Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sexism and political relativsim

Over the past few years I've noticed a number of words re-defined for purely political purposes. While those who conflate religion and politics (heretofore called the Repubevanglicals) are pitching a hissy that permitting gay people to obtain a valid marriage license (along with all of the rights and responsibilities that come with a marital contract) in effect redefines marriage, they've been busily plodding away at completing altering the meaning of certain words themselves. While some words, like marriage, have multiple meanings/definitions, the linguistic trend among Repubevangelicals takes on a trend that can only be understood in context with their beliefs about moral relativism. To wit, the Repubevanglicals are moral absolutists and deride all attempts to put any decision they consider to be a moral one in context with a specific situation (aka relativism) unless they are the ones to do so. Case in point: contraception. While the definition of contraception is the prevention of conception (contra = against + (con)ception = inception of pregnancy), the Repubevangelicals have recently redefined contraception as abortion.

In the past couple of weeks, two additional words have suddenly and subtly been redefined to limit their applicability to a specific sub-set of uses: feminism & sexism. While some laud John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate as a great stride in feminism, I don't see how the advancement of a woman who is less qualified/experienced than not only men, but other women, in consideration of a job is consistent with feminism unless you think that women are interchangable based on anatomy. Sorry, my understanding of feminism (something I admit I grapple with) isn't about advancement of any woman for any reason it's about allowing women to be able to earn advancement, respect, etc. in the same arena with the same rules as men. Anything less is tokenism and it seems disengenuous for those deride affirmative action for less than compelling reasons to suddenly support an action which they claim to abhor.

As for sexism, there is no doubt that reference to Hillary Clinton in the political arena have been fraught with sexist remarks going back to her husband's presidential campaigns and have increased over the years of her own political career culminating in her entire career being boiled down to "8 years a first lady" and a littany of assertions that she has no credible experience or qualifications. Make no bones about it, politics are ugly and dirty, unsubstantiated attacks seem par for the course on both sides. . .they are used within parties and between them. Republicans didn't just set their attacks dogs on Clinton, they cheered all attacks against Clinton responding to any expressed concern about sexism as Hillary just whining when she should expect and accept these attacks as legitimate and useful. However, in a stunning turn of events, the Republican party and their supporters have redefined sexism to mean any and all critiques of a Republican woman's creditials, policies, experience and/or decision-making. As such, sexism is now a bad thing since it's not targeted against a woman of the Democratic persuasion. I call this an obvious case of political relativism (more commonly known as stereotypical Repubevangelical hypocrisy).

So, now that this is all in the open, what is fair game in the questioning/evaluation of Sarah Palin and what is sexist or should otherwise be off limits? Anne Kornblutt assess the situation in today's WaPo
It may seem a pretty pointless exercise -- envisioning the "would haves" if Clinton and Palin had somehow swapped roles, parties and lives. But it is a useful tool as a reporter, a way of contemplating what is fair game now by comparing it with what was fair game then. Even the issue of "Would you ask a man the same question" (raised so indignantly last week by senior McCain adviser Steve Schmidt and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani) falls slightly short, simply because there are so few templates for female candidates running for higher office -- and the ones who have, including Clinton, Palin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have tried to use their roles as mothers and women as part of the overall package in ways that men do not.


Still, in her first week on the national stage, Palin and her surrogates have brandished the sexism charge more unabashedly than Clinton has over the course of two very public decades. And Palin has not yet even faced serious questioning in person, in an interview or in a one-on-one debate. If Clinton's message was that she was a survivor -- that she had been vetted and tested, her viewpoints scrutinized, with all of her personal problems known to the country -- Palin's has so far been that she has, by virtue of being nominated, already passed every test that Clinton took. Palin's mantra, it seems, is that women no longer need to surpass men in their achievements and qualifications in order to win; they simply need to object when the question of their preparedness is raised.
Now that Sarah Palin is facing a small fraction of the scrutiny that Mrs. Clinton has endured over the years, the GOP has decided there will be new rules. Until then, Sarah Palin will be taking her proverbial ball and going home.

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