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Representations of Poverty in “The Casual Vacancy”

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Though I stood in line for the midnight release of almost every Harry Potter book, I was a bit more hesitant about reading J.K. Rowling’s newest book.  The Casual Vacancy has been hailed as an “adult” book, something vastly different from the author’s previous series about wands and wizards. Set in a small British town called Pagford, The Casual Vacancy follows the town’s residents through intertwining narratives, all surrounding the political issues brought forward by the death that occurs in the book’s first chapter.

Most reviews of Rowling’s newest tome have been lukewarm at best–critics and readers were put off by her very realistic prose which features swearing, drug use, depictions of rape and abuse, explicit sexuality, and references to Facebook. In contrast to Harry Potter’s magical world, where nobody ever needs to pee and magical teenagers left mostly to their own devices never progress past snogging, Pagford seems shockingly realistic. Many reviewers have blamed this feeling on Rowling “trying too hard” to show her worth beyond children’s fantasy. However, I found that the disingenuous feeling of Rowling’s realism came from somewhere else: the extreme representations of poverty in The Casual Vacancy.

   (My discussion from here forward will contain spoilers from The Casual Vacancy.)

Though Rowling’s mess of characters share screen-time pretty equally, much of The Casual Vacancy centers on the character Krystal Weedon. Krystal is the character who represents “the Fields,” a contentious area of Pagford that borders the larger town of Yarvil and contains unkempt public council housing and the Bellchapel Addiction Clinic. The Weedons are the only of Rowling’s main characters who live in poverty– though her remaining characters suffer from abuse, self-harm, and mental illness, they are all characterized as solidly middle class. The characterization of the Weedon’s poverty sets them apart from the other residents of Pagford, as does the fact that they serve to represent the entire idea of “the Fields,” a subject that crosses the minds of the rest of Pagford’s residents due to its political impact in the central plot point of the parish council elections.

The Casual Vacancy, and along with it, the characterization of the Weedon family, suffers from the extreme situation of poverty that Rowling chose to describe. It isn’t that the Weedon’s situation is not realistic– of course, stereotypes of poverty are informed by real brushes with it. The problem is that by representing social issues like poverty in extremes, we often cannot recognize the problem in any of its other forms.

The argument against extremes was first articulated to me through a feminist lens in a 1989 bell hooks article, “Violence in Intimate Relationships: A Feminist Perspective”. Hooks argues that while feminists have had to focus on extremes to bring an issue to the attention of the public, this same focus can be harmful when addressing more common forms of the problem. In the essay, hooks uses the term “battered women” to illustrate her argument. “Battered woman” not only defines a victim of intimate partner violence by their injuries, but implies repeated, visible, and ongoing physical abuse. When the term “battered woman” is translated into a representative figure in books, television, or film, we get the typical image of a battered wife– visibly bruised, emotionally shaken, and marked with a token black eye. This image erases many other forms of intimate partner violence that occur, most notably, emotional abuse that does not leave such visible scars.

The argument against extremes has been brought up in many feminist issues. In 2011, feminist activists convinced the FBI to change its definition of rape, which had not been updated since 1920. The FBI’s old definition included the phrase, “forcibly and against her will,” which (despite the obvious gender pronoun issues) placed pressure on rape survivors and law enforcement to prove whether the rape was “forcible”. The FBI definition was influenced by larger myths that we have about rape in society: that rape is usually committed by an evil stranger in a dark alley who physically injures their resisting victim. As feminists, we know these myths are wrong, but society continues to focus on “extreme” versions of the crime, which is represented and then echoed through our media and laws.

The same problem of extremes exists in society’s treatment of poverty. I am speaking from an American perspective, which of course differs from the exact issues of poverty that are prominent in Britain, specifically regarding issues of race. But here are just a handful of ways society creates a specific idea of what “poor” is supposed to look like:

Poor folks are regularly ridiculed for using food stamps to buy basically anything (soda, “junk food,” or treats for children). Poor people who buy new shoes must not really be poor. Poor people should stop having children, but we don’t want to pay for their contraception either. If you are not homeless, you are not really poor. If you buy fast food, you aren’t really poor. If you have money to celebrate birthdays/holidays/etc, then you’re not really poor. And so on. 

