Sep 292008

It’s refreshing to see a piece like this that gets that Palin is not gawd’s gift to feminism.  Unfortunately, Rasna Warah’s commentary appeared in The Nation (Kenya), it will likely not be read by too many American voters.  Maybe we should outsource our media?

“Women who have had to struggle all their lives to survive and succeed in a male world often find it difficult to criticise other women in leadership positions.

They see such criticism as a sign of betrayal and as a blow to the women’s cause.

Yet, why is it that so many women, including myself, find the appointment of Sarah Palin as the Republican candidate for the vice presidency of the United States so disconcerting?

Is it because she got this post too easily – rising from governor of a small, underpopulated state (where hunting is the main pastime) to being nominated to the second most powerful seat in government without going through a trial-by-fire?

Or are women who are constantly exhausted from working at home and having a full-time job resentful of her extraordinary ability to take care of five children (the youngest of whom is just 5 months old) and run a state at the same time?

Do we also wonder whether her political ambitions are getting in the way of her being a good wife and mother?

Actually, I don’t think it is any of the above that many women find irritating or disturbing about Palin.

The problem we have with her is much for fundamental – it has to do with the fact that Palin is the kind of woman that men use to remain on top, and that in the final analysis, women like her end up harming, rather than benefiting, the women’s cause.

It is clear that Palin was selected to be John McCain’s running mate because she does not threaten the edifice upon which male-dominated Washington rests.

She constantly refers to herself as a “hockey mom” and expects people to believe that this is enough qualification to run a country.

In all her speeches, she defers to men, whether it is McCain or her husband, as if seeking their permission.

As far I can tell, she has little or no foreign policy experience. She is the kind of woman powerful men like to have around because it affirms their own superiority.

Which is not to say that she is a pushover. According to a recent article in the New York Times, Palin is quick to fire people she does not like and has been known to punish those who oppose her.

Loyalty and secrecy characterise her management style, which she values more than competence and integrity.

Although this is a style than men in powerful positions have perfected, many women find it hard to manage in this manner because women tend to be manage through consensus and cooperation.

Such women often find themselves either “promoted” to posts that wield little power or moved laterally to posts where they have few opportunities to use their intellect or skills.

There are exceptions, of course. Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel come to mind, but if you were to ask these women what price they paid to attain the most powerful positions in government, I am sure they will tell you tales of sacrifice, behind-the-scenes negotiations and sheer determination.

The other problem with Palin is that she seems too good to be true. Her picture-perfect life (marred recently by her pregnant teenage daughter) doesn’t seem to suffer from the trials that other women leaders have to go through to maintain a semblance of normalcy in their lives.

Unlike Michelle Obama, who has no qualms about admitting that she is worried about how the presidency might impact her family, and even talks quite openly about the challenges her family has had to face in the past, Palin seems to whiz through family and public life without a hair out of place.

In this regard, she is like Hilary Clinton, in that she tries too hard to show a rosy image of herself when the whole world knows that there is no such thing as a perfect family.

But unlike Clinton, whose razor-sharp mind and worldliness were her biggest assets, Palin appears as someone who would need a tutor to guide her through every political decision.

In terms of what Palin will do to help the women’s cause, the answer is nothing.

Palin does not care much for issues that concern working women in the United States, such as equal pay, child care, medical insurance and reproductive rights. Even her appointment is little cause to celebrate.

As author and feminist Gloria Steinem has pointed out about McCain’s choice of vice president, “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 is about making life more fair for all women.”

Palin’s nomination should therefore not be seen as a victory for women, but as a victory for men who can only secure their positions by surrounding themselves with ineffectual and compliant women.”

 September 29, 2008  Posted by on September 29, 2008

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