Sarah Palin, Abortion and Exclusive Feminism


“What you should say to outsiders is that a Christian has neither more nor less rights in our Association than an atheist. When our platform becomes too narrow for people of all creeds and of no creeds, I myself shall not stand upon it." Susan B Anthony, A Biography, by Kathleen Barry

While today the issue of religion is much less overt in the defining of feminism as it was in Susan B. Anthony's time, apparently political beliefs are the new form of narrowing feminism to the movement's own detriment.  There have been quite a few "Sarah Palin is NOT a feminist" posts recently, many of which go on to define rigid exceptions to and requirements of feminism.  While I don't agree with plenty of what Sarah Palin has had to say, I think this general form of attack is pretty divisive and contributes to why Feminism is still struggling to take hold en masse.  Rigid definitions push away women who don't necessarily prioritize the same things as left-leaning feminists, and those constructions simply narrow the pool of people fighting for women's rights in the feminist collective.

Many women are pro-life, in fact, the most recent Gallup poll on abortion (released May 25, 2010) shows that there are more pro-life than pro-choice women in our country.  There was a 5% increase in pro-life women last year, revealing that 49% of women polled were pro-life, while only 45% were pro-choice.  The change was even more drastic in men, with a 10% decrease to 39% who remain pro-choice, and 54% who identify as pro-life.  And, since feminism is seeking to reach both men and women, the percentage of our total population is relevant: 51% of Americans are calling themselves "pro-life" on the issue of abortion and 42% pro-choice - the first time since 1995 a majority was pro-life.  

I know, polls aren't 100% accurate - but these results are from a respectable organization and at the very least should cause us to take pause and ask ourselves, is abortion really going to be the "be all end all" of what we will "allow" to define feminism?  Especially if doing so excludes potentially the majority of our population from joining us?

This post isn't about whether or not Sarah Palin is a "feminist" - it's about the evolution of a more exclusive feminism and why that's a hindrance to the movement.

This blog post's attack of Palin focuses largely on her conservative views (namely funding social welfare as the "government needs to keep its hands out of her pocket") - an attack that applies to many women who vote conservative.

When Palin was first announced as McCain's VP choice, Feministing noted that it was great the GOP had chosen a woman, but went on to say "gender isn't everything", and looked to Palin's politics.  Well, she wasn't chosen as a democratic representative, she was chosen as a Republican candidate, she was never going to have liberal views.  Palin's ascension in the GOP and political world may not be something left-leaning feminists can relate to on a political level, but on a feminist level Palin has provided a role-model for right-leaning women with similar beliefs, and potentially opened the door to a more inclusive feminism than left-leaning women would have been able to achieve through exclusive definitions of what empowered women are allowed to believe and advocate in order to be feminist.  

A few days ago Jessica at Feministing asked, "So, simply declaring oneself a feminist is all that it takes to be a feminist? Methinks not."  My question in relation to Palin is, why not?  Because she has different priorities than left-leaning feminists?  

In response to a comment, Jessica clarifies
"I didn't say that conservatives can't be feminists - I said people who fight against women's rights can't be feminists. And like I said, you can't just declare yourself a feminist - or any other party to a social justice movement - while fighting directly against said movement."  

I understand how pro-life beliefs are very much in conflict with the pro-choice movement, which is part of feminism, but how is pro-life fighting against the entirety of feminism?  Abortion isn't the only feminist issue, and to define feminism so severely along such a divisive line is to diminish the movement's accessibility, and, in the end, its efficacy.  People may not all believe as strongly in every element of feminism as others, but that shouldn't diminish their willingness to contribute to the movement in ways they do believe.

Annabelle for The New Agenda responds to the feminist coverage of Palin succinctly and eloquently: 
"My biggest issue over the outbreak of this the short-sightedness of women ... who purport to support progress for women, and yet attack one of the biggest symbols of that progress simply because their belief in left-feminism allows them to dictate who can and cannot be a feminist."
Palin surely stands up in opposition to many of the political issues dearest to my heart, my advocacy and my life, but I hardly think that she should be lambasted for it.  She's standing up, speaking her mind and defending her beliefs in a largely male-dominated political world, exposed to sexist media and judgment.  Part of the feminist fight for equal rights and opportunities for all women is to provide those opportunities to all women, regardless of political or religious beliefs, race, sexual orientation, class, ability, etc.  Instead of attacking her, we "left-feminists" would be better served appreciating the vigor and vitality she has provided the feminist movement amongst conservative women, and do our best to incorporate and engage conservative feminists into aspects of feminism where we both intersect.  

