Gloria Marie Steinem (born March 25, 1934) is an American feminist icon, journalist and women's rights advocate. She is the founder and original publisher of Ms. magazine, and was an influential co-convener of the National Women's Political Caucus.
Sarah Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Hillary Clinton. She
is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.
By Gloria Steinem
September 4, 2008
Here's the good news: Women have become so politically powerful that
even the anti-feminist right wing -- the folks with a headlock on the
Republican Party -- are trying to appease the gender gap with a first-
ever female vice president. We owe this to women -- and to many men
too -- who have picketed, gone on hunger strikes or confronted
violence at the polls so women can vote. We owe it to Shirley
Chisholm, who first took the "white-male- only" sign off the White
House, and to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who hung in there through
ridicule and misogyny to win 18 million votes.
But here is even better news: It won't work. 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's about
making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of
the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about
baking a new pie.
Selecting Sarah Palin, who was touted all summer by Rush Limbaugh, is
no way to attract most women, including die-hard
Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with
divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a Republican
convention that has more than twice as many male delegates as female,
a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the right wing
and a platform that opposes pretty much everything Clinton's
candidacy stood for -- and that Barack Obama's still does. To vote in
protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, "Somebody stole my
shoes, so I'll amputate my legs."
This is not to beat up on Palin. I defend her right to be wrong, even
on issues that matter most to me. I regret that people say she can't
do the job because she has children in need of care, especially if
they wouldn't say the same about a father. I get no pleasure from
imagining her in the spotlight on national and foreign policy issues
about which she has zero background, with one month to learn to
compete with Sen. Joe Biden's 37 years' experience.
Palin has been honest about what she doesn't know. When asked last
month about the vice presidency, she said, "I still can't answer that
question until someone answers for me: What is it exactly that the VP
does every day?" When asked about
focused much on the war in
She was elected governor largely because the incumbent was unpopular,
and she's won over Alaskans mostly by using unprecedented oil wealth
to give a $1,200 rebate to every resident. Now she is being praised
by McCain's campaign as a tax cutter, despite the fact that
has no state income or sales tax. Perhaps McCain has opposed
affirmative action for so long that he doesn't know it's about
inviting more people to meet standards, not lowering them. Or perhaps
McCain is following the Bush administration habit, as in the Justice
Department, of putting a job candidate's views on "God, guns and
gays" ahead of competence. The difference is that McCain is filling a
job one 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency.
So let's be clear: The culprit is John McCain. He may have chosen
Palin out of change-envy, or a belief that women can't tell the
difference between form and content, but the main motive was to
please right-wing ideologues; the same ones who nixed anyone who is
now or ever has been a supporter of reproductive freedom. If that
were not the case, McCain could have chosen a woman who knows what a
vice president does and who has thought about
Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.
McCain could have taken a baby step away from right-wing patriarchs
who determine his actions, right down to opposing the Violence
Against Women Act.
Palin's value to those patriarchs is clear: She opposes just about
every issue that women support by a majority or plurality. She
believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but
disbelieves global warming; she opposes gun control but supports
government control of women's wombs; she opposes stem cell research
but approves "abstinence- only" programs, which increase unwanted
births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions; she tried to use
taxpayers' millions for a state program to shoot wolves from the air
but didn't spend enough money to fix a state school system with the
lowest high-school graduation rate in the nation; she runs with a
candidate who opposes the Fair Pay Act but supports $500 million in
subsidies for a natural gas pipeline across Alaska; she supports
drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, though even McCain
has opted for the lesser evil of offshore drilling. She is Phyllis
Schlafly, only younger.
I don't doubt her sincerity. As a lifetime member of the National
Rifle Assn., she doesn't just support killing animals from
helicopters, she does it herself. She doesn't just talk about
increasing the use of fossil fuels but puts a coal-burning power
plant in her own small town. She doesn't just echo McCain's pledge to
criminalize abortion by overturning Roe vs. Wade, she says that if
one of her daughters were impregnated by rape or incest, she should
bear the child. She not only opposes reproductive freedom as a human
right but implies that it dictates abortion, without saying that it
also protects the right to have a child.
So far, the major new McCain supporter that Palin has attracted is
James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Of course, for Dobson, "women
are merely waiting for their husbands to assume leadership," so he
may be voting for Palin's husband.
Being a hope-a-holic, however, I can see two long-term bipartisan
gains from this contest.
Republicans may learn they can't appeal to right-wing patriarchs and
most women at the same time. A loss in November could cause the
centrist majority of Republicans to take back their party, which was
the first to support the Equal Rights Amendment and should be the
last to want to invite government into the wombs of women.
And American women, who suffer more because of having two full-time
jobs than from any other single injustice, finally have support on a
national stage from male leaders who know that women can't be equal
outside the home until men are equal in it. Barack Obama and Joe
Biden are campaigning on their belief that men should be, can be and
want to be at home for their children.
This could be huge.
Gloria Steinem is an author, feminist organizer and co-founder
of the Women's
supporting Barack Obama.