Vice President Palin?

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Well, well, well…John McCain has gone and picked a woman to be his running mate. Apparently he thinks that’s enough to appease Hillary’s supporters. But I would hope to God that they are smart enough to realize that not just any woman will do. There are so many things to be wary of about Sarah Palin, I just don’t know where to start.

She’s even younger than Obama (44)–and her experience stacks up like this: She has been governor of Alaska for one and a half years. Before that she was mayor of a town of 6300 people; before that she served on the city council. She has fought those who want to designate polar bears as endangered because that would disrupt drilling for oil. She is socially conservative: solidly against abortion and gay marriage. She even uses her own life (and child) as proof of her convictions: She and her husband chose to continue her last pregnancy even after finding out that the child would have Down Syndrome. (She also makes a point of telling people that her oldest son is entering the Army.) Well, good for her. To be fair, it may well be that it is the conservatives and the media who are making a big deal out of what are personal decisions. But I would be much more comfortable if she were pro-choice–how silly of me to think that she would be!

She’s all for mining, oil drilling, cutting timber and fishing and is a lifelong member of the NRA and a proponent of the right to bear arms. None of this is wrong in itself, but they are areas worth watching. Does she think that it is perfectly all right to carry concealed weapons, for instance? I already mentioned her fight to keep polar bears off the endangered list. She also opposed protection of salmon from mining contamination. There are some reasons for concern here.

Apparently she is a popular governor, but what do 20 months of governorship really mean anyway? Let’s just say it: she has been selected and groomed for a career in politics. (Much like Obama, I should say–or any politician, for that matter.) She has the right values to be McCain’s running mate. To hell with the experience.

I firmly believe that McCain chose her to stand for things that he doesn’t want to have to come out and say. He wants to appeal to moderates and disaffected Democrats. But he also wants to appeal to conservatives, evangelical Christians (did I say that Palin was president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes when she was in high school and that she attended a Pentacostal church?) and women who want to see a woman–any woman–in the White House.

His plan could backfire. Many Republicans, conservatives and Christians are against a woman in the highest office (or a heartbeat away from it). Her inexperience may hurt her. She has zero foreign policy experience. She knows nothing about how things work in Washington. How is McCain going to be able to criticize Obama for his inexperience when he himself picked a vice president with even less?

On a more personal level, there may be Christians and conservatives who criticize her for not being more available to her family–after all, she has five children ranging from age 19 to four months. How can she help run a country and be a mother at the same time? (That’s not my position, but it could work against her among some voters.) And many women, even conservatives, may be (should be) wary of her anti-choice position on abortion.

But I have to admit that my heart sank a little when I found out about McCain’s choice. I have a feeling that his tactic will work, for the most part. My oldest daughter disagrees with me: she thinks that it will hurt McCain enough to get Obama into the White House. I hope that she’s right.

For more editorial, read this on feministing.com.
For more on Palin, read this article on Time.com from August 30, 2008.

Mothers’ Movements

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From my Mothers Book Bag newsletter: “There’s an attitude among many mom bloggers that if you make money via your blogging, you’ve sold out, pimped your kids, or you’re not a good mom because you’re ignoring your children while you write. Or that if you blog about your family life you’re putting you and your children at risk from pedophiles, kidnappers, and stalkers or that you’ve invaded your children’s privacy.

“I believe that this feeling from some parts of the blogosphere is due to jealousy, especially of the “rock star” bloggers like Heather Armstrong of Dooce. But it’s also wanting to put others down because women do not feel confident in their roles as mothers and women.”

There’s a lot of truth in these statements. There are many movements and websites nowadays attempting to organize mothers but I believe that’s an uphill battle. Because there is no one who is as judgmental about other mothers than a woman who is a mother herself. We’re all so insecure about what we’re doing that we look for any scrap of evidence that we’re going it better than other mothers.

