Friday, September 26, 2008

One Giant Step for Palin.... Two Steps Back for Women Everywhere.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the way our country views women. For kicks, I started reading a series of history books by Catherine Gourley, Images and Issues of Women in the Twentieth Century. They are aimed at young adults, but the information included is important for any age to understand. Gibson Girls and Suffragists begins the series and it's eye opening to realize the struggles of the women who paved the way so I can enjoy the freedoms I have today.

Too many of us take that for granted or actually believe we are there. When my friend, a commercial pilot, is mistaken for a flight attendant because naturally she must be, she's a woman, or when the implication is made that she got her job because the airlines "need" to fill a certain quota with women and therefore isn't actually qualified, I am furious. It is likely, that she is MORE qualified, that she has worked even harder to get where she is, because that is the kind of person she is. I would say she might actually owe her job to being a North Dakotan, not a woman; that inbred in her is a kind of work ethic that never really says "good enough" but that she can always do better, and she does. This sort of thing is subtle. Sometimes it's not even voiced, but it exists. It's still an issue. It's still a prejudice.

I work in a field that is dominated by women, teaching. At one point in history it was one of the few options available to women for career paths. I was at a teacher's convention one year in which a male teacher was given an award and at one point the presenter made reference to his gender and how rare it was to have men in the profession and there was actually applause followed by a standing ovation, simply to suggest we are so thankful that some men still deem it worth their while to be teachers. Seriously.

Yet, I do believe that the reason teachers continually struggle with low pay is gender related. If this were a male dominated profession that issue wouldn't even be an issue. After all, men are the breadwinners. Right? Isn't that the undercurrent. For women, it must be "pin money," a supplemental income. I've heard men in my father's generation say in rural communities. "We don't need to pay them more. Their husbands are farmers. We know what they make. And what will they do? Quit? They aren't going anywhere, they farm. Their work is here." Sigh. It's not so much a competitive field when it comes to pay and people aren't really fighting back. Or I should say, women aren't really fighting back.

This brings me to the way our media made such a big deal out of Hillary Clinton running for president. It would be a first if she'd been the Democratic nominee and then won the election. And now, there is talk that McCain chose Sarah Palin in an effort to throw that gender issue back in the mix. Some thought he meant to try to pick up Hillary's supporters, those women who were voting just because Hillary was a woman. I supported Hillary's political positions, I wasn't running around screaming "girl power!" I found the choice of Palin to be insulting to women. If that's the rationale. She stands for none of the issues I value. And she is NO Hillary Clinton.

I see now, that it's more about appeasiing the religious right. After all, how many of us can say we came to power because an African minister known for casting out witches blessed us? Still she was a pretty risky choice because of her inexperience and her ignorance to so many issues and a reporter from the National Review is actually calling for her to bow out. I can only take that as a good sign. That not everyone in the Republican party is blinded by Palin's perky hockey mom persona.

In the time that's followed her VP announcement, I've come to believe that if we were to make this a gender issue, it's a grim situation. Women don't really need to make this a gender issue because it's such a national issue, one of security and well-being for the future of our country, that the gender issue recedes. Still if we were to explore this, I believe that her nomination is a step backward for women. It's like the Republicans have decided to bring a woman on board to be a sort of puppet, (it's clear she can't talk for herself), someone they can control and ultimately she's someone who we can't trust to do her job as VP or, knock on wood, as the president of the United States. It's a nightmare. It's bringing out all the people who already believe a woman can't do things as well as a man, and giving them evidence to support that claim in the person of Palin. Sure it would be a woman in a high powered job. It would be an historical first. But it's not about firsts, really, if women all over our country suffer because of her political beliefs. Who cares if one woman "makes it" if everyone around her falls.

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