I love Madeleine Albright. Let me list the ways----
She was the very first female U.S. Secretary of State serving from January 1997--January 2001 having been nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a unanimous vote of 99-0. No woman up to then had reached such high heights in government. She also was a woman who, unlike other women who make it to the top, brought other women along with her to the best of her ability. Her quote "there is a special place in hell for women who don't help each other" has become iconic. And of course she was an early and ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton for President.
As the Democratic National Convention (DNC) gets underway today, we are all inundated with the sights and sounds of everything Democratic wherever we turn. TV, newspapers, cable, blogs, internet news aggregators, everywhere. In my prior piece I talked about how it wasn't going to be easy looking at my former party as it celebrates. Today, I took my first steps into the belly of the beast. I rolled out of bed, checked my email and was treated to my idol saying "I can't understand why any woman would want to vote for Mitt Romney." The article went on to say that only Ann Romney and the 5 daughters-in-law have any reason to vote for him.
I have a hair trigger these days listening to those kinds of thoughts. Not because I'm a big supporter of Mitt Romney, but because of the sentiments that underlie such words. I've grown to feel that those are the words of the unthinking and/or the people who just need to say the right thing to show their group identification. Not my Madeleine Albright. Surely not her.
I got to thinking about her words. Read the whole piece to get the flavor of this argument. So I pulled on my running clothes and hopped on my elliptical machine to warm up to Morning Joe, a show which pisses me off sufficiently to get me warmed up fast. And lo and behold there she was, Madeleine Albright. I thought that this would be interesting. Maybe she's just gotten older and is starting to lose it, a thought that makes me sad. But she is in full possession of her faculties as you can see in this video as she discusses mostly foreign policy. Why she even praised George Bush!! (Although some of you would take her praise of Bush 43 as a sign of senility!!)
So I just decided that this might be a good time to review and deconstruct what passes for the "feminist argument" these days. Before I go any farther, I want to repeat that all comments are welcome. However, if you choose to come onto this blog to excoriate me for expressing myself, I'm going to delete your comments. I don't mind having a real conversation about it, but I'm not dealing with name calling, insults, nasty abortion talk, character assassination, shaming, arrogance. If you want to comment politely, I'm happy to have a conversation. Ok?
The first premise of the argument is that anyone who doesn't support the prochoice position is anti woman. You know I've thought about this position alot because I used to feel that way. I felt that way until I met alot of prolife working women AND mothers (who work harder than any working women out there) along the campaign trail when I was running for Congress in the 90's. Instead of demonizing them, I took the time to listen and converse with them. I discovered that these women were very modern and wanted alot of the equality that the feminist movement espoused. It became very difficult for me to go along with the rhetoric that these women and their husbands (those who had husbands) were only interested in dismantling all of women's rights and turning us back into babymaking machines who existed at the behest of their husband's demands. That was and is the picture that had evolved of prolife women. I hardly ever met anyone like that who was prolife. And I've met LOTS of prolifers----more than most of you.
I understand that the abortion fight was really once the centerpiece of the second wave feminist movement of the late 1960's and the early 1970's . It originally wasn't the only centerpiece. The movement espoused a wish list of equality that women weren't getting. That list included equal pay for equal work, equal representation, the ability for women to rise and take their place as the CEO's as their talent warranted without being marginalized for being female. We wanted more legal protections against rapists and domestic violence.
Initially we fought for all of the above and more. And we won alot of things. We see more women being admitted to college than ever before, the laws regarding rape and domestic violence are much more favorable to women getting justice. Women have entered the workforce in record numbers. That women work today is unexceptional. We are living lives, we boomers, that our mothers couldn't even imagine.
Women held out alot of hope that as we entered the workforce it would only be a matter of time until we arose and took our place at the table as CEO's and everything in between. As a result, we were willing to give that process time.
The abortion battle is well known. It was an important battle (I am prochoice for everyone who doubts that). Women's control over their reproduction was vital to achieving the independence necessary to break through in the other realms. Birth control was becoming readily available for the first time in history. The feminists decided as a tactic that it was time to focus their fight on legalizing abortion and so they did. It was a bruising ugly battle whose scars haven't left us over 40 years later. The results of this battle divided women, a division that exists up to this very moment. There are alot of resources explaining this battle. Just google "abortion battle history" and you will get over 16 million links.
But today, all those years later, the battle lines have changed. First of all, birth control is ubiquitous like never before. And so is the morning after pill. And abortion is legal and can be obtained. Maybe not everywhere, but many medical treatments aren't available everywhere and people need to travel to get what they need sometimes. We've had a number of Republican presidents since Roe-v-Wade, and none of them put in the energy necessary to make abortion illegal. Neither will Romney if elected. Why? Because it isn't worth spending political capital on.
