Friday, September 5, 2008

More SNCC Genius

I know I said I'm tired. And I still am. But SNCC, a group a veteran civil rights activists, you know, those old "community organizers, brings an insight to present day politics that I just love. Here's some genius from Linda Burhman.

By Linda Burnham

Talk about an election that has had it all: complicated conflicts overrace, gender, age, generational transition, religion and more; all againstthe backdrop of a sinking economy and a couple of raging wars. I didn't think the presidential campaign could get much more interesting than it was during the primaries when a hundred mini-dramas unfolded within the frameof a core narrative that was itself mesmerizing. But it just got more interesting, especially for those who identify as feminists.

Before we had even finished the debate over whether the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin for the Republican vice presidential spot was a desperation move or a master stroke? The desperationists were winning; there've beenno McCain master strokes so far, why expect one this late in the game -- a whole new set of issues hit the table, several of them going to the heartof the feminist agenda.

Palin's decision to accept the vice presidential candidacy while in themidst of a set of challenging family circumstances has turned the spotlightnot only on the right to abortion, pre-marital sex, work/family balance, female ambition in the context of an incomplete feminist revolution, and the heterosexual nuclear family, but on the very meaning of feminism aswell.

Both the Democrats and the Republicans deploy the "intact nuclear family" in powerful, emotionally loaded ways, especially during conventions, whenthe photo ops are plentiful. But it is the Republican Party that has staked out and fiercely defended the family values turf.

And so it is legitimate to ask: What version of family values is represented by exposing a pregnant teenager to relentless national scrutiny, at a time when the scrutiny of the neighbors next door is probably painful enough? Is it time yet to admit that "abstinence only" is a failed policy? And what version of family values is represented by following one's political ambitions onto the rigors and surprises of the campaign trailwith an infant, Down Syndrome or otherwise, in tow? The leave-it-all-to-the-nanny version? Last I checked, infants were infinitely demanding. If the vice presidency is that cushy, I know a whole lot ofwomen (and men) who should be in the running.

Sara Palin is a "Feminist for Life." Is it possible to be a feminist while opposing abortion rights? Millions of women support gender equity but oppose abortion for religious, moral or ethical reasons. Fine. But the right to abortion and to a broad spectrum of reproductive rights is a corner stone of contemporary feminism for good reason. The ability of women to effectively control whether, when and with whom they will have children is fundamental to their equitable integration into social, cultural and political life. It does not do to opportunistically claim the title offeminist while actively organizing against the right to abortion, both domestically and internationally, as Feminists for Life does.

Palin has taken up Clinton's glass ceiling mantra. She's being positioned as the Republican face of feminism: competent, family-centered, anti-abortion and lovely to behold. Mainstream feminism did not acquit itself all that well during the primaries. This brief period between the conventions and the general election presents a new opportunity to reclaim feminism from pretenders and to reassert the relationship between feminism and social justice.

Stay tuned for drama. It looks like it will be a compelling show, all the way up to November 4th.

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But Don't Jack My Genuis