Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sarah Palin: is there a good side?

Jo Christie Smith asks whether Sarah Palin can ever be good for women. I almost skipped over this post because I find the question so annoying, but I'm glad I didn't because it's an interesting piece that got something bubbling in my cranium.

Regular readers will know that, in my view, Sarah Palin's politics are not just anti-woman but down the line misanthropic. Corrupt, warlike, reactionary, in the pockets of the elites, and anti-environment, in short she's on the Biblical end of the Republicans. She doesn't just cast the first stone, she's the sort that likes to cast the first nuke.

However, she does represent a real political trend in American politics. If you're going to have a reactionary Republican VP candidate (and the odds are that we were always going to go that way) isn't it better that women are represented at this level of politics than not - whether or not they represent an agreeable political tendency?

Perhaps one UK analogy would be the Royal family. If we're not a position to abolish them just yet would it benefit society if one of them converted to Islam, married a black chap or came out as gay? I think it probably would. So if there are any Royals reading this wondering whether to come out of your luxuriantly furnished closet - you have my permission to do so.

There is, of course, an issue of Palin's competence - this candidate is so lacking in ability it runs the risk of creating a generalised feeling that "of course she's not up to scratch she's a woman". That's possible, although it's always difficult to unpick a mood that revealed from one that genuinely created.

The first serious female Presidential candidate was Geraldine Ferraro, whose politics were a respectable centre left and, no doubt, she attracted many of the votes of those who wanted to see a more equal society. Unfortunately in the Reagan era these voters were few and far between and even 55% of women voted for Reagan over her ticket with Mondale. Hopefully that process will be repeated in reverse this time round and Palin will be reduced to an aggravating wikipedia entry rather than a walking abomination on this Earth, marching, unblinking, towards a new dark ages.

As Jo says "We are much better at discerning talented men from mediocre men than we are discerning talented women from mediocre men." It seems to me that the only answer to this is to see more women in top level politics. That way Palin's gender wouldn't be an issue just her political inadequacies, but we aren't there yet and it is.

So, in that one and only sense, Palin's VP bid could be seen as a step forward, just so long as she doesn't actually get elected. We need to get that gender balance right, but in the context of politics that moves society forwards. Sadly, the experience of Thatcher in this country shows that simply electing a woman to a top job is no guarantee of a new dawn of gender equality.


Anonymous said...

Sarah Palin gives all women and all Christians a bad name. As both, I am ashamed to have her representing me. I'm tired of people blaming her idiocy on being a woman or being a Christian - just like I'm tired of McCain making light of all of Obama's ideas by calling him "naive." Just because you don't agree with someone's stance doesn't mean you can pigeon-hole them forever. People's minds are so freakin narrow it makes me sick!

That said, I think your blog is great and full of interesting information. :-)

Jim Jay said...

I agree - I think there is a big danger that people will blame her poor judgement on being a woman rather than her politics.

Incidentally on niave I thought the Presidential debate really showed Obama as the more Presidential and thought through of the two.

scott redding said...

Ta-Nehisi Coates was interesting about Palin the other day.