Sexism, feminism and the election

Ever since Hilliary Clinton became a serious candidate for President and the media, bloggers, and the Obama campaign discussed her, the debate about which remarks were sexist raged on.  Now with Sarah Palin’s nomination for Republican VP, it continues.

I’m old enough to remember the early days of the women’s movement.  I remember the moment at an obscure and long forgotten SDS meeting in D.C. (maybe at GW(?) when women were expected to leave the meeting to make sandwiches.  Some of us refused.  The men were shocked. It was out of those days that the women’s movement was born.  I have worked for the equal rights amendment, was a delegate to the International Women’s Conference in Houston, TX in 1977, served on and worked for Commissions for Women and am a proud “founding Mother” of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.  Even with that experience, i still have difficulty figuring out what is sexist and what is just political.

While I was driving around doing errands today, I caught most of a story on NPR about the protests at the Miss American pagent in 1968. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94240375 and was struck by the interview with the Miss American who was turning over her crown that year.

Looking back on the events of 1968, however, Snodgrass says she now has a better understanding of what the women’s liberation movement was actually about.

“I see that I have reaped some of the benefits of what they were trying to say,” Snodgrass says. “I think it was a poor choice to try to say it in that way. But I can get a charge card myself. I don’t have to have a husband sign for that.”

So does Sarah Palin  also understand that she is where she is because of women like me who were in the trenches?  Women who worked hard to make sure that she and her daughter have the choice to have a child or not?  And here I’m not just talking about abortion but also about bith control.  Does she understand that she is Governor of Alaska because of a long line of feminists going back before the Civil War?

So what is sexist and what is fair game? I have no doubt that how Sarah Palin chooses to raise her family and be governor (or heaven forbid, Vice President), at the same time will be hers and her husband, Todd’s.  Bringing that into electoral politics is sexist.  But looking into how she handled earmarks, lobbied for federal funds, whether she fired the head libraian when she was Mayor, and whether she abused her power as Governor as all fair game and would be so even if she were mail. 

Palin speaks about Hillary’s “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” as if all those women should vote for her because she is a women and many of them are also women.  What she fails to understand is that many of those women, particularly of my generation, fought to allow women choices.  Palin would take away choice.  Choice whether or not it is right to have a child, choice as to what we want to read, choice as to  how we each want to live our lives.  This is not feminism.

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