I don’t know that much more needs to be said about the tired notion that you can only be a “feminist” if you see the world as a conspiracy bent on keeping women down and think the solution is to empower the federal government to micromanage the workplace and redistribute the world’s wealth. (Although, it’s always been curious to me that so many who see the American power structure as a cabal dedicated to marginalizing women and minority group members also believe it’s a good idea to concentrate more power in the hands of government (the ultimate power structure to be manipulated by the wealthy and well-connected)).
But I thought one point might be worth dwelling on. Valenti suggests that conservative women were calling on feminist groups to support Gov. Palin in her bid to become vice president to make good on their desire to see a woman in the White House. She quotes Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for America as having said:
Even feminists-who supposedly promote women’s equality and the so-called ‘women’s rights’ agenda-are questioning a female candidate’s ability to get the job done.
I don’t know the full context of Crouse’s statement, but it’s pretty clear that she doesn’t expect NOW to come out and support Palin’s bid. I imagine that she’s remarking on the criticism of Palin as a working mom who would be unable to bear the work load of the vice presidency and five kids, and wanted to hear feminists reject that criticism, not to come out for Palin.
One of the key differences between liberal feminists like Valenti and conservatives is that we tend not to dismiss the other sides beliefs. I vehemently disagree with Valenti and think her recipe for big government would be a disaster for women (and the country generally). But I also presume that Valenti sincerely believes the opposite. and therefore I would expect her to support candidates who will advance the policy agenda she think is best for women (that’s a courtesy that the other side rarely gives to the right, mostly characterizing us as self-loathing robots or as props of big business).
While no one I know would expect Valenti and company to support Palin, we would expect them to reject some of the sexist attacks used to try to discredit Palin. I’d hope that Valenti would agree that it’s wrong to vote against Palin because of her looks or because she’s a mom. Women deserve to be judged on their record and their beliefs.
The good new is that I thought that there were a lot of old school, liberal feminists who were horrified by Palin’s treatment, and said so. Even if we disagree about policy-or even about what the term feminism means-I think we can agree on some ground rules about respecting the right of women, (even pretty women, and mothers of big families) to participate in politics. And I’m happy to hear that Valenti agrees with us that no one should vote for someone based on their gender. That’s a step toward true equality.