Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Free Sarah Palin!

I've been following the election coverage here in the U.S. closely lately, especially the coverage of Sarah Palin, John McCain's vice presidential running mate. His choice of her as his running mate is fascinating (and horrifying), not just from a broad political perspective, but from a feminist perspective.

The most recent twist in the ongoing Sarah Palin saga is one I want to comment on. As reported by several feminist blogs that I follow--including Feministing, Shakesville, and Feminist Philosophers--CNN's Campbell Brown has called for the McCain campaign to loosen the reins on Sarah Palin, to allow her to speak to the press, and to treat her like an equal rather than like " a delicate flower that will wilt at any moment."

Brown says,
Let her have a real news conference with real questions. By treating Sarah Palin different from the other candidates in this race, you are not showing her the respect she deserves. Free Sarah Palin. Free her from the chauvinistic chains you are binding her with. Sexism in this campaign must come to an end. Sarah Palin has just as much a right to be a real candidate in this race as the men do. So let her act like one.
I am pleased with this on two counts. First, as a feminist, I want to see Palin treated fairly and treated as a potentially qualified candidate for the job of vice president, just as a male candidate would be treated. Second, however, as a Democrat and someone who hopes that McCain and Palin are not elected, I cannot but hope that if she is given a fair shake we will all see how unprepared she is to be the vice-president of the country--not because she is a woman but because she is the wrong woman. No, she is the wrong person.

However, I would amend Campbell Brown's statement in one major respect.

It is not just that Sarah Palin "has a right to be a real candidate in this race" but that she has an obligation to be a real candidate in this race.

As Melissa McEwan over at Shakesville says,
being a public feminist can still be hard, and colluding with antifeminist men who will reward you handsomely for it can still be extremely attractive to any woman, no less an ambitious one whose objectives will be much more easily realized if she doesn't insist on being treated like an equal.

It's obvious why Palin chooses to play this role; it still sucks nonetheless. And it chaps my hide but good that she would happily betray the feminist women who are out here doing the dirty work to ensure that her daughters will be adults in a world that much better than the one we've now got.

Palin calls herself a feminist—but if she were an actual feminist, she would insist on taking up the same gauntlet as would be expected of any man in her position.
This is an important point. Palin, in her eagerness to let McCain & Co. treat her this way is proving herself to be, at the very least, nonfeminist, and, perhaps more accurately, anti-feminist.

But she doesn't just owe other women her presence as a real candidate in the race; she owes the nation her presence as a real candidate in the race so that all of us can make an informed decision about who we are voting (or not voting) for. To wind up in the White House--"one heartbeat away from the presidency," as people like to say--without having made an appearance as a real candidate before the nation is not only anti-feminist because of what it says about the treatment of women in the campaign; it is also anti-democratic.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Horrifying is the perfect word to describe her. Its ironic "she's not being treated fairly" but she has no respect for woman's rights.