I'll admit, I don't understand nor can I relate to people who are anti-choice - but the fact is, those beliefs are held by a sizable portion of our population.  If they are not allowed to be feminists as a result - if "feminism" has to be liberal, left-leaning, democrat - it erases and marginalizes a large percentage of women (and men) in our country who could bolster feminism, and instead serves the purpose of dividing women so patriarchy can continue to conquer. That exclusive definition of feminism is short-sighted and can only hurt the progression of our nation into a more inclusive, feminist state.

Phallic Law School Ceiling Light Fixtures


On a lunch break from my bar exam prep course, I just happened to look up at the ceiling...

The picture didn't turn out the best since it's a picture of a light, but the fixture is set up to have a penis-like tube in the center, creating round "balls" on either side of the tube at each end of the fixture.  It's unmistakably phallic to the point of seeming intentional.

Members of Washington DC City Council agree to help name streets after women


An EVE Facebook Fan posted an article about a group in Germany that did a "Gender Walk" around a certain parts of Berlin, Germany to highlight the disparity in gender representation.  The article states that dead end streets are named after women while main thoroughfares are named after men.  The "Gender Walk" illustrated that 90% of the streets they passed were named after men, and the statues they passed were of men.  The "Gender Walk" movement highlights the deficiency in Urban Planning's emphasis on gender parity and visibility of female worth, the same concern EVE has for the planning of our American cities.

President of EVE: Equal Visibility Everywhere, Dr. Lynette Long, reached out to City Council members of Washington DC in response to the recent announcement that a street would be renamed after a local male hairstylist.  A number of City Council members responded to, and agreed to help, Dr. Long and EVE with the renaming of streets, or at least of designating certain streets and blocks with a "ceremonial recognition" honoring a woman.

If you have any suggestions of women who are worthy of such recognition, want to get this started on the streets in your town, or have any comments on the process, visit the blog and post!

Los Angeles City Council Bans official travel and future dealings with Arizona


Another action today that took place around the Arizona immigration law was Los Angeles City Council's 13:1 vote to boycott Arizona, encouraging city heads to avoid future business with Arizona, ban official travel to the state, and investigate whether it can legally cancel any of about $8 million worth of contracts.  I imagine the legal issue is the constitutionality of such a ban and its impact on interstate commerce.

This response by Los Angeles City could spark serious reconsideration of the Arizona law and the Federal Law it is supposedly based upon, and conversation has already begun amongst Senators to overhaul the immigration system.

First Asian American President of Senate Contender for Hawaii's House Seat


Hawaii's representative Neil Abercrombie stepped down to run for governor, and there is currently a three way contest to fill his seat until the upcoming general elections in November.  Hawaii's Senate President Ms. Colleen Hanabusa is running for the seat.  She was elected the first woman president of the Senate in 2007, and the first Asian-American woman to lead a state legislative chamber in the United States.  Hawaii's two current US Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka support Hanabusa's candidacy.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) was publicly backing Senator Ed Case, Democrat, to fill the seat, including running commercials against the third candidate, Charles Djou.

In the upcoming November elections, Democrats are expected to lose seats and they're taking it seriously enough to heavily campaign for the Hawaii Seat to the tune of $300,000.  Today the DCCC announced they've decided to stop investing any further funds, and "save the resources we would have invested in the Hawaii special election this month for the general election in November."  Before this announcement, Hanabusa was said to be ranked third place in most polls, possibly because of the splitting of the votes between the two Democratic candidates.  

The support of the two Senators behind Hanabusa, and the DCCC pulling their support for Case, might allow Hanabusa to win the special election, making her the fourth Hawaiian woman in the House, or at the very least achieve her goal of garnering enough support to get elected in the November election.  The all-mail in votes of the special election contest will be tabulated beginning May 19, with results released after 6pm, May 22, 2010 (the date and time by which the ballots must be received in order to be counted).

