Sunday, September 21, 2008

Back to the Future: Backlash and Palin

I have been slowly working my way through Susan Faludi's book "Backlash" about the backlash against women's rights in the 1980s. Fauldi argues that during the 1980s (and during other eras of backlash against the women's rights movement) pop culture, the media, and politicians claimed that feminism had gone too far, that women's liberation was damaging to them, and that the solution was to roll back the clock and return to an era where women have less equality (sometimes classing this return to less equality as "real empowerment").

At the same time I'm reading this book, I've also been thinking a lot about the U.S. presidential race and the prominent role gender has taken. Many people have pointed out the absolute ridiculousness of assuming that people will automatically transfer their vote from Hillary Clinton to Sarah Palin. There has also been plenty of discussion about how sexist criticism of Palin is unaaceptable.

When I came across the passage in "Backlash" regarding the curious anomaly of the anti-feminist woman (ie, the woman who says women's place is in the home from her office in Washington) and the role she plays in politics in the 1980s, what Fauldi had to say spoke to me about Palin and how the Republican party is using "feminism" to advance an anti-feminist agenda,

The New Right women were, in some respects, the reverse image of their more progressive "yuppie" sisters who got trapped in the backlash eddies. While mainstream professional women were more likley to voice feminist principles while struggling internally with the self-doubts and recriminations that the backlash generated, the New Right women were voicing anti-feminist views---while internalizing the message of the women's movement and quiety incorporating its tenants of self-determination, equality and freedom of choice in their private behavior.
If the right-wing activists at Concerned Women for America seemed less anxiety ridden about the "price" of their own liberation than the average liberal career women, maybe that's because these New Right women were, ironically, facing less resistence in their world. As long as these women raised their voices only to parrot the Moral Majority line, as long as they divided up the chores so that they could have more time to fight equal rights legislation, the New Right male leaders (and their New Right husbands) were happy to applaud and encourage the women's mock "independence." The women always played by their men's rules, and for that they enjoyed their esteem and blessings of their subculture. On the other hand, working and single women in the mainstream, who were more authentically independent, had no such cheering squad to buoy their spirits; they were undermined daily by popular culture that parodied their lifestyle, heaped pity and ridicule on their choices, and berated their feminist "mistakes."
The activists of Concerned Women for America, like New Right women activists elsewhere, could report to their offices in their suits, issue press releases demainding that women return to the home, and never see a contradiction. By divorcing their personal liberation from their public stands on sexual politics, they could privately take advantage of feminism while pubicly depoloring its influence. They could indeed "have it all"---by working to prevent all other women from having that same opportunity.

To me, this passage succiently sums my problems with Sarah Palin wrapping herself in feminism's flag. She claims that she's putting another crack in the glass ceiling (see Ann's post at feministing linked above for my other problems with this line) while aligning herself with a candidate that is opposed to legislation that would ensure equal pay for equal work. She claims that Bristol's choice to keep her baby is a private matter while joining a ticket that believes the state's interest in a fetus trumps the individual women's right to make the same decision privately. (In other words, as long as the choice is the right choice and made by her daughter, it's private. If it's one Palin and McCain disagree with, it's a public matter.)

Palin has benefited from feminism's advances; that doesn't make her one.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This is water

Via Bitch PhD, I've heard that David Foster Wallace has died. I've never read Infinite Jest and haven't read very many of his essays. But about a year ago, throckmorton, linked to this amazing commencement speech Wallace gave and I've read it many times since.

Maybe will write more about this later.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hands off my ballot

Earlier this summer, Alternet reported that McCain would be scaling back voter suppression efforts that have been used in previous elections. Via Wonkette, I came across this piece in the Michigan Messenger.

The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.
This really pisses me off and I think it should piss you off as well.

Check this quote from The Right to Vote page on USInfo.State.Gov from the U.S. Department of State,

Without free and fair elections, there can be no democratic society, and without that constant accountability of government officials to the electorate, there can, in fact, be no assurance of any other rights. The right to vote, therefore, is not only an important individual liberty; it is also a foundation stone of free government.

Who shall have that right has been a persistent question in American history. A theme that runs throughout the American past is the gradual expansion of the franchise, from a ballot limited to white, male property-owners to a universal franchise for nearly everyone over the age of 18. A related theme is ensuring the full equivalency of each vote, insofar as that is possible within a federal system. But because Americans often take this right for granted, it has not always been exercised as fully as it should be. With nearly 200 million citizens eligible to vote, too many people think their individual ballot will not count. The closeness of the presidential election of 2000 has served as a reminder that every vote does count, however.

[emphasis mine]

News flash for the government: People don't think that their vote won't be counted because we have too many citizens and they've taken the right to vote for granted, they think their vote won't be counted because (1) the U.S. has a long history of limiting voting rights to classes that are already in power (white, landowning men, anyone?---read further on that Right to Vote page for more history), (2) because every year there seem to be more and more efforts to prevent people from voting successfully (please check out this page detailing some different state's requirements for voter ID laws and also the piece I previously wrote about Indiana's voter ID laws), (3) it is really difficult to trust electronic voting machines because of all the controversy around 'em, and (4) a significant portion of the population feel as though officials that they have elected ignore them once they get into office (ie, my vote might be literally counted, but does it count?).

Personally, I'm going to be stopping by my local Obama office this afternoon to ask them if they're providing literature to voters about their voting rights in Virginia. (FYI, according to The National Conference of State Legislatures [linked above, but please please check out this page], VA voters who do not have a VA voter registration card, social security card, VA driver's license, other ID issued by the VA/U.S. govt, or an employee ID card with photo, can still vote, they just have to sign a statement that says they are who they say they are. I don't want anyone telling a Virginian that they can't vote because they don't have ID.)

Supported by the GOP as necessary to protect against voter fraud, these laws have the effect of making it more difficult to vote. Under the Indiana law, for example, a voter without a photo ID either has to come back on Monday after the election with one or "execute an affidavit stating that the voter cannot obtain proof of identification, because the voter: (i) is indigent; or (ii) has a religious objection to being photographed." Even if a voter without a photo ID on November 4th is able to get one by November 10th or they fit the narrow exceptions, their vote will only be counted, if "the voter has not been challenged or required to vote a provisional ballot for any other reason."

From the Michigan Messenger piece, it's clear that the GOP is not going to stop at voter ID laws in its effort to restrict the right to vote of U.S. citizens in this year's presidential election. Imagine that you've lost your home this year. Imagine hearing that if you show up to vote, your vote might get challenged by the GOP based on the fact that you've lost your home (btw, as someone points out in the article, many people are still living in homes that have been foreclosed and therefore are still living where they registered and would be voting legally). I know what I would be thinking, "What if they challenge me publicly and tell everyone my home has been foreclosed on? That would be incredibly embarrassing [ED: I don't think there is anything shameful about not having the money to pay your mortgage, inflated or otherwise, but I can see feeling that way.]" That might prevent me from even trying to vote. And if I did go to vote, what happens to votes that get challenged? Do they only get counted if the district is really really close? (Does anyone know the answer to this?)

Possible Actions:

Ask John McCain to denounce this practice in Michigan.

Get in touch with Obama's Michigan campaign and make sure they know what's happening.

Help someone else in our state register to vote and fulfill our states voter ID requirements (and make sure local campaign offices are paying attention to voter ID requirements).

Keep writing in our own spaces about voter suppression tactics so people are aware of what's happening.

Fill out Progress Michigan's petition against this tactic.