Feminism, women & politics

I’ve long been a feminist, even in my progressive republican days.  (Aside – I know that the phrase progressive republican is now an oxymoron, regretfully.)  In the past 40+ years of my adulthood, I’ve longed for the time that women would be recognized and acknowledged as equals.  In my earlier feminist days, I thought that women were the unrecognized clones of men, except for reproductive organs.  As I’ve matured (aged), I’ve grown to acknowledge that there are differences in thinking and problem solving between men and women.  And yes, I realize that’s a broad generalization.  “Differences” don’t mean better, smarter, worse, dumber.  Differences are neutral, and permit complementary approaches to given tasks.  In my world, this is a Good Thing.  I enjoy watching (and participating in) healthy problem solving where equally emotionally and mentally intelligent men and women take an active role.  It’s good for companies, it’s good for societies.

The upcoming US elections, however, have made me question whether I’m right.  At a minimum, some of the participants make me realize that my complementary view is indeed a generality.

Women are taking center stage, some in distressing ways.  I guess when we want equality, we have to take the bad with the good.  The feminist movement, I believe, is responsible in part for the Ruth Bader Ginsburgs and the Madeleine Albrights of the world (among many, many others).  But the feminist movement is also responsible for the Sarah Palins, Christine O’Donnells and Sharron Angles of the world.

Being a feminist, I believe, must involve being pro-woman and pro-family.  How do we get there?  By ensuring that society protects reproductive rights; that certain basic needs – food, shelter, medical – are covered for all, regardless of income, age or ability; that we ensure opportunities are available for all.  We must value women and families by recognizing that women and the primary caregivers aren’t penalized in the workplace for choices to care for families.  We must send our young into conflict only if we’re sure it’s for the right motives, after significant introspection of causes and effects.

These are values that are antithetical to the Tea Party and its candidates.  While I should rejoice at the growing number of women running for, and in, office, I’m deeply saddened that too many of these women who have benefited from the feminist movement, now wholesale reject its values.  Too many are the clones, if not puppets, of men.  They decline to celebrate the differences in approach to problems.

I guess Uncle Tom-ism – for any movement – is alive and well.

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