When I attended a California State University, there was a requirement that students take a semester course in women’s or cultural studies. I took women’s history in the vain hope that it would focus on the history of suffrage, women’s accomplishments, etc.
No such luck. It was every bit the granola-breath nightmare I’d been warned about by fraternity guys. The teacher, not the most feminine-looking lady, wore woolly stockings with comfortable loafers; her intellectual husband lived on another continent. In step with the greatest bra-burning stereotypes, the star student was a girl who always wore shorts and never shaved her legs. And since we had to arrange our desks in a circle in order to foster our sense of community, we were forced to look at this teacher’s pet as she expounded on the subject of oppressive men. The dearth of cute male eye candy in the class was tragic, but the guys who had no choice but to fulfill the graduation requirement sat slumped in their seats like they’d rather be playing Russian roulette.
For the final term paper, the professor asked us to state which theory of feminism we most ascribed to and why. As I thumbed through the textbook that spent less time on the Elizabeth Cady Stantons and more time celebrating the history of lesbianism, I became an anti-establishment mischief-maker.
Instead of celebrating one of her conveniently packaged theories, I wrote a “none of the above” paper that outlined the principle of conservative feminism. The conservative feminist believes in the inherent strength of women and their ability to achieve whatever they want without a crutch from the government. In fact, the conservative feminist believes that women being told they need a boost to get ahead is insulting to a woman’s intelligence and resolve. Conservative feminism regards abortion as violence to women and children, and believes in supporting women in the military, who are vital to our nation’s defense. The conservative feminist does not enjoy being discriminated against, thus would not endorse discrimination against others in the form of affirmative action.
I got a “C.”
You’re ostensibly supposed to learn something in college, and the greatest lesson I received was that the women’s movement, with its selection of approved thoughts, is more of an umbrella than a big tent. We’re seeing that again now, as, regardless of platform or ideology, we’re all supposed to throw our backing behind prominent women in politics — just because we’re all women.
Rather than being some great boon for feminism, this campaign is looking like a giant step backward for women, trumpeting the assumption that women are so politically dense as to vote primarily on the basis of XX chromosomes.
“I am one of the millions of women who have waited all their lives to see the first woman sworn in as president of the United States — and now we have our best opportunity to see that dream fulfilled,” wrote Ellen Malcolm, the founder of EMILY’s List, on the website of that political fundraising organization. She added that they’ll use their resources for “mobilizing millions of women voters through our groundbreaking WOMEN VOTE! program to support her and every Democrat on the ticket in 2008.”
While it would be hilarious to see Bill Clinton and his ego succumb to the title of First Man, the election of Hillary Clinton would not mean some great new dawn for women’s rights.
A CBS News/New York Times poll from last February found that 92 percent of respondents said they would vote for a woman president if she were qualified; this compared to a 1955 Gallup poll that found only 52 percent would. Attitudes have evolved, and in terms of women’s rights, we’re already at the point where Clinton and Nancy Pelosi would like us to think they can take us. Despite Pelosi’s “Norma Rae” performance with the speaker’s gavel, the real “marble ceiling” is in places such as Afghanistan, where the real trailblazers are women like 27-year-old Malalai Joya, who despite death threats won a seat in the Wolesi Jirga with the second-highest number of votes in her province.
There are still plenty of sexist attitudes in the United States; I’ve seen and heard this first-hand. I hope one day that lonely eight percent of respondents in that CBS poll comes to its senses. And are there too few women in office? Sure. But I’d like to see women run more for the fact that they want to make a difference in the public arena and less for feeling some duty to be a representative of womankind. To assume that all women voters have the same goals and concerns diminishes their individuality and embraces a herd mentality.
“Women constitute a huge ‘X factor’ in this upcoming election. More than 54 percent of the general election voters will be women, and many — particularly those in the younger generation — believe it is about time this country had its first woman president,” wrote Mark Penn, Hillary’s chief strategist, on her campaign website. “And they believe Hillary is the right choice.”
Young women like me believe that? Really? It’s laughable that a supposed feminist politician has a male strategist telling women what they think.
The presumption that the milestone of a woman president surpasses all else is insulting to us women who take the time to study policy and arrive at educated electoral decisions, and it smacks of the sort of mentality that fuels The View. It doesn’t make me feel personally empowered that Pelosi is the first woman speaker of the House or Clinton is running for president; I already knew women were capable of as much. And unless other American women have been extremely isolated from the sight of women succeeding in their communities and beyond, they already knew that, too.
One would think a true feminist would be gender-blind and judge everyone equally on their abilities; however, it is now assumed that we’re supposed to trade in our critical thinking for gender discrimination at the ballot box.
Rather than waiting all my life to see some more estrogen in the White House, I’m waiting to see the defeat of terrorism, hoping to see the day that Islamic radicals will go down along with the totalitarian regimes that are throwing the world into chaos. And I don’t care if the leader who will help us there is male, female, sexy, ugly, straight, gay, black, white, Hispanic, etc.
Now that’s progressive.