EVE's 100 Great American Women List


EVE: Equal Visibility Everywhere put out a list of 100 Great American Women in response to the 2010 Time 100, which included only 31 women, and Esquires 75 Greatest Women of All Time, which valued many of its women for their external beauty and sexual utility.

View their list here:

While they admit their list is not completely inclusive, and is slightly arbitrary, they felt the need to respond to the lack of representation of notable women in Time's list, and to counteract the valuation process in the Esquire list by creating one of their own.

They're welcoming more suggestions of noteworthy women to include in future list.  I've attached a screen shot of the comments up to this point with suggestions of more women to have been included.  Check out their list, comment on the list, its premise, the choices made, and any omissions you find to be glaring!

Obama nominates Kagan, potential third active woman justice to the Supreme Court


 According to the New York Times, Obama is set to announce Solicitor General Elana Kagan as his nomination for the Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.  If confirmed, the first woman dean of Harvard Law School and first woman Solicitor General would become the third woman justice active on the current court.  Additionally, Kagan would be the youngest member on the court, which would allow a continued representation of women on the court, and an unprecedented 1/3 of the court until Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg retires.

Interestingly, Obama seems to have taken into consideration what both Ginsburg and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor called for in the diversification of the Court.  O'Connor, while refusing to acknowledge a difference in male and female perspectives relevant to the gender parity on the court, did call for a diversification of experience on the court.  Specifically, O'Connor noted "I like judges. But we don't need them all on the Court.  And we need people of different backgrounds." Kagan is currently Solicitor General of the United States, was formerly the Dean of Harvard Law School, was Associate White House Counsel under President Clinton, and while she has been nominated for judicial posts in the past, has never served as a judge.  Having never served on the judiciary is a form of diversity that O'Connor found missing on the Supreme Court, and Kagan could clearly fill that void, though in her capacity as Solicitor General she's been arguing before the Supreme Court since her confirmation last year.  In her call for diversification, Ginsburg was willing to bluntly request gender parity when she argued that women experience the world differently from men and should be invited in greater numbers to employ those perspectives in interpreting and applying our laws.

Another form of diversity Kagan could add to the court is her outspoken support of LGBT rights.  During her time at Harvard Law School, but before she was Dean, Kagan declared military recruiters were in violation of the school's anti discrimination policy because of the application of "Don't ask, don't tell" to their recruiting procedure.  When recruiters entered the campus despite the school's anti discrimination policy, she sent an email to the faculty and student body decrying the discrimination as "a profound wrong - a moral injustice of the first order."  Apparently, she was in line with many other faculty and deans, but in direct contradiction to the eventual unanimous Supreme Court ruling regarding such bans on military recruitment procedures on campus.  Last year during the Supreme Court nomination process, Kagan was outed as being a lesbian, and the White House issued a press release denying the rumor. While her sexual orientation should not be an issue, here's a summary with links to background articles in case it becomes an issue anyway.

While the Don't Ask, Don't Tell condemnation might prove to be a sticking point for Kagan in the confirmation process, she was approved just last year for the position of Solicitor General defending the United States before the Supreme Court, with that same history behind her.  A more compelling hurdle comes from Paul Campos at the Daily Beast. who points out why Kagan might fail to garner enough support at the confirmation hearings for similar reasons Harriet Miers failed in 2005: too close a relationship with the nominating president, and not enough stated opinions on matters she will be directly responsible for deciding as a Supreme Court justice.

This post on the Equal Visibility Everywhere blog outlines why it's time for the United States to increase gender parity in its highest offices - something Obama seems to be doing on the Federal judiciary.  Time for the hearings to begin to see if Obama can pull it off, or if a failed hearing will lead him to resort to a second choice of Merrick Garland, the male DC Court of Appeals judge who is generally regarded as a well-balanced candidate who has a history of public service and is favored by conservative senators.  As it stands, however, it seems that President Obama is attempting to secure his legacy through establishing gender parity on the Supreme Court by nominating candidates with strong ties to women's rights, and it's been difficult to peg Garland down on abortion, which seems to weigh against him in Obama's eyes.