In my previous post, I talked about the sexism coming from the left with a promise that a discussion about the sexism on the right will soon follow. I've had alot of time to ponder these two views of sexism, and I am somewhat surprised with what I can define. You see, although there is the same sexism on the right that you find on the left, it is of a much simpler variety.
The right has approached women's issues completely differently. Issues that the left calls "women's issues" have been framed on the right in a context of cultural issues rather than gender specific issues. Where the left calls abortion, for instance, a woman's issue, the right puts abortion in a basket with other cultural issues. Whereas the the left has had an agenda that it calls women specific, for the right those same issues are in a totally different context. Forgive me for sounding repetitive, but it is necessary to say it a few times to understand that the arguments being framed in these two ways makes the debate completely asymmetrical. On abortion, for instance, if one sides says it is about women having control over their own bodies and the other side says it is a moral argument about murder, where is there enough common ground to even have the debate? Thus the enduring nature of that debate because it can't be resolved on the terms that the two sides stake out. It is a lopsided asymmetrical debate. The problem for the left is that it staked its stand on women's issues on this debate where the right hasn't.
Let's take another of these asymetrical arguments, and that is about equal pay for women. Both sides will readily tell you that they agree that women should be paid the same as men for equal work. No disagreement there. In fact, as a culture, although I haven't seen any polling numbers lately, my guess is that a large majority of Americans would agree that women and men should make equal pay for equal work. The lopsided debate begins when you try to get the two parties to agree on what to do. The left, as is typical, puts all its eggs in the legislative basket to get this issue resolved. The right, as usual, is repelled by government solutions. We end up in this lopsided debate staking out positions that have endured but not been resolved for the 235 years that we have been a country, and that debate is "what is the proper role of government?" I think that that is an extremely important debate-----a necessary conversation in our democracy. It is the constant pendulum swing between too much and not enough government. But I ask you, if that debate hasn't yet been resolved in the 235 years we've been having it, why would we want important women's issues like equal pay to get caught up in the unresolvable?
I've just decided that this party rhetoric is responsible for the almost complete halt in women's progress in the last 30 years. We made some phenomenal progress for women in the second wave of feminism. And then we've had a 30-year victory lap where we simply stopped thinking about what was left to be done. Whatever.
Back to the right and its sexism. The right never really had a woman's agenda the way the left did. And as a result, it developed a bit of an inferiority complex about women's issues and practically ceded the entire conversation to the left. The right became known as the party of men and the left became known as the party of women. End of conversation.
But not really. You see, the right still had plenty of women on board who managed to advance quietly and almost unnoticed by everyone. And conversely, the left still had plenty of men on board. The reality is that the men still run BOTH parties. The sexism on the right is that the women weren't encouraged so much to succeed, and the successes of the women went almost unnoticed. The left noticed the successes of the women on the right by issuing its own bilious sexist verdict that these successful women didn't count (see my previous post). It is disheartening to see excellent women like Condi Rice and Sandra Day O'Connor not being trumpeted for their accomplishments the way they should have been. But that is where the garden variety sexism of the right comes in. The right didn't lay claim to the excellence of their women because powerful women are still a threat to many of the men. Well heck, every woman in the U.S. has experienced that particular problem, and we experience it all of the time!! Party has nuthin' to do with it. It is this daily variety of sexism that knows no party and is in women's interests to address.
I must say that watching the sexist attacks on Palin and Bachmann, it can be hard to know from where they are emanating. It is just as plausible to see them coming from the right as from the left. Typical garden variety sexism.
What is very encouraging though is that since the right only has everyday sexism, and since they have been virtually out of the conversation where women's issues are concerned, they are also not so tied into their own ideology, and that gives women a unique opportunity right now that does not exist on the left. The right has a clean slate to take on some of these problems that all women face. We all need to celebrate the 2010 election as a time when the women on the right made a huge leap by electing more women than ever-----and it is about time!!!!
I have grown disillusioned about government solutions to our problems of women achieving parity. Legislating parity won't work. But what WILL work is that we can create a cultural imperative to make these changes because not only is it the right thing to do, but people of all political stripes can agree that women need to represented in government in greater numbers, women need to run more things, women need to take the reins of power in proportional numbers. The right is less mired in their own ideology than the left to actually move this agenda forward. And the women on the right are speaking up in fresh ways since they don't have to fight through redefining what women's issues should be. For many women on the right it is a little disorienting because they've been in their own bunker just being quiet, but they are shaking themselves out of that stupor and beginning to speak up.
The women on the left are angry that the women on the right have been able to take advantage of the work the left did to open more doors for women. The left needs to get over that and move on. It is too petty to let that attitude linger and watch women flounder and not succeed. We need all hands on deck talking about electing more women on both sides. Our moment may be finally arriving, but it's time to get over our ridiculously petty differences and join together to make this final push. Sexism---on the right and the left be damned!!!!!!