Outstanding Article Discussing What Sarah Palin And Hillary Clinton Brought To The Political And Social Arena
Here is an outstanding article discussing what Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton brought to the political and social arena through their various strengths and forbearance in the face of intense and unfair pressure. By (Link) Linda Baeil writing at the San Diego North Country Times
What do women want? This is one question Republican candidates and strategists must be asking in the wake of the 2012 election. A 10-point gender gap, the largest since 1996, gave President Obama a thin margin of victory. While women gained a record number of seats in the House and Senate, the number of those congresswomen who are Republicans dropped from nearly one-third to less than a quarter on election night.
The perception of a Republican “War on Women” may be overblown. But the disconnect with women voters in policy and rhetoric, and the absence of women candidates in the presidential race from either party, might cause us to reflect on the debates and issues that engaged women in 2008.
Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin not only served as role models who cracked the glass ceiling of presidential election politics, they also embodied different perspectives and choices regarding women in leadership. Clinton’s experiences of media coverage in the Democratic primary demonstrated the continuing double-bind women candidates find themselves in with regard to gendered assumptions about power. In order to be perceived as competent, she downplayed traditional femininity and was seen as having a “likability problem.” When she teared up in a New Hampshire coffee shop, women voters responded positively to her feminine display of emotion, but it reinforced all of the pundits’ fears and questions about female leadership as tough enough for the Oval Office.
For her part, Palin brought the “mommy wars” and conversations about what it means to be a good mother into the national spotlight, and women across the electorate responded. Palin did not just give voice to a pro-life position on abortion; she embodied it – while also claiming to be a feminist. Cradling her Down syndrome infant at campaign rallies, Palin scrambled the notion that women candidates and voters are pro-choice; she was applauded by Republicans’ social conservative base because she herself had made the choice to carry her pregnancy to term at great personal cost. Palin also presented a new face of the Republican Party: one of a young working mother.
As questions arose about her seriousness and policy knowledge, Palin faced a familiar dilemma both for female candidates and women in society: being dismissed as merely attractive, valued for sexuality but not intelligence. While Sarah Palin was the Voldemort of the 2012 election, “She Who Must Not Be Named,” and dismissed by most pundits as an embarrassing mistake by John McCain, the phenomenon of Palin in the 2008 and 2010 elections might clue her party in to some of what was lacking this year.
In 2012, Republicans have been criticized repeatedly for comments made about women – from Rush Limbaugh’s calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” for seeking insurance coverage of contraception to Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape.” Many of the sound bites in this election season spoke about women as if they were reducible down to their reproductive organs.
In the 21st century, women – conservative or liberal – view themselves as much more than this. In an economy when most families need both working parents just to make ends meet, and 40 percent of women contribute as much or more to their family’s income than men, these essentializing assumptions appear antiquated and tone-deaf. Silence on issues of pay equity only reinforces this perception among women – particularly young women and single moms – that the Republican Party may not see them as the strong and multidimensional citizens that they are.
In 2008, the presence of Palin on the ticket, and her juxtaposition with the narratives of other women like Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, offered women an opportunity to discuss issues that are complex and relevant to their lives: motherhood, sexuality, work, family, power and femininity. Sarah Palin should not be ignored as simply a failed candidate. Her “hockey mom” persona offered one possible image of power with a womanly face: pit bull aggressiveness with feminine lipstick. Palin may have been our first “third wave” feminist candidate, posing the contradictions of women’s progress and its limits in our political sphere. Palin’s embodiment of those paradoxes did more to energize women voters – both those who loved her and loathed her – than all of Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women.” If only we had had such compelling narratives of women and power in this election.