Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thoughts from the "feminist left"

Greta van Susteren of FOX News interviewed former MA governor Jayne Swift about Sarah Palin and the attacks on her by the "feminist left." That same feminist left that has allegedly hijacked feminism. Note though that some feminists from various chapters of NOW and a former Ms. magazine editor have supported Palin and those are feminists who, at least once upon a time, would have been considered part of the feminist left. Hard to believe that some women left NOW in the 60s and 70s because it was considered too radical in its stance on abortion and reproductive rights.
So Swift gets on van Susteren's show to say how feminists exist at all points on the political spectrum and all feminists believe in fairness in a campaign, yada, yada. So van Susteren asks her well, "what is a feminist" and Swift replies:
I think a feminist is someone who believes that women should have equal opportunity to men. I think it is someone who understands that Title IX allowed girls to participate in athletics and compete at the same level and in the same numbers that boys do. And I think that it is someone like me, like Governor Palin, who hopes that our daughters, if they work hard and play by the rules, can do virtually anything they want to in their life.
[You had been waiting for when I would get to the sport stuff, I bet.]
The Sarah Palin/Title IX connection has been nauseating. (Title IX Blog has done some blogging on it as has the Huffington Post.) Palin was a point guard in high school and she attributes her success in leadership to her athletic experiences.
Not sure if Swift played/plays sports but she doesn't quite have her Title IX facts down, which is disturbing since I think "feminists" should know what they're talking about when they invoke Title IX. The fact that she discusses Title IX in the past tense is worrisome. To me it signals that Swift and other "feminists" like her would weaken the legislation given the opportunity.
Because Title IX has certainly created more opportunities--but not equal opportunities and women are not competing at the same level if we consider that women are found in fewer numbers in professional and Olympic competition. (Title IX, of course, does not apply to these levels but there is a belief that if there are more collegiate female athletes then there should be more opportunities for them after graduation.)
Also problematic and applicable to sport is Swift's "feminist" belief that if you play by the rules, you should be able to succeed. But the rules are created by men. You are playing a man's game--literally and figuratively depending on the venue. This is an issue feminists in sport have grappled with how to incorporate, challenge, or shun men's games. And it's a discussion more feminists in general should be having.
If there's any hijacking of feminism going on, it's from the right who uses it when they need it (like when they nominate a female for VP) and then ignore it when it's not so useful (like when they challenge Title IX).

1 comment:

Diane said...

The so-called "left" uses feminism only when it needs it, too. Look how the "left" has fixed the pay gap, or led a real campaign against the assault on reproductive rights. Or stood up and cried "Misogyny! Bigotry!" when one of its own major candidates was treated like gender garbage by the news media.