Drama! Linda Burnham On Sarah Palin, Dems & the GOP

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Sep 6, 2008, 7:11:40 AM9/6/08
to “blackleftu“
From : Sista Frances M. Beal

By Linda Burnham
Talk about an election that has had it all: complicated conflicts over race, gender, age, generational transition, religion and more – all against the backdrop of a sinking economy and a couple of raging wars. I didn’t think the presidential campaign could get much more interesting than it was during the primaries when a hundred mini-dramas unfolded within the frame of a core narrative that was itself mesmerizing. But it just got more interesting, especially for those who identify as feminists.
Before we had even finished the debate over whether the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin for the Republican vice presidential spot was a desperation move or a master stroke – the desperationists were winning; there’ve been no McCain master strokes so far, why expect one this late in the game -- a whole new set of issues hit the table, several of them going to the heart of the feminist agenda.
Palin’s decision to accept the vice presidential candidacy while in the midst of a set of challenging family circumstances has turned the spotlight not only on the right to abortion, pre-marital sex, work/family balance, female ambition in the context of an incomplete feminist revolution, and the heterosexual nuclear family, but on the very meaning of feminism as well. 
Both the Democrats and the Republicans deploy the “intact nuclear family” in powerful, emotionally loaded ways, especially during conventions, when the photo ops are plentiful. But it is the Republican Party that has staked out and fiercely defended the family values turf.
And so it is legitimate to ask: What version of family values is represented by exposing a pregnant teenager to relentless national scrutiny – at a time when the scrutiny of the neighbors next door is probably painful enough? Is it time yet to admit that “abstinence only” is a failed policy? And what version of family values is represented by following one’s political ambitions onto the rigors and surprises of the campaign trail with an infant, Down Syndrome or otherwise, in tow? The leave-it-all-to-the-nanny version?  Last I checked, infants were infinitely demanding. If the vice presidency is that cushy, I know a whole lot of women (and men) who should be in the running.
Sara Palin is a “Feminist for Life.” Is it possible to be a feminist while opposing abortion rights? Millions of women support gender equity but oppose abortion for religious, moral or ethical reasons. Fine. But the right to abortion and to a broad spectrum of reproductive rights is a cornerstone of contemporary feminism for good reason. The ability of women to effectively control whether, when and with whom they will have children is fundamental to their equitable integration into social, cultural and political life. It does not do to opportunistically claim the title of feminist while actively organizing against the right to abortion, both domestically and internationally, as Feminists for Life does.
Palin has taken up Clinton’s glass ceiling mantra. She’s being positioned as the Republican face of feminism – competent, family centered, anti-abortion and lovely to behold. Mainstream feminism did not acquit itself all that well during the primaries. This brief period between the conventions and the general election presents a new opportunity to reclaim feminism from pretenders and to reassert the relationship between feminism and social justice.
Stay tuned for drama. It looks like it will be a compelling show, all the way up to November 4th.
Register to Vote!

author of "The Black Holocaust for Beginners"

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