Of course we’ve picked up the attitudes of society here. But it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re constantly hearing that the mother is the one primarily responsible for the welfare of her children and the happiness of her home. Men get judged if they’re deadbeat dads–and rightfully so–but they’re not held to the same standards as mothers are. Conservatives especially like to blame everything that’s wrong with society on mothers who work outside of the home. Well, might as well give up then, because mothers aren’t going en masse back into the home any time soon. They can’t afford to for the most part, and even when they can, they often don’t want to. And why should they have to? Isn’t the problem really that mothers don’t get enough help in their quest to be better at what they do?

Just being in the house 24/7 doesn’t ensure that women will cure all of society’s ills. That’s an assinine assumption. Society has always had problems even when almost all women were in the home. Because when they were, they’re weren’t sitting around reading child psychology books and forming mother support groups. They were working–hard! Anyone who works at a paying job from home with children in it knows how hard it is to be a “perfect” mother while doing so.

Hey, it’s even hard to be a perfect mom if “all” you do is be a mother (oh, and a homemaker, and even a wife). Imagine that. I think one reason why motherhood is looked down on in this society is because so many people (read: non-mothers) think it’s so easy to be one. They pooh-pooh the idea that what a woman does when she stays at home is in any way comparable to what people do when they work all day outside of the house. Sure, she’s with her kids 24/7, but she’s not actively interacting with them all that time. (Oh, no?) And besides, how hard is it to have to interact with your kid? That’s nothing more than talking with them. How hard is that?

That attitude makes me crazy. I’ve never done anything so hard in my life as be a mother. Especially when my kids were younger (but it never stops). Even if all a mother had to do when she stays home with her kids is interact with them, she’d still be exhausted. Even when/though she loves her kids. Who said being with someone you love can’t be exhausting??

Some people think that being a mother is easy because, after all, you’re the grown-up: you just make them mind. (Again, non-mothers.) Others think it’s easy because you can make your own schedule. If you want to watch Oprah every day, you can. If you want to eat bonbons or drink margaritas, you can. Yeah, sure you can. Like your kids will let you do what you want! Even if you do manage to find a minute or two to yourself, that doesn’t even begin to make up for all the time you have to spend “off the clock” taking care of your children.

And how many mothers are off the hook with housework? Even if you have a maid, you’re still in charge of everything. (And really, how many of us have maids?) Motherhood is stressful; there’s just no two ways about it.

So why do mothers add to their own stress by belittling other mothers? Wouldn’t you think that we’d be empathetic and stick up for each other? Instead, we constantly measure each other by how many batches of cookies we baked, how clean we keep the house, and mostly by how our kids turn out. We look for weaknesses in other mothers so that we can ignore our own, instead of standing together to pool our strengths.

But does it have to be this way? Of course not. Just imagine what power could be unleashed if mothers could overcome their differences and come together to work for the good of their families. There’s a great deal that can be done when former rivals become partners. All we have to do is find our common ground and have enough faith in ourselves so that we don’t have to spend our energies putting each other down.

You don’t have to join a movement in order to join in solidarity with other mothers. Just let yourself become more aware of what you can do to help support the mothers around you. It’s a tough world for mothers. We need to do as much as we can for ourselves and each other.

Yay Hillary!

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I haven’t been watching all of the Democratic National Convention but I had to watch Hillary’s speech last night. She looked vibrant and dynamic. (And I loved the color of her pantsuit–I mention that because I was so afraid that she was going to wear red like so many of the other women speakers did earlier that evening. Hey, just because I’m a feminist doesn’t mean that I think that those things don’t matter.) I think she’s a hell of a speaker and her speech last night was one of her best.

Afterward, some of the pundits were talking about how maybe she should have said something like “I know I said some harsh things about Obama before, but I’m over all that now. I’ve had a change of heart.” But I think she did the right thing to stand her ground. She still showed her complete support for Obama, but without groveling to beg his pardon. I think that would have been too much for her supporters to swallow.