In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep this past September, Rowling touched on her own experience with poverty in Britain and how it informed her writing of The Casual Vacancy. Rowling said: “It’s not my story, but it does address themes, subjects that are very important to me”.  She may have been better off writing something closer to her story. Rowling is well-known for her period of poverty while she was writing the first Harry Potter book as a single mother. This time in Rowling’s life is almost mythical in the media, which likes to toss around stories about her writing the novel on napkins because she couldn’t afford paper. The media has also written that Rowling’s habit of writing in cafes was directly related to her poverty– she was escaping her unheated flat. Rowling has denied such myths, complicating the portait of her time of poverty. Those myths, along with many others, feed our desires for a romantic and extreme form of poverty. But the reality of Rowling’s situation did not fit our poverty narratives. She was a poor single mother from a middle-class family, educated at the University of Exeter, divorced after an unsuccessful marriage in Portugal, and unemployed and on welfare benefits so that she could finish writing a book about a boy wizard. Rowling’s life does not fit into stereotypical poverty narratives, but it is an image of poverty nonetheless.

The Casual Vacancy is very much a book about politics and class wars, so Rowling may have intentionally created the Weedon family as a stereotype for poverty in the UK. If this was the intention, I believe she failed. Rowling herself articulates the problem that I find with her book in this quote: “One of the great problems for me is that the poor … are so often discussed just as this large, shapeless mass. You lose your individuality a huge amount when you have no money, and I certainly had that experience…”¹ .

It is unfortunate that the extreme and stereotyped description of the Weedon family represented the poor as something Rowling wished to avoid: a large, shapeless mass of stereotypes.

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Can we please stop “What about rape and incest” -ing?

This election season, the issue of abortion in the case of rape seems to be the only thing that both parties might be able to agree on. I say might because, of course, there are plenty of Republican politicians who believe that women who become pregnant from rape should be forced to carry that pregnancy to term. But from my own involvement in the abortion and contraception debates on the internet and in the real world, the majority of folks are able to admit that even if the idea of abortion makes them uncomfortable, there should be certain allowances for abortion in cases of rape.

This tiny sliver of common ground feels like progress to some– but to me, the “there should be exceptions for rape and incest” rhetoric is very destructive to the future of the abortion debates and to my position as an activist. This position suggests that legally and morally, only certain people are “allowed” to have abortions. It divides women with unintended pregnancies into categories of moral “good” and “bad”. Not to mention (and pay attention, MRAs) that if being raped is the only way that a woman would have access to safe and legal abortion, false rape accusations would skyrocket. 

Especially within the pro-choice movement, using “What about a woman who has been raped?” as your primary argument for abortion access is ineffective at best, because it does not get to the heart of the issue. We cannot decide who is more deserving of an abortion. We cannot judge whether a woman’s reason for having an abortion is legitimate or not. We need to trust women.

I am fiercely pro-choice and do not mind calling myself pro-abortion either (a post on that for another day) but even I would like to see later-term abortions (when a fetus is closer to medical viability) be as rare as possible. This does not mean we should make them illegal, or only accesible to women who fit certain frameworks set by the government. This means we should encourage comprehensive sex education, safe sex and contraceptive use; make all forms of contraception accesible and free; and make abortion within the 1st trimester easily accesible and free. That will reduce late-term abortions. Making exceptions only for rape will not.

I’ve heard a lot of folks say they are pro-choice, spit out a “what about rape and incest” to make their point, and then degrade women who have abortions for “convenience.” This line of thinking is so destructive. What is your definition of convenience? Is it convenience if you don’t want to be a parent, took every precaution not to become one, but became part of that 0.1% of people whose birth control fails? Is it convenience if you are a single mother of an infant who knows she won’t be able to afford food and childcare for two children under three? Is it convenience for a fifteen year old who has only known abstinence-only sex education and was told by her boyfriend that she couldn’t get pregnant the first time?

These weak arguments against abortion only show that the anti-abortion movement is more interested in controlling people’s bodies and sexuality than they are in ending abortion.

 

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Action on X protests abortion laws in Ireland

Members of the Irish pro-choice group Action on X are outside the Irish parliament in Dublin today protesting the state’s strict abortion laws.

As I have previously mentioned, I am currently working on a long-term research project exploring the effects of Ireland’s strict abortion laws on the Irish women and on the Irish feminist movement. Action on X’s protest is an important demonstration of Irish feminists increasing dissatisfaction with the way their country treats abortion and reproductive health access. Abortion in not legal in Ireland even in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the mother’s life. Over 4,000 Irish women and girls travel to England every year to obtain abortions– a journey that requires money, time to travel, and typically, a level of secrecy.

Action on X and other Irish feminist groups like the Irish Family Planning Association, the Irish Feminist Network, and Cork Feminista (to name a few) are leading the Irish struggle to change its restrictive abortion laws. As American feminists, the increasingly virulent attacks on reproductive rights in our own nation can be frightening, but I urge my fellow feminists to look beyond our borders, not only to the global South, but also to the unique feminist struggles in Western nations like Ireland and Poland. Creating a global feminist fellowship between feminist networks in all geographic areas is crucial to supporting these struggles that occur across national borders.

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The Ultimate Birth Control Myth

There is a myth about birth control, perpetuated primarily by persons who have never had to obtain it, that it is readily available to anyone who might need it. This is one of the most pervasive and harmful pieces of misinformation used by politicians and pundits to claim that the mandate for insurance to cover the cost of birth control is not needed.

I have previously critiqued the ignorance that Lee Doren (of HowTheWorldWorks) displayed in his video on the mandate. Doren makes the assumption that condoms can directly replace any other form of birth control. While condoms are a reliable form of contraception as well as STI prevention, they do not allow a woman to be in control of her own body. Relying solely on condoms as contraception is a patriarchal system that places reproductive decisions in the physical hands of men.

Since writing about Doren’s commentary, I have been thinking about the other ways in which birth control decisions are distanced from women.

For example, the requirement of a prescription for women under seventeen to obtain Plan B from pharmacies directly contradicts an FDA ruling that the drug is completely safe and should be available to anyone who needs it without a prescription. This decision was made for political and cultural reasons that go against the advisement of medical professionals.

Stephanie Mencimer writes about how the financial needs of doctors and pharmaceutical companies create medically un-needed hoops that women must jump through in order to obtain a birth control prescription. Doctors may require pelvic exams or in-office consultations before they will renew a woman’s existing birth control prescription. For a person struggling to pay for their birth control each month, the added burden of a co-pay to renew their prescription can often cause them to skip or defer a month of birth control. Studies show that if birth control pills are not taken perfectly (at the same time each day for consecutive months with no breaks in between) the risk of getting pregnant jumps from a 1% chance to a 9% chance.

If these two issues don’t infuriate you, let’s talk about IUDs. Intrauterine devices are the most effective form of reversible birth control for sexually-active women. They are effective for long periods of time: 5 years for the hormonal IUD, Mirena, and 10 years for the copper IUD, Paragard. While the one-time cost of insertion can be steep, many insurance companies cover the procedure, and Planned Parenthood offers help affording IUDs for uninsured women. So, why have so many women not even heard of this form of birth control? American doctors are wary of IUDs, believing outdated studies about their safety. Physicians fear law suits over the small amount of women who may become infertile from complications of the device.  While many experts have approved IUDs for use in teenage girls, many doctors still believe that they can only be inserted in women who have had a child. The misinformation of doctors keeps women from accessing a reliable form of birth control.

Condoms are the only form of reversible birth control available to sexually-active men, and they are available in virtually every drug store, grocery store, and gas station in America. Condoms do not allow women to take their own precautions and protect their own bodies from pregnancy, and the methods that do allow this are being held hostage by misinformed doctors, judgmental pharmacists, and politicians who care more about religious morality than scientific facts. This is what we mean by the war on women. A nation that does not allow every person to have control over their own reproductive capabilities is a nation that does not respect the bodily integrity of its citizens.

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Women in Politics: Sarah Palin’s Motherhood Rhetoric

When Sarah Palin was announced as John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 Presidential election, political analysts immediately pounced. Palin was unknown in outside of Alaska, had very little political experience, and had taken a very interesting path to politics. Furthermore, the fact that she was a Republican woman—in fact, the first Republican woman to be nominated for Vice-Presidency—drew attention to her religious views and values. The attention on gender in the 2008 elections, primarily focused on Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, brought discussions about feminism and gender equality to the surface of American politics. In this paper, I explore how Sarah Palin navigated the discourse surrounding the overlapping zones of religion, politics, feminism, and gender roles.

During the 2008 elections, Palin was challenged to create a discursive authority so that the American public would take her seriously as a politician. In crafting that narrative, Palin relied on Christian values, which state that a woman’s highest honor in life is to be a wife and a mother. However, Palin’s rhetoric, while influenced by Christian theology, did not rