August 31, 2008

Feminists Don't Tell Palin How To Mother

I am a lifelong Democrat. I supported Clinton in the Democratic primary, but switched my allegiance to Obama as soon as he became the presumptive nominee. I have actually been campaigning harder for Obama than I did for Hillary.

I was sickened and infuriated by the misogynistic, sexist attacks on Hillary coming from the media and from the progressive blogs I regularly read. I found it necessary to stop reading and commenting on many blogs and retreat to feminist ones. For almost a year I have been writing posts on how Obama needs to campaign as a feminist.

I have been disappointed by Obama's and the DNC's continued reluctance to address misogyny and sexism. I prayed that Obama would make a speech on sexism equivalent to his speech on racism. I am not entirely sure he gets it.

I had very mixed feelings about Michelle Obama's superb speech. It disturbs me greatly that she felt compelled to downplay her educational and career achievements and stress being a daughter, sister, wife and mother. Michelle has had to quit her job and her mother retired early to help take care of the children. Obama hardly sees his children by his own admission.

The Democratic Convention left me optimistic that the Obama and Hillary supporters could unite and defeat McCain. I thought we might be spared sexist onslalughts for the rest of the campaign.

Then McCain appointed Palin, and I am drowning in sexist bilge from leftist blogs. She is not experienced enough to be vice president. But she is not a twit, a VPILF, a beauty queen, an abusive mother. Too many of the young progressive bloggers who attacked Clinton can't seem to help themselves; they require a woman to kick around.

The sexism is different this time. Much of it concentrates on her mothering. Details of her labor are analyzed, debated, criticized. Her daughter is potrayed as her sibling's mother. Pictures of her daughter's belly are scrutinized. People are comparing her marriage certificate with her first son's birth certificate. This is just creepy; it feels stalkerish. That Democrats are doing it is revolting.

People don't seem to be able to get beyond stereotyping conservative women to hear that her husband plans to be the primary parent. Abortion is not the only feminist issue. Mothers' being able to care for their children and hold demanding jobs, fathers' sharing parenting equally with mothers, seem even more important to me. Palin has laughingly dismissed people who questioned her ability to mother and to govern as neanderthals. It must do girls good to see that the mother of young children can also run for major office. Despite the fact that I would never vote for her in a 1000 years, I still got a kick out of a picture of Palin's signing a bill into law, wearing her baby in a sling.

As the mother of 4, I am offended by the jeering that she obviously doesn't know how babies are made. Have we decided we don't need the vote of anyone who dared to have more than two kids? Her right-wing nuttery is being exaggerated. She doesn't have a record of imposing her views on anyone. I find it very upsetting that OBs are now recommending that every women be screened for Down's Syndrome, and that most people chose to end their pregnancy if they have a DS baby. I admire her keeping the baby and not hiding him at home.

Of course, Obama has considerably more experience. But being the mother of 5 over a period of 20 years probably is more than the equivalent of being a community organizer.

During the Democratic Convention, I watched the absurdly short speeches allowed to the women senators, representatives, and governors and sadly concluded there was not a Hillary in the bunch. There wasn't a Palin either. Democrats seem to be underestimating her. She is an American original, a women Daniel Boone, and the media as well as progressive bloggers seem obsessed by her.

I want us to campaign against her as we would against any conservative Republican. But along the way, we might want to celebrate the historic nature of a woman with a young child campaigning for major national office.

Hillary's comment seemed right: "We should all be proud of Gov. Sarah Palin's historic nomination, and I congratulate her and Sen. McCain. While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, Gov. Palin will add an important new voice to the debate.”

Please refrain from telling a mother of 5 how to mother. It is already obvious that his father and his sibs are very good at nurturing Trig. Being in the thick of things is good for babies.

I have always understood Hillary supporters who are still not on board with Obama. It was not about Hillary. It was about the sexism and misogyny of the Democratic Party. It was about the Democratic Party's offering women little more than Roe vs. Wade. I think Hillary's speech convinced many of them, but the sexist onslaught on Palin might reopen the question. I am sadly concluding that if I want to continue to work hard for Obama, I better not read the progressive blogs I couldn't read during the campaign. Every time I read, "what kind of mother.." I want to make one fewer phone call, register one fewer voter.

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