I love reading Reason — both the magazine and their blog, Hit & Run. Both are usually chock full of well-reasoned (ha ha) and intelligent commentary. They have a few writers, though, that basically never fail to annoy me. Cathy Young is one of those. In a recently article, she contemplates whether Palin’s candicacy was a Good Thing for feminism or not. Contained therein, we encounter this passage:
Palin’s rise enraged many liberal and left-wing feminists. At HuffingtonPost.com, novelist Jane Smiley branded her “a woman who reinforces patriarchal power rather than challenges it.” (The notion that “patriarchal power” exists in the United States in 2008 is only slightly less delusional than the belief, erroneously attributed to Palin, that God created the dinosaurs 5000 years ago.)
Uh.. What? Was there a big announcement that we finally fixed sexism? Maybe it was right after we also fixed racism, which, as Cathy Young will tell you, is entirely black people’s fault these days too. Ugh. Incidentally, if Cathy Young believes patriarchal power no longer exists, what, exactly, is feminism, and what would constitute a “step forward” for it? Why is she even writing about it? It’s like she has this knee-jerk inability to admit that any institutional forces exist, and that to admit they do would be admitting some sort of personal weakness or something. It’s okay, Cathy! Institutions exist! It’s not your fault!
That said, I mostly agree with her answer to the question of whether or not Palin’s candicacy was a good thing for women’s progress:
Unfortunately, Palin’s feminist star was dimmed by a few things, especially the mounting evidence that she was less than qualified for the spot. (Her supporters derided such concerns as “elitism.”) The shielding of Palin from the media, and the McCain campaign’s request for a less challenging format for her debate with Joseph Biden, would have been embarrassing for any candidate – but especially for the first woman on the Republican ticket. Palin went from Xena, Warrior Princess to damsel in distress, and her candidacy began to smack a particularly pernicious form of faux feminism: gender-based promotion of the less competent.
It goes without saying that I think “less than qualified” is the understatement of the year. I suppose the fact that she was able to do as well as she did while being a woman in theory is some sort of vague victory, but it’s vastly overshadowed by the fact that by all measures she was extremely ignorant and vastly unprepared for any position in office. Unfortunately this will probably do far more to reinforce existing stereotypes about women than the fact that she was on the stage at all could undo.
I think the much more interesting feminist issue unfolding on the national stage will be the first-lady-ification of Michelle Obama.