The kinds of fears that Albright talked about in the article cited have become a bit antiquated when it is about reproduction. Most Republicans avail themselves of birth control methods the same way that Democrats do. The idea that anyone would support anything that Todd Akin said is akin no pun intended---LOL!!) to saying that all Democrats think that a baby aborted in the eighth or ninth month should be murdered even if viable. I mean come on. Why is Todd Akin any nuttier than those Democratic women running around dressed as vaginas to make a point? It's truly a stupid argument that really doesn't do anything but get people all riled up for no constructive reason.
If you want to talk about the Republican platform versus the Democratic platform, let's just say this. Those platforms are written to satisfy party stalwarts and that also includes satisfying the extremes on both sides. The platforms get written and then everyone ignores them until the next election. The Republican platform has had identical language on it as far as abortion goes for many years. And none of those presidents during any of their terms has gone back to check it out to make sure that they are following the platform. The story is the same with the Democrats. It's a hollow argument.
As for the equal pay for equal work law, well it would be nice. Truly. I'm showing my Democratic roots by saying that. However, that piece of legislation has become a red herring. Why? Because the whole idea of the legislation isn't politically viable, everyone knows it isn't politically viable, and it is put out there not to pass but to provide a litmus test to Democrats to show that they are pro women all the while knowing that it won't pass. The reasons for the unviability of this legislation are too long to go into here. You could take the cynical approach that the Republicans are the roadblock. That may be so. But why didn't the Democrats pass it when they had the chance? It was because it either wasn't important enough to our 83.2% male legislature or because it still wasn't politically viable. To use something unviable as a litmus test to prove your prowomen credentials should leave all of us, including Madame Albright scratching our heads.
The incredibly vile language on both sides about abortion and the enemies of their position exist for one and only one reason-----to get votes. Period. These old arguments about women, their rights, and especially their reproductive rights are manipulative, cold, inaccurate, cynical. Please understand that I am referring to the USE of these arguments to corral voters.
So why would voters in the face of things allow themselves to be corralled? One HUGE reason is groupthink or group psychology. If you are in a group and want to stay as a member in the group, you have to adopt group mores. If you go outside the thinking of the group, you will either be punished or shunned. Party people are guilty as charged. Both sides. I see certain phrases or turns of phrase used to make people go---yes, that's OUR side, our way of thinking. If you're a Democrat you only need to say "tea party" or "anti abortion" or these days "Todd Akin" to show that you know the code and that you are safely within the mores of the group. I've seen people do it over and over again. The other side is no better, using words like "socialist" or "values" or "Nancy Pelosi"to corral their own.
I see that the feminists have lost their way in all of this. The groupthink is all abortion battle related, and that sad fact has not only stalled the feminist movement, it has made their rhetoric weird in the face of the facts of today as mentioned above. It is said that soldiers are always fighting the previous battle in the present fight. The feminists have become guilty of that as well.
If 2008 showed anything, it showed us that some unfinished pieces of the feminist agenda that were left on the table while the abortion battle was fought. The piece about having equal representation, a woman president, women CEO's at all levels and in all professions. This piece needs to be moved to the forefront. While we are still being dog whistled to fight last century's feminist battle over abortion, women are losing ground. Women and men on both sides of the aisle see that women deserve their rightful place at the table. That battle cannot be fought and won while our army is fighting the last war.
One last thing before I go. The Republicans highlighted some highly accomplished women on their side. The cynical would say that it was a cynical ploy. But really, however those women got there, they got there because of their accomplishments. We need to stop marginalizing the women on the other side because they aren't in our group. They ARE in our group. They are in the group of women who aim for the top and go for it. We need those women on both sides to finish the feminist agenda.
In the end, to finish the feminist agenda's work, we need to elect lots and lots of women all over the place and build our female bench. It would be strikingly helpful to stop the antiwoman rhetoric, both sides, and focus on finishing up our work. I'm not holding my breath that that rhetoric won't be front and center at the DNC. The feminists still get an "incomplete" when it comes to their work. I'll be writing more once the DNC is done about what we can do in 2012 to elect more women.
So Madame Secretary Albright, I love you!!! I really do. You are one of my heroes. But your feminist rhetoric isn't necessary for you to be part of your group. You are a role model for all. Please use your platform to uplift the accomplishments of all women as you always have. If you as a Democrat can find praise for George Bush 43, you have proven that you can think outside the box. Reach out a hand to the accomplished women on the other side and please stop the antiwomen rhetoric. It hurts all of us.