Below The Belt: Don’t Take His Word For It

Kim Gandy, President of NOW, column on Palin. Link to original at bottom.

Don’t Take His Word For It

Below the Belt: A Column by NOW President Kim Gandy

She’s been on the covers of publications from Time and Newsweek to Us Weekly. Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin could be a heartbeat away from the highest office in the country. There could be a woman in the White House, and the nation’s a-buzz over this rising star.

So why aren’t I more excited about this?

Maybe because being a strong woman doesn’t necessarily make you strong on women’s rights.

Governor Palin is a mother of five who, like many women, balances being a mom and having a full-time job outside of the home. But feminism isn’t just about being a mom or a working woman or both — it’s about believing every woman deserves an equal opportunity to utilize her strengths and control her destiny — that every woman deserves a level playing field and a fair chance to succeed.

For me, this election has never been about getting one woman into office. It’s about opening doors and opportunities for all women. “We don’t think it’s much to break a glass ceiling for one woman and leave millions of women behind,” said Ellie Smeal of the Feminist Majority.

And make no mistake, the McCain-Palin ticket will leave millions of women behind.

Just for starters, Sarah Palin, like John McCain, vows to overturn Roe v. Wade. In fact, she opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest. Let’s think for a moment what that means — a girl raped by her own father would be forced to carry her pregnancy to term, despite the risks to her young body. Has she no human compassion? She wouldn’t even allow an abortion to protect a woman’s health — only to prevent her “imminent death.” Wonder how many of a woman’s internal organs would have to shut down before “Dr.” Palin would consider her death to be imminent? And by then, would it be too late for an abortion to save her?

Her heartlessness doesn’t end there. While she was mayor of Wasilla, rape victims were required to pay up to $1,200 for the cost of processing the police evidence (called “rape kits”) in their cases. Just imagine – during perhaps the most traumatic moments of their lives, Sarah Palin made women pay, before the law would protect them. And it didn’t stop until Democratic governor Tony Knowles signed statewide legislation prohibiting the practice.

How does this demonstrate respect for women and girls? How is this feminism?

Advancing feminism requires ending sexism, and NOW has been speaking out for over 18 months against the sexism aimed at women candidates and leaders, including Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Sarah Palin. But you already know that, because you know NOW. But when Palin was asked during the primaries about the sexism Senator Clinton was experiencing, she implied that Clinton was whining, and said women just need to “work harder” and “prove yourself to an even greater degree that you are capable.”

What?! This is the same line that has been used against women for decades — that we aren’t trying hard enough, and besides we’re just a bunch of whiners anyway.

Women are still being paid an average of 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Are they whining, too? According to John McCain they are. He explained his opposition to the Fair Pay Act by saying that women (who want equal pay) need more training – never mind that women tend to have more training and education that similarly-situated men, and still they earn less.

Lilly Ledbetter, an employee of Goodyear Tire and Rubber for 19 years, sued Goodyear once she’d amassed evidence that she was being grossly underpaid compared to her male counterparts. She won her case, but what could have been a landmark decision to end pay discrimination turned sour. Appeals by Goodyear took her case to the Supreme Court, where a narrow majority overturned the ruling in a dramatic reinterpretation of pay discrimination law. According to the majority, Ledbetter should have filed her discrimination lawsuit within 180 days after the first instance of pay discrimination – even if she didn’t know about it (which she didn’t). Huh? It was her fault? Now Ledbetter is speaking out and fighting back so that this injustice doesn’t happen to anyone else. Is Lilly Ledbetter “whining” too?

So we whiners are supposed to herald Sarah Palin as bringing in a new wave of feminism? Who is telling us this? Pundits and politicians who’ve offered nothing in their long careers demonstrating so much as a mild interest in women’s rights, that’s who. “You might say,” said Rush Limbaugh, “she’s the face of feminism.” Well, Rush Limbaugh might say so, but forgive me if I don’t take his word for it.”

Below The Belt: Don’t Take His Word For It


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