As it is, she offered a gracious way for her supporters to lay down their Hillary signs and pick up the signs of unity. We simply can’t have another four to eight years of Republican leadership. I still don’t completely trust Obama, but I don’t trust any politician, not even Hillary. Not completely. What does trust in a politician look like anyway? I’m still afraid that Obama’s inexperience–and possibly his race–will be his down fall. But who else do we have?

Hillary was the strongest Democratic candidate we’ve had since her husband. I’m truly sorry that she didn’t make it. But then again, I haven’t written her off either. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Hillary Clinton. But for now, we just need to get through this election and win the White House.

I can’t believe that we’re going to be voting in just a little over two months. It doesn’t seem like there’s been that much presidential politicking. Maybe that’s because so much attention and energy was focused on the Democratic campaign. I suppose we’ll be hit hard as soon as McCain announces his running mate and the Republican convention is over.

I’m worried that Obama can’t defeat McCain, not because he’s not good enough, but because wealthy white male supremacy has so much influence in this country. Hillary would have undoubtedly faced the same resistance, for different reasons, but I think she had experience on her side. She’s definitely one of the “insiders.” (I don’t know why that should be seen as a bad thing; I’d rather have a candidate who knows how things work and how to manipulate the system.) And she has paid her dues. Maybe it’s just not her time.

If Obama turns out to be a weak and ineffective president, there’s always Hillary waiting in the wings for 2012. At least I hope so.

Single Motherhood Again

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I became a single mother after my marriage of ten years collapsed. So I wasn’t like the mothers who know before they have their children that there isn’t going to be a father figure around the house. I always assumed that there would be, or I doubt that I would had children. Even so, I became a single mother. But there are those out there who saw my single motherhood as a choice anyway. One co-worker told me, “No one made you get a divorce.” No, but I shudder to think what my life–and the lives of my children–would have been like if I had stayed married. I may have chosen to get divorced, but I never saw that as a deliberate choice to become a single mother. I would rather have avoided that.

However, sometimes it’s better to be a single mother than to be unhappily married. My children have often told me that they think we were all better off the way things turned out. Not because their father was no good, but because the two of us together were a disaster. It was much better that both of us were separate but happy than together and miserable. That doesn’t mean that single parenthood was easy for either of us.

Custody and child support issues are real problems for single mothers. The paying of child support often motivates the payer to seek custody–or at least to threaten it. I would have gladly foregone the child support in order to quell the resentment my ex-husband felt over having to pay child support. But I couldn’t afford to. So I had to put up with it–and his periodic threats to seek custody–for over sixteen years. Once he was off the hook, so to speak, our relationship became much less confrontational.

I don’t think it’s ever easy to be a single mother. It’s really hard to be a parent period, and when you don’t have anyone to spell you, it can be crazy-making. Single mothers who work outside of the home (which is most of them) need affordable, quality child care, but that’s not easy to find. Sometimes the cost of child care makes it impossible for a single mother to work. (Which is something the “Welfare to Work” programs don’t seem to understand.) Even if she can pay for it, she may not be left with much disposable income, if any. She can’t afford necessities, let alone luxuries, because so much of her pay goes toward child care.

My co-worker (who happened to be a fundamentalist Christian) would probably not be sympathetic with the plight of the single mother, no matter how she got that way. In fact, he would probably have been even more judgmental toward women who choose to have children without an “on-site” father. Of course, he wouldn’t have countenanced an abortion, should a single woman become pregnant. I guess the only answer in his eyes would be adoption. But why should a woman put her child up for adoption when she’s perfectly willing to raise her child herself?

No matter the reason for a mother being single, she is still deserving of outside help. She is fortunate if she has family to help her, but not everyone does. When the government forces her to work (and often a judge will require it in the case of divorce), society needs to back up what it expects of her with programs that actually help instead of make matters worse. Even well-off working mothers are in need of flexible work schedules and paid family leave. To do anything less is to tell the world that this country doesn’t care about its children.

