Friday, September 05, 2008

Today's Headlines and the Glass Ceiling

Note to Readers: CaDh8 is contemplating joining this blog as a regular contributing partner. This will be especially wonderful during the upcoming political campaign because we often differ on the issues. Let's hope this is the first (or second, actually) of many joint postings, and Viva la difference!---BRD

Dear Hillary,

I use your name so familiarly, yet I do not know you at all. But since, even with the Rodham spoken as a "middle name," calling you Ms. Clinton has connotations to it, we have all come to know you as Hillary. According to, Hillary can be either a male or female name, and it means "cheerful or happy". Well, I must say, even as a dyed in the wool conservative republican, you have made me happy this year.

Now, more than ever, I think of you, Hil. May I call you that? With Palin (You see she is not Sarah to me. The more mannish use of her last name seems to come more naturally.) taking the spotlight, we Republican feminists are now starting to rally around our "girl". We are dreaming of the day a woman may be leading, proving our strength, demanding our equality, earning the respect of ALL. But Palin's place on the RNC stage was not, I fear, opened to her simply by her own merit. It was you, I am sure, that opened the door. . . or broke that ceiling. You opened the minds of all to the fact that a woman IS a legitimate candidate. If you had not come so close to winning, proved in essence that a woman COULD win, we would have had a boy's club again this year, I am sure.

This morning as I drove to work I heard a piece about the 1968 Miss America competition on NPR. A major feminist protest was organized that year to coincide with that event. Protestors set up on the Atlantic city boardwalk outside of the place where it was held. No bras were actually burned there, in opposition to the wide spread myth, but they were thrown, with girdles, Playboy magazines, and cooking pots, into a barrel. Police stopped protesters from burning the items due to city regulations. And these protestors were not really determined to disturb the peace. They just wanted to shake it up a little. They wanted women to be seen as people, not sides of meat.

But the fact is, we HAVE come a long way, baby. As a woman who grew up in the 80's and 90's, sexual freedom and opportunity is all I have ever known for women, so sometimes I forget just how far and how fast we have come. I was raised in a home where I was taught that I could do anything, that I should be treated equally, and that if I was held back because of my femininity, I should FIGHT. This was modeled in my home as well, and I never had to fight. I always felt I was treated fairly.

But the reality is that we as women still have a long way to go. The "sexual freedom" movement that paralleled the "feminist" movement has led to continued exploitation of women with the sickest kind of twist. . . women willingly participate in the process. Hypo-sexuality has become hyper-sexuality and even the youngest of girls feel the pressure. Real understanding of our femininity is lacking, and many women become servants of their roles instead of making choices for themselves. I know you are Pro-choice in the political sense, which I am not. But I am an advocate of choice just the same. Women need to feel empowered in making good choices for their lives so that they do not become trapped or stuck or forced to feel the pressure to quit a job or terminate life within them. As a feminist I feel strongly about this. We need to know that there are always doors that can be opened.

But in business and politics, families and other areas, there are still so many closed doors, so many lesser opportunities. A pregnant woman in my office was actually called a "liability" to her face. We have a long way to go. Gloria Steinem says that,
"Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House."
As a limiting force, it affects the most people. . . about 50%. And it seems to have been overlooked more than other issues, like race, are. Another great quote from Gloria:
"So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects 'only' the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more 'masculine' for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming (as long as there aren’t too many of them); and because there is still no 'right' way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what."
But the thing is, I fear that we Republicans are not as far along now as we think. Oh, we have definitely moved along down the road. But the "standin' by her man" image that the RNC has been putting forward this week seems to support many of the traditionally held views about women instead of bucking them. And granted, Ms. First Lady, you played that role too. But you have now truly stepped out of it in your bid for the presidency.

So that is why I have mixed feelings now. I am happy about Palin. I like her. And honestly, due to our differences on the issues, I would probably never have voted for you, Hil. But I sort of wish you were out there, fighting for US, showing that we really are equal, breaking down conventions, and making people think twice about traditional gender roles.

Thanks Hillary. We needed you. . . we still need you. We need, and need to be, strong women who stand up for ourselves and stand up for each other.

Hope to see you out there again soon,



brd said...

I just read the full Gloria Steinem article. It is an interesting one. One comment that I enjoyed was that women are the one group that grows more radical with age. I have to agree with that, at least for my age bracket. I don't know about young women. I feel like they have failed to understand feminism. There is much confusion among younger women about the difference between the sexual revolution and the feminist revolution much of which took place concurrently. The sexual revolution, I think, has overshadowed and in some areas obliterated advances for feminism. I would probably maintain that we are in a post feminist era in spite of the good things we are seeing on the political front.

Thanks for your good thoughts.

cadh 8 said...

I very much agree. This confluence of women running for office, the NPR story and the Gloria Steinem article is what made me realize that. I thin of myself as a feminist, but I think that all women of today are feminists in a way, because we have more liberty and freedom. But that is not true. To be a feminist you must be actively out there seeking to change hearts, minds, attitudes, and social policy. And you can only do that if you are seeking to truly understand the issues. So that is what I am going to start trying to do...understand the issues and then advocate our cause.

brd said...

Ooh, ow!

Gloria Steinem on Palin. Doesn't sound quite right to me. Quoted from the LA Times Opinion Section--"Feminist author Gloria Steinem, who calls the speech 'down-home, divisive and deceptive,' shreds Sarah Palin's record as governor and all but declares her unfit to serve as vice president. Yet Steinem doesn't fault Palin as much as she does the man who picked her:

"The culprit is John McCain. He may have chosen Palin out of change-envy, or a belief that women can't tell the difference between form and content, but the main motive was to please right-wing ideologues; the same ones who nixed anyone who is now or ever has been a supporter of reproductive freedom."

Now my question is, does Gloria believe that only women of a particular political stripe should exercise their full rights as humans and citizens or do all women get to participate. Hm.m.m who's being a little sexist now?

cadh 8 said...

Oooh, good question.

I was just saying to AsDh 8 that, as what Gloria may call a "right wing ideologue" (Although I probably would not call myself that...) I am personally all about is just that I say that my right to make choices ends where the life of another begins. This includes a baby in the womb. And when that miraculous joining of egg and sperm occurs, that new being should be protected.

But choice, heck yeah. We better all be making choices, especially reproductive choices. Education is important and changes in social expectations are important. But I personally cannot understand the feminist who is not focused on promoting the lives of women and their children. To tear down the lives of the children tears down the women as well.

Does that make sense? I can get a little passionate about this issue, but I don't want to make the same mistake Gloria is by being dismissive of the views of others.

I think it is key that WOMEN take up this issue because I think many men (although certainly not all) feel like they have no right to say that a woman should or should not do something with their own body...They cannot even comprehend carrying a child inside them. But even those of us who have not actually carried a baby can understand what it means to. And those that have born one or many can speak even more clearly to the issue.

Glad you found this quote mom. Thanks for sharing.