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Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Elections, Sexism, and Sarah Palin
In the recent US Presidential election, we experienced both the closest the glass ceiling has ever come to being shattered as well as evidence that sexism is alive and well in our country today. I was intrigued by Jim Wallis's recent post at God's Politics where he implored the nation to not use sexist criteria for judging Sarah Palin post-election. He wrote -
Basing post-election analysis on Gov. Palin’s wardrobe, insults to her family, and whether or not she answered the door in a towel is sexist.

If Obama had lost this campaign, no journalist would be commenting on the color of Joe Biden’s ties or the Scranton native’s trips to Brooks Brothers. On this blog we have already started a discussion around the many opportunities our country has for reconciliation. This can occur not just around race but also gender and the many other things that divide us.

Go ahead. Disagree with her politics and her policies. There are a lot of people who are going to get into some healthy fights about the future of the Republican Party. But like her or not, to reduce Sarah Palin to her wardrobe is wrong and is a great way to start this post-election season off on the wrong foot.

Almost as if on cue, the comments to his post do exactly what he was warning against delving into such controversial topics as whether or not mothers should work outside the home. What has your experience been this election cycle with sexism? Do you think the glass ceiling will ever be shattered?

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posted by Julie at 3:32 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 11/12/2008 07:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Ever is a long time. To think we've passed the test racially is a bit naive in my opinion as well, however. King's dream was for a country that did not see the color of a person's skin. That day is still a long way off, a step closer perhaps but a long way off. I do not understand why gender is a more difficult hill to climb. Maybe it really does go back to the garden--ahem.

  • At 11/13/2008 08:58:00 AM, Blogger cindy

    These issues are so difficult. First of all, I think that the gender-specific ways Palin has been treated (both before and since the election) speak not only to our "sexism" but also to our tendency to scapegoat and invade public figures' privacy.

    At the same time, I think it's important for us (or journalists, or academics) to analyze the ways in which gender (and race) did function in the election, but that requires stepping back a bit. There's certainly a difference between hashing out Palin's wardrobe and questioning the impulse to hash out Palin's wardrobe.

    I also have to say, though, that the jury's still out on whether "a country that did not see the color of a person's skin" (or the shape of a person's physiological sex characteristics) is really ideal. I see a profound tension between eliminating or overlooking all difference on the one hand (especially because the "norm" usually ends up being those in power, which is historically white male--so once people of color and women behave more like wealthy white men, their race or gender are overlooked) and, on the other hand, celebrating (and essentializing) difference and diversity. Both positions can go too far, but both also offer important insights.

  • At 11/14/2008 03:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    One interesting aspect is to look at the number of women Bush appointed to key positions including an African American female in the #3 slot. If early rumors are any indication, Hillary is in contention for this role. But for all of our talk about Islam being male dominated, it's telling how many women have been leaders of a Muslim country. Hmmm ....

    Church state separation issues aside, one of the reasons I was critical of male religious leaders endorsing Obama during the primaries is that I heard from some women that they felt further excluded from the emergent conversation because they supported Hillary. They felt the gusto some guys went for supporting Obama further marginalized their voice. My hunch is if women felt more included in the dialogue, this might not have emerged for them as an issue.

    What I find telling though is that some women's groups decided to support Obama or Edwards because they felt their policies were more in line with their organization's agenda than Hillary. I am "hoping" this means that we've moved beyond looking at a person's gender into seeing who is the best candidate but time will tell here.

    Another comment I've heard from McCain supporters if they felt because they voted for someone other than Obama, the assumption is often they did so because of his race and not his policies.

    We made progress, a long way to go still ...

  • At 11/14/2008 08:06:00 AM, Blogger Barbara.

    One thing I noticed is that when some Obama supporters pointed out shortcomings of Palin, whether real or imagined, whether sexist or not, McCain supporters were quick to call Sexism on them. (Imagine that, after all these years of not caring so much about sexism.) But, when McCain supporters made flagrantly sexist comments about how beautiful she is, or about voting for her just because she is a woman, or using her "hockey mom" status as a way to win votes -- well, that kind of sexism was not called out.
    We are making progress toward equality in leadership positions, but the fact still is that someone who is not white and male still has to be Excellent in every way in order to make it to the top. (On second thought, maybe Palin shattered that one for women.) That is not true for white males. And we could add Christian, Straight and Able to that, as well. While I believe that sexism and racism were at play and even turned up a notch in this election, I also believe that the bottom line for the nation was a choice between fear and hope. I think all identities, for most voters, were trumped by this fundamental choice.

    One of the great opportunities that has come out of this election is the many conversations about race and gender relations that have begun. Time to roll up our sleeves and do some real anti-racism and anti-sexism work on the personal and community level. And to that I say, for people of any political persuasion, Yes We Can. -Barbara in WV www.breadandhoney-blogspot.com

  • At 11/19/2008 10:52:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I think that often forgotten is that Palin isn't going home to tend house, but back to a position in the senate.

    Somehow, women obtained human status and the rights that go along with that.

    Those of us who practice our freedom, demonstrate to women who don't yet enjoy it their ability and worth. The more positive role models that are out there, the larger the snowball will become.

    Sexist remarks and attitudes can hurt. I know that firsthand - so do many of the women blogging around here.

    I remain positive however, because those remarks and attitudes lack power.

    Amen to your comment on opportunity Barbara!

  • At 11/22/2008 01:16:00 PM, Blogger Trillion McKnight

    This is a great tpoic of discussion. I am just a proud of Hilary as I am of Sarah and we forget that we all share a commom journey. This election has produce a new war for us to fight... that within our own gender exist women who are less than others. When did we get here?

    Come on over and share your comments on my blog

  • At 11/26/2008 05:23:00 PM, Blogger Euodia

    How close -or how far - are we from *judging* people on the content of their character rather than the content of their clothes?