Sunday, August 31, 2008

We all deserve better

In a post on John McCain's choice of vice-presidential running mate, Francis helpfully points to the website of the organisation Feminists for Life, of which Sarah Palin is a long-standing member.

I had never heard of them before, but they will no doubt be getting a lot more attention with the nomination of Palin--who, like the organisation, opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

It's worthwhile poking around a bit to see what they have on offer, not least the transparently disingenuous co-opting of modern feminist language (i.e., 'women deserve better'...a phrase they appear to have trademarked...see bizarre is that?) to what is essentially a deeply traditionalist and conservative agenda.

The claims of 'nonpartisanship' are equally bogus, as is the half-hearted effort to depict themselves as largely secular. Their stated opposition to capital punishment has a distinctly tacked-on feel -- how vigorously will they be pushing that issue among Republicans in the upcoming weeks, I wonder.

One might nod at their calls for progressive, family-friendly workplace legislation and efforts to combat violence against women while also wondering exactly which party has a better track record on those fronts. (Hint: it's not the one that has long been seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade.)

However, their ambiguity about contraception -- which is no doubt less ambiguous than they make out in their PR material -- makes their stated commitment to reducing the frequency of abortions laughable.

In the end, FFL -- like the candidate they're so giddy about -- appears to put a friendly face on what is essentially a very nasty agenda. The feel-good rhetoric about offering women more choices conceals a fundamental(ist) goal of limiting those choices. (Moreover, their rhetoric infantilises women by suggesting that those who have abortions are uniformly forced into them.)

More comment on FFL available from Ruth Rosen. At Daily Kos, you can find a long post suggesting that Palin and her church have more than a passing connection to Dominionism or Christian Nationalism. I need to spend some time reading through that and catching up on my knowledge about wacko religious movements, but there's plenty there to keep you busy.

Finally, I was also struck by the letters in large type that are today screaming forth from the FFL website: 'Perception is Reality'.

It's a very odd thing when the fundamentalist right takes over a slogan of the post-structural left.

But it certainly might make a succinct slogan for the McCain-Palin campaign this year.

How else, just to name one example, could two fairly conventional Republicans adopt the 'maverick' label? And why is it that the press is so willing to go along with this?

And it fits right in with their seeking to wish away science (on evolution, say, or global warming, or stem-cell research) in favour of less reality-based thinking.

One thing I do know: reality will become a less pleasant place should these two -- and the folks they'll bring with them -- take office next January.

And that will not just be a perception.

We All Deserve Better®.

[UPDATE]: In 2005, Nation columnist Katha Pollitt wrote an illuminating profile of Feminists for Life, based partly on what sounds like a lengthy conversation with its president, Serrin Foster.

It's worth reading.

From her conclusion:

For FFL there's only one right decision: Have that baby. And since women's moral judgment cannot be trusted, abortion must be outlawed, whatever the consequences for women's lives and health--for rape victims and 12-year-olds and 50-year-olds, women carrying Tay-Sachs fetuses and women at risk of heart attack or stroke, women who have all the children they can handle and women who don't want children at all. FFL argues that abortion harms women--that's why it clings to the outdated cancer claims. But it would oppose abortion just as strongly if it prevented breast cancer, filled every woman's heart with joy, lowered the national deficit and found Jimmy Hoffa. That's because they aren't really feminists--a feminist could not force another woman to bear a child, any more than she could turn a pregnant teenager out into a snowstorm. They are fetalists.

Of course: 'Fetalists for Life' doesn't have quite the ring to it.

[UPDATE] It occurred to me, reading this post by Ezra Klein, that some commentators might be missing something when they focus on Sarah Palin's lack of foreign policy experience.

It doesn't seem that she has much in the way of national policy experience either:

As the day wears on, I'm growing ever more convinced this was an insane pick. Palin isn't well vetted. McCain has only met her twice. She's not well briefed -- a month ago she didn't know McCain's position on Iraq. And she doesn't come prepared for the scrutiny. Palin isn't in a political position that exposes her to the full range of issues. She's not been running for president for two years, working with sprawling policy teams and being exposed to every concern of every voter willing to write an e-mail or grab the mic at a townhall. She's not been in office long enough to dig in on many issues, and she's not been in the sort of office where she'd have been exposed to many of them naturally.
In the coming weeks, she's going to get questions on the following topics: Preexisting conditions in health care, anthropogenic global warming, prison reform, NAFTA, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the name of the president of Georgia, the construction of a fence along Mexico border, the struggle in Kadima between Tzipi Livni against Shaul Mofaz, the trade deficit with China, the Social Security trust fund, net neutrality, the correct size and composition of the army.

Conservative, liberal, independent, whatever: I would imagine you'd want the person one heartbeat away (as the evocative and accurate but somewhat overworked phrase goes) from the presidency to have at least some experience with such things...


A very relevant and pertinent question is raised (via Last Place for Jakarta).


la23ng said...

And then there is the suspicion that she tried to hide her 16-year old daughter's pregnancy by claiming it was her baby. Absolutely bizarre.

J. Carter Wood said...

Bizarre indeed. And so far only a rumour. That I really do not want to touch.

Since it may not be true.

And should it prove to be merely a rumour, it will likely only make her seem more sympathetic.

But even Palin's version of events raises some questions about her judgement.