And to judge by its actions and attitudes toward single mothers, I’m not sure that it does.

Mamma Mia

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Watch the trailer. Go see the movie–you won’t be sorry! I saw “Mamma Mia” three times and wouldn’t mind seeing it again. It’s one of the best “feel-good” movies in recent years. It’s a lot of fun and the tunes stick in your head–a good thing, in this instance (even if you’re not an ABBA fan).

“Mamma Mia” celebrates womanhood, especially women of a “certain age.” The main characters in real life are in their fifties–and they look great!

Streep has also said while she enjoyed the dancing sequences in the film, she is waiting to see how her children will react to it. ‘I am really doing this to embarrass my 20-something-year-old children,” Streep confesses. ‘The dancing part will mortify them. They have to move to Alaska or some place like that. Just the overalls alone are gonna do it for them.’ [via]

Though she took the role to embarrass her children, when they’re in their fifties, it will be a role model for them, Streep says. It certainly is for me.

Is Feminism A Dead Issue?

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Definitions of feminism are hard to come by. It can mean so many things, not all of them positive. In fact, the main reason that more women don’t describe themselves as feminists is because of the negative definitions of feminism that have been promoted in the media. The radio personality Rush Limbaugh is a veritable fount of negativity towards feminists, as seen in the following quotes:

“Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.”

“Women still make up an average of only 13 percent of police officers…” They’re never happy. And I don’t mean women. I’m talking about the activists. Don’t lose your cookies out there. This is according to the National Center for Women and Policing, which is a division of the Feminist Majority Foundation of American, which is the feminazis.”

“Of course, a 5-foot woman could not play in the NFL; a 5-foot woman could not play in the NBA, but somehow she can be a police officer, a deputy, or a cop, and a lot of people think that this is a little crazy.”

Rush Limbaugh is an easy target because he’s so outrageous. But what about the media’s reporting that some people are calling female Hillary supporters racist because they’re not for Barack Obama? Or Time Magazine’s June 29, 1998 issue that raised the question, “Is Feminism Dead?” (Cover story here.) Granted, that issue is now ten years old. but the question has not gone away. Many people, including women, think that feminism is no longer an issue, because it has achieved its goals. And yet there is no dictionary in the world that calls feminism a defunct movement. Its reason for being is alive and well.

Sometimes in our quests for determining what something is, it is helpful to consider what it is not. Feminism is not about erasing men from the face of the earth, or rendering them impotent, in every sense of the word. It is not about abandoning our children or banning the institution of marriage. It is not about letting our body hair grow or our breasts hang freely. It is not about making the single, childless career woman the norm. And it is unequivocably not about taking over the world.

That’s not to say that there aren’t man-hating, power-hungry women out there who call themselves feminists. But are they really? Isn’t feminism really about finding fulfillment as a woman, without attaining it at the expense of others? (Because if we did, we’d be no better than those who put down women now.) Feminism means fighting against anything that makes women feel inferior. It’s about not having to apologize for being female. Or being restricted in your activities and your prospects because of your gender. It’s about fairness and justice for all members of the human race.

People like Rush Limbaugh are fighting to retain the status quo. They like things the way they are. Feminists are only saying that there is still room for improvement. If one woman is made to feel unnatural or undesirable because she doesn’t measure up to some societal standard of female behavior or beauty, then feminism is still needed. If one woman is held back from achieving her true potential, then feminism is still needed. If one woman loses her children because she can’t provide as good a standard of living for them as their father, then feminism is still needed. If one woman is paid or promoted less than a man doing the same job with the same proficiency, then feminism is still needed.

But what feminism fundamentally does for a woman is make her feel good about herself, her choices, her progress, her indispensability. Women are just as good as men. Not better–although individual women may be better than individual men–but as good as. Any woman who puts herself down in any way needs to explore what feminism can do for her. That’s what it’s there for.