanches, snow blindness, and sleep deprivation.

As I said, although Palin may not come from either the urban east or west coasts of America, this does not mean she is a lightweight. Folks: She's an iconoclast and a reformer who (now, here's a Newsflash for you), did not endorse President George Bush in 2000. She endorsed Steve Forbes in 1996 and 2000.

However, the minute she closed her mouth–literally–Palin was subjected to allegations of "fraud" or "witchcraft." Precisely because she was so sensational at the RNC, media commentators, on both sides of the aisle, shockingly pointed out that Palin's speech had been written for her and thus, might not really express her own ideas and thus, might not count. Her success was not exactly real, it was only an enchanting performance. Of course, all political speeches are written for the candidates, both male and female, although the candidates also help shape them and sometimes rewrite them. Do they really think that Senators Obama, Biden, or McCain do not have speechwriters? Does Obama's rock concert-like performance not count as one? Oh, shades of Hillary Clinton–methinks it's a woman running for high public office.

The mainstream media and the blogosphere challenged her personally, not politically, and they went on and on about whether Palin was the mother or the grandmother of her "special needs" youngest son, Trig; whether she ever bothered to stay home long enough to teach "abstinence" to her seventeen-year-old pregnant daughter Bristol, etc. See Here and Here for some coverage of the media coverage.

Seven days after her candidacy was announced, a concerted feminist attack on both the East and West coasts was unleashed against Palin. Judith Warner, who has a blog at the New York Times, wrote as follows: "It turns out there was something more nauseating than the nomination of Sarah Palin…It was the tone of the acclaim that followed her acceptance speech." To be fair, Warner, who once interviewed me about my book Woman's Inhumanity to Woman, understands that some women may perhaps vote as a function of "Is she like me or not like me? If she's not like me, can I like her?" But Warner concludes her article by saying that "We're not likely to get a worthy female president anytime soon."

And, on the same day, my old friend Gloria Steinem wrote a piece in the Los Angeles Times. Gloria has always been a decent and gracious woman, but she is also a hard-core Democratic Party operative. Her piece is titled: Palin: wrong woman, wrong message. To her credit, Steinem rejected the personal attacks on Palin and then proceeded to attack her politically.

Steinem wrote that "Palin opposes just about every issue that women support," and goes on to list just what those issues are: Creationism (a belief in God and/or a belief that God created the world in seven days) and the right to learn about this right alongside classes about evolution; A disbelief in "global warming" (as if this is a "belief" right up there with a belief in God); "opposition to gun control" but support for "government control of women's wombs."

Ah, the abortion issue, always, only, the abortion issue. We fought hard for that right, and we have been forced to continue fighting for it. I don't agree with the Right to Life position but I can work with someone whether or not we agree on this hot-button issue. All those feminists who believe that we can work with tyrants and misogynists surely should be able to work with those who oppose abortion. Yes? No?

But, prithee pause: Many women voters share Palin's beliefs, including some feminists. In fact, some feminists are still in shock over the Democratic Party's mistreatment of Hillary and of women. Some have vowed to write in Hillary's name or to vote for McCain. Steinem is plenty worried about them because she appeals to this group specifically. She writes: "To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying: "Somebody stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs."

Marcia Pappas, the President of New York State NOW just sent around a funny but painful piece in which she compares women who love abusive men to women who love abusive political parties. She is specifically thinking of the Democratic Party. Of course, Pappas wanted Hillary. (With Pappas's permission, I have reproduced that article at the end of my own piece. It is titled: To: Women Who Love Their Political Party Too Much." )

I bet that Obama is sorry he did not pick Hillary as his Vice President and I bet the Democratic Party is even sorrier they did not find a way to have both Hillary and Barack. Sending Hillary out to attract the woman's vote on Obama's behalf–that's not good enough.

Bloggers and journalists have either created or passed along an incredible number of large lies about Palin. Some bloggers–right here at Pajamas–and some mainstream media (CNN for starters), have also done some fact-checking.

For my part, I have been researching Palin's record for a few days now. Funny, but her position on women's issues is not all that clear. My guess is that Palin might be pretty good on some issues that are crucial to women. What I'm about to suggest will be considered heretical. Why? Because I am absolutely willing to talk about women's issues without placing abortion dead-center.

I have worked with some Christian conservatives who are anti-abortion but who are, nevertheless, pro-woman. Interestingly, they have sometimes taken pro-woman stands that are, in my view, even more radical in certain areas than those taken by secular feminists. Indeed, I have found that religious people can also be profoundly pro-woman. Feminism cannot be defined only by secularists or only by one political party.

If Palin is a Law and Order candidate then she might be good on the issue of domestic violence; rape; incest; child pedophiles; and sexual harassment. I don't know, I'm not sure, she has no record in these areas. I would love to hear her talk about these issues. If Palin is a Law and Order kinda gal, then she'd also be good on the issue of trafficking/sexual slavery; pornography; and prostitution.

These are all woman's issues and feminist issues too.

Further, I bet Palin strongly opposes Jihad, Islamism, terrorism, and therefore Islamic gender apartheid. Palin might actually be willing to risk being called an "Islamophobe" in order to take some radical steps to ensure that Islamic gender apartheid does not further penetrate the West. I am talking about face-veiling, female genital cutting, arranged marriage, polygamy, honor killings, etc.

I would like to know where Governor Palin stands on these issues. I am sure they will –and should–come up in her debate with Senator Biden who sponsored the Violence Against Women Act.

Further, I would like to know where Palin stands on the issue of equal pay for equal work and on the Equal Rights Amendment. As a mother with a helpful husband, what programs would Palin support for mothers whose husbands are ill, have died, have lost their jobs, or who have abandoned their families? What about mothers without husbands altogether? What are Palin's views about the rights of mothers/primary caretakers and of dependent children? George Bush-era Republicans cut many services to families in crisis. Do McCain and Palin plan to continue in this sad and sorry way or do they have some new ideas?

Feminist groups would be very short-sighted indeed to alienate Palin or to write her off as McCain's "unqualified" pick before she makes her views on such issues known.

On Sunday, Sept. 7th, Tammy Bruce became the first feminist to open her heart publicly to Governor Palin. Today, I join her in the pages of Pajamas Media.

I will be writing about Senator McCain, separately, in the future.

Marcia Pappas' Letter:
To: Women Who Love Their Political Party Too Much
By NOW-NYS President Marcia Pappas
September 9th, 2008
Many years ago, I read a book called "Women Who Love too Much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He'll Change" by Robin Norwood. It's a book to help women look at why they might find it difficult to leave unhealthy relationships. So I got to thinking, what if we exchanged "men" for "the party?" I have often used this analogy when talking about my feelings and to explain why women have such difficulty holding their "party" accountable for its actions.

In the women's movement, we often say the personal is political. For as long as I can remember, I've known that abusive relationships can extend beyond our personal relationships with individuals into our political lives. So let's re-read Women Who Love Too Much, substituting "the party" for "men." It will show the dynamics of some current events, so I urge you to take this test I send, with love and a desire to empower women. Women inside and outside the women's movement, please ask yourself these questions:

1. Do you find yourself attracted again and again to a troubled, distant, party?

2. Do you obsess over a party that is emotionally unavailable, addicted to power, money, alcohol, or other women?

3. Do you neglect your friends and your own interests, your ethics, and ideals to be immediately available to the party?

4. Do you feel empty without the party, even though being with it is torment?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, please continue. If not, continue anyway. Maybe you can help another suffering sister who needs to break away from a dysfunctional party.

Why do so many women become obsessed with a political party that is emotionally unavailable, addicted to work, alcohol, or other women, a party that cannot love them back with laws to support women's rights?

Women inside and outside the women's movement need recognize the roots of our destructive patterns. These symptoms can apply to men as well as women and Republicans as well as Democrats. However experience shows me that more women than men suffer from this syndrome. Be truthful with yourself. Do you fit this description?

1. You come from a dysfunctional society in which your emotional needs were not met. (Women grow up in a patriarchal society that devalues everything we do).

2. Having received little real nurturing, validation, or encouragement to be yourself, you try to fill this unmet need vicariously by becoming a care-giver, a champion especially to a party that appears to be, in some way, needy.

3. Because you were never able to change the culture into a society of supportive, caring society that believes in the true equality, you respond deeply to the familiar type of emotionally unavailability that you can change through love and devotion.

4. Terrified of abandonment, i.e. losing the Supreme Court, you will do anything to keep the relationship from dissolving. Women have been duped by the party; and some feel they've nowhere else to go.

5. Almost nothing is too much trouble, takes too much time, or is too expensive if it will help the party with which you are involved.

6. Accustomed to lack of respect in a patriarchal, misogynist society, you are willing to wait, hope, and try harder to please the party.

7. You are willing to take far more than fifty percent of the responsibility, guilt, and blame for the failures inside and outside the party.

8. Your self esteem is critically low, and deep inside you do not believe you deserve to be happy. Rather, you believe you must earn the right to enjoy life. You are convinced that you can earn that joy by submitting to whatever the party wants, even if it means supporting unqualified candidates or trading off one civil right off for another. In other words, you are subservient.

9. Having experienced little security in life, you have a desperate need to control your party. You mask as "being helpful" your efforts to control people and situations.

10. In a relationship with the party, you are much more in touch with your dream of how it could be than with the reality of how it is.

11. You are addicted to men in the party and to the emotional pain they inflict. It's all you know. After all, women have been hurt by patriarchy since birth.

12. You may be predisposed emotionally and often bio chemically to addiction to drugs, alcohol, and/or certain foods, particularly sugary ones. This is the reason so many women have "body image" issues that lead to obesity, anorexia, or bulimia.

13. By being drawn to a party with problems that need fixing, or by being enmeshed in situations that are chaotic, uncertain, and emotionally painful, you avoid focusing on your responsibility to yourself and to the issues you espouse.

14. You may have a tendency toward episodes of depression (the outcome of living in a patriarchal, misogynistic society that has oppressed you for your entire life), which you try to forestall through the excitement provided by an unstable relationship with the party.

15. You are not attracted to any political party that is kind, stable, reliable, and interested in you and the issues you support. You find such political parties to be boring.

What does this test say to you about you and your relationship with your party? You decide. Is it time to leave the party, or will you stay and keep wishing and hoping they will change?


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