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The Wrong Kind of Woman?

NOW's crusade against Sarah Palin.

12:00 AM, Aug 31, 2008 • By KENNETH G. DAVENPORT
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Less than 24 hours after the historic selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate, a quick perusal of the National Organization of Women (NOW) website provides a telling window into the world of feminist politics. NOW is the largest feminist organization in the United States, claiming over 500,000 contributing members in over 500 local and campus affiliates. Its self-stated purpose is to "take action to bring women into full participation in society--sharing equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities with men, while living free from discrimination". You might think that a woman being nominated to become vice president of the United States would certainly qualify as "full participation", worthy of a glowing statement of support and a cry of "victory"!

You might think that, but you'd be wrong. On the NOW website a day after the Palin selection you see two stories that tell you all you need to know about how feminists view the nomination. The first story is about Sarah Palin:

NOW PAC Chair Kim Gandy said, "Sen. John McCain's choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate is a cynical effort to appeal to disappointed Hillary Clinton voters and get them to vote, ultimately, against their own self-interest."

Gov. Palin may be the second woman vice-presidential candidate on a major party ticket, but she is not the right woman. Sadly, she is a woman who opposes women's rights, just like John McCain.

The second headline is about Obama's choice of Joe Biden as his running mate:

Hillary Clinton was our first choice, and that of 18 million primary voters, but Barack Obama's pick, Joe Biden, is a friend of women and a strong selection for Vice President.

Can it be that the National Organization for Women, the oldest, largest women's interest group in the United States is opposing a woman for the vice presidency of the United States?

The simple answer is: Yes, because NOW and other feminist organizations hew to a very strict leftist orthodoxy that places politics over gender. The NOW website, for example, lists prominently its "signature" issues--and they read like a laundry list of social activism: "Abortion and Reproductive Rights", "Racism", "Affirmative Action", "Disability Rights," "Marriage Equality" and many others. These issues provide the litmus test through which women are evaluated, with the most important being abortion rights--which is sort of the "First Amendment" of the women's movement. Not all women, it turns out, are created equal: if you don't believe in a woman's right to choose an abortion, you might as well be a man.

When Kim Gandy, NOW's Political Action chair, made her statement in support of Hillary Clinton during the primaries, for example, she noted how important it was for NOW to help women crack glass ceilings:

"Today, the first woman speaker presides over the U.S. House of Representatives, and Harvard University has its first woman president. Firsts are important, because they open doors for those who follow--but our real goal is to have every first followed by seconds and thirds and fourths, until having women in leadership is so common that it isn't even remarkable any longer."

Not for all women, however: Electing Sarah Palin as the first vice president in the nation's history doesn't count--because she doesn't march in lock-step to the way in which feminists have defined women's rights.

Such a strict definition of what is considered "acceptable" in the women's movement goes beyond NOW and other feminist organizations, and has become the de facto standard by which feminists view the world. The day Palin's selection was announced, for example, Sarah Seltzer, who writes at the liberal, wrote in an article entitled "A Feminist Appalled By Palin":

A lot of feminists out there are appalled by the cynicism and condescension inherent in this choice. It's as though the McCain camp believes our irrational she-hormones will lead us, like sheep, to pull the lever for any candidate who looks like us--even if she has a strong record, as Palin does, of standing against women's interests.

This seems a pretty typical reaction by feminists to the Palin choice. It's mostly anger mixed with frustration: That the Republicans would have the gall to steal Hillary's thunder by choosing a woman, but in doing so have chosen someone who (though female) is not their kind of woman--because she stands against their razor thin view of what is acceptable for women to believe in.