Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Gender Politics Piss Marcus Off

by Marcus Sakey

I'm a diehard feminist.

Because that's a trigger-word these days, I guess I better tell you what it means to me. Simply put, it's the belief that men and women should be afforded the same rights and opportunities. Everybody gets an equal shot, everybody gets treated with basic respect and dignity. Period.

What the word does not mean is that men and women are the same, that our differences are something we should ignore. I understand the ideological basis for the argument, the idea that we are people first and gender second, and that acknowledging gender gives rise to hierarchy. But that's rhetoric, and it's crap. We aren't people first. Our identities are inextricably linked to our gender, with all the biological and sociological differences that entails.

And I think that's great.

The reason I bring that up is that I gotta say, I've been startled by the sexism I've witnessed lately. The topic? Sarah Palin, of course.

Sean raised a number of interesting points about her selection as McCain's running mate. I tend to agree with him; I can't imagine why someone who supported Clinton would vote for McCain, and I'm stunned at the suggestion that a significant portion of America is so fevered in their enthusiasm for having a woman in the White House that they will vote for a uterus instead of a policy. To me, that's as sexist as it comes.

Maybe I'm missing something, and if you feel like I am, I hope you'll try to explain it to me. But the idea of voting for someone primarily because of their gender seems the equivalent of being friends with someone because they're black. The idea is offensive. You don't pick your friends by skin color, and you don't pick your leaders by gender.

I have posted before about my frustration with the campaign Clinton ran. But it would never have occurred to me, had she won, to vote for McCain because of his gender. So why is the opposite an okay sentiment?

Hell, why is it even okay to say in public? Imagine the reverse.

And while we're on the topic of sexism, how about the media coverage of Palin? Yeah, I get that she's a little thin on credentials, that there isn't a lot of political backstory to dig into. But is anyone else offended that every news story seems to mention, within the first two paragraphs, that she's a wife and a mother of five?

So what?

Should that information be in the story somewhere? I suppose. But stories about Obama don't generally mention his wife and daughters above the fold. More like the last paragraph, which is where that kind of information belongs.

Worse, I've seen a number of opinion pieces that suggest that the fact that she is a mother has some bearing on her job performance. Some think it a positive thing, some a negative. Me, I gotta wonder--when she's on a diplomatic mission to Iran, how do her children come into the equation? And if they do, do Obama's as well? Should we vote based on whose are better dressed, better behaved?

What do you think, folks? Am I crazy to be wound up by all of this? Am I looking at it the wrong way?


Michael Dymmoch said...

Marcus said, "You don't pick your friends by skin color, and you don't pick your leaders by gender."

Maybe I'm cynical but it seems to me that too many people do just that.

Given what passes for education in this country, and considering that we're indoctrinated--from the time we're old enough to propped up in front of Sesame Street--to buy things uncritically, I'd say psychology and a knowledge of history or biology don't enter into many decisions.

Steven T. said...

Well...I certainly don't think that Palin will bring McCain the droves of Clinton supporters that he's hoping for. She does solidify his base with the more conservative Republicans.

And there are a lot of people who will be voting for Obama (and many others who would have voted for Clinton) with an eye towards breaking down perceived barriers. Seen this way, it's not crazy to vote with the hopes of getting Palin into a historic position. She may not be the greatest candidate to do this, but then Jackie Robinson wasn't the greatest Negro League baseball player and Branch Rickey didn't choose him for his skills on the field (though those were considerable). It was to break down a barrier.

Now, so may say, "Well, voting Obama breaks down a barrier" but then others will simply think the other barrier is more important. Susan B. Anthony and other feminists of her era were furious that black men got the right to vote before white women did.

Saw Christine Todd Whitman on the news this morning. Why wasn't she tapped?

Dana King said...

I think you're preaching a dangerously thought-provoking form of post-feminism, where the two genders don't have to be identical in order to be equal. Let the law make equal what law can make equal; nature will eventually take its course no matter what we do.

As for Gov. Palin, I don't care about her kids. She appears to have a family she loves, so good for her. I'm willing--I prefer--to pass judgment on her credentials without taking her family situation into consideration, so long as she desists from presenting her family as a virtue to be considered in favor of voting for her.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't care what her sex is. What I do care is that she's the most right-wing candidate to come down the pike. No abortions even to save the life of the mother. Book bannings and fire the librarians who disagree. No tolerance of alternative life styles. No environmental concerns. Teaching creationism in school. No sex education that includes components other than abstinence. I am so desperate at the thought of this woman becoming President.

Sean Chercover said...

Uh-oh. Now I see that Palin tried to have books banned from the library when she was Mayor.

Check this eye-opening article out, from Time magazine:,8599,1837918,00.html?imw=Y

And here's a 'graph from that article:

Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.

This has absolutely nothing to do with her sex. Just thought I'd drop in and cause trouble...

Libby Hellmann said...

Politics isn't the same as picking friends, and both the gender and race cards have been trumpeted and played several times already. They're part of the electoral package, and therefore fair game. I just hope voters are sophisticated enough to see through the blatant (and sometimes crude) appeals to our prejudices...

And Patti, I feel your desperation. Except when I watch the sea of white, mostly male faces at the Republican convention, I realize how much this country has changed in 8 years. And how little the Republicans have. In a perverse sort of way, it gives me hope.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm guilty of voting for women just to get more of them in office, but I never vote for republicans and there is nothing at all appealing to me about Palin - she is an extremist on so many issues and too inexperienced to take over the top job if necessary. This country has already suffered thru 8 years of right wing moron rule, I would not vote for this ticket just to get a woman in the job. I'll just write in Hillary's name.

Anonymous said...

So Palin asked about banning books... and Obama was the one senator who stopped the bill in Illinois to not allow multiple sex offenders the guaranteed early parole opportunities they still receive today.

Which is worse?

I'm not voting McCain-Palin, I'm just saying this is all the same political back-biting and BS that comes up every four years... except that every four years we get a little nastier with each other, and a little farther apart as a people.

edired said...

As an athiest there is one book i'd like to see ( not banned ) but at least put in with the other fiction .

ab said...

Palin is a dangerous fanatic.

I can't understand how such a vast portion of the American public really believe in creationism, anti-abortion, guns, anti-gays and no sex education or contraceptives.

What does it come from? Lack of proper education?

Louisa said...

No, ab, it comes from God, of course, silly!

ab said...

I refuse to believe God is that dumb...