Dueling Appetites

axl roseSeveral people (including the authors themselves) have praised Betsy Reed’s “Who’s to Blame for Sarah Palin?” as a smart response to “A Palin of Our Own,” the brilliant manifesto calling for a new, progressive, feminist, female leadership by Rebecca Traister and Anna Holmes in the New York Times on Sunday. Reed is troubled by, and defensive about, Holmes and Traister’s assertion that, by not supporting women, progressives effectively left the territory for conservatives, in the form of Sarah Palin, to claim. Reed is insistent that it is not the fault of the left that there are so few women leaders amongst us. Conceding that the Democrats have not made a commitment to recruit and promote women, she writes:

But it’s not as if more assiduous Democratic efforts to recruit and support female candidates would have satisfied the same “appetite for female leadership” that Palin does, thereby pre-empting her astonishing ascension. What Palin satisfies, rather, is an appetite for right-wing female leadership.

Right. But the point is–who is the person (or persons) who is going to satisfy our appetite for left-wing female leadership?

Reed then goes back to her apologist stance, stating that “Democrats can legitimately claim to have a much better record than Republicans in promoting and electing women.” Oh well then everything is fine then! As long as the Dems are doing better than the Republicans, women will never be deprived of their rights in order to get things like health reform passed. Phew.

Other things that are not sexism that are keeping progressives from having more women in the elected ranks: people might write mean books about them, like the one out about Nancy Pelosi. Also, the media. Playing the blame game, Reed seems determined to fail at what Traister and Holmes are asking of us, asking us to imagine and to commit to:

“Imagine a Democrat willing to brag about breaking the glass ceiling
at the explosive beginning, not the safe end, of her campaign. A
liberal politician taking to Twitter to argue that big broods and a
“culture of life” are completely compatible with reproductive freedom.
A female candidate on the left who speaks as angrily and forcefully
about her rivals’ shortcomings as Sarah Barracuda does about the
Pelosis and Obamas of the world. A smart, unrelenting female, who,
unlike Ms. Palin, wants to tear down, not reinforce, traditional ways
of looking at women. But that will require a party that is eager to
discover, groom, promote and then cheer on such a progressive Palin. “

It requires more than a party to do that, of course. It requires things of us. It requires us to look around at state and local races and look for women and progressives we want to support. It requires us to continue to support reproductive rights and wage equality, so that women aren’t penalized at the get go just for their gender. Female politicians–and all women–who want to have kids need good child care and maternity leave and all that so they don’t start their careers at 45 and thus never gain seniority. There needs to be some attention paid to the barriers specific to women of color. There needs to be more respect for single women so that an unmarried female candidate doesn’t have to deal with intrusive speculation about her sexuality.There needs to be better accommodation throughout the process for people with disabilities.

The bad decisions that Democrats are making right now, like health care reform. like not pushing to repeal the Hyde Amendment, hurt women in multiple ways. They impact us directly by restricting our access to proper medical care, they send the message that our political process has no place for women’s voices, and they add additional burdens to women who might be considering running for office, who will have to not only fight the opposition party but also campaign against the policies of her own party.

Reed wants to talk about who’s to blame for Sarah Palin. But I think the question is, who’s going to be her nemesis? Let’s start by making our appetite known.

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