Thursday, September 25, 2008

Woman Wonders

I've been away far too long. But I have just been speechless at what is going on in America--the Wall Street financial crisis, Obama Waffles, race as a factor in the election, Palin. There is just so much I did not know where to begin. But today, I just got to talk about women stuff.

As a woman, I am excited by the prospect of female achievement. I celebrate Women's History Month in March and make sure that my students are well aware of it. In my writing, I always insert the accomplishments of women alongside the oft touted accomplishments of men. I correct people (when possible) when they in any way ignore the presence and person of women. So, Gov. Sarah Palin's nomination as Vice President should be thrilling to me. But it's not. I believe that while Palin's nomination and even possible victory would be a victory for women on the surface, ultimately, it will not.

It seems that Palin's nomination pretty much amounts to affirmative action. Not affirmative action as it was intended by the Black leaders who fought for it (the opportunity for qualified minorities to be considered regardless of their physical characteristics), but affirmative action as many people think it is today--the selection of a person based on a physical characteristic regardless of qualification. I've heard people say that Palin isn't smart; I don't know her so I can't speak to her intellect. From what I can discern about her qualifications and the baggage that surrounds her, however, it seems clear that she is truly an affirmative action choice. She has a degree in Journalism that she earned after attending several schools; she was the governor of a state that in no way resembles the diversity of the nation; she doesn't seem to be well aware of key political issues like the economy and the war; and her only foreign policy experience is that she can see Russia from her home. Let me stop there for a moment. When Charlie Gibson asked her about her insights into Russian actions, she actually said "They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska." If anyone expected more of her than to be a token woman, would they have accepted that answer from her? Wouldn't they have demanded more? It appears that she was chosen because she is a woman--not the most qualified woman, but a woman who will get votes because she is a woman. It is not surprising that she is an affirmative action pick because, contrary to popular belief, White women are the greatest recipients of affirmative action hiring.

This is bad. It's bad not only for the country for obvious reasons, but bad for women because she will be representative of all women in power. If she can't do the job, then it will mean that women just aren't ready for this position. It's sort of like what people thought in the early 90s when Shannon Faulkner couldn't hack it at The Citadel. After all that protest and talk about the first woman getting into the all-male military school, when she couldn't meet the standards, she made all women look bad. True, other women have enrolled in the school since, but her failure validated all of the naysayers and sexists. This is the problem with affirmative action picks when they are not made in the spirit of true affirmative action measures.

The Republican handling of Gov. Palin is already giving women a bad name. Although they are alleging sexism in every arena, by not allowing her to take questions and acting as if the hard-hitting questions (which I am really skeptical of her receiving) will be too much for her (a Journalism major who was once a member of the same press), they are saying that this woman can't handle it. Protecting her as women have been protected and pedestaled for generations says that she is helpless and unable to handle herself in the face of tough situations. In what way does this "protection" say that as a woman she is prepared to face anything that men can face?

As a woman I am offended by the way Sarah Palin has been presented to the public. They have made light of the very real issue of sexism, calling actions sexist that clearly aren't. Asking a question she'd rather not answer? Questioning her baby's parentage as a research question that never gets printed as fact? This is not sexism; this is journalism. Calling things sexist that aren't sexism mitigates actual instances of discrimination and oppression. Like the boy who cried wolf, people are less likely to respond when the real thing rears its ugly head. I am offended that as a woman Palin is allowing this to happen. I wonder why she is willing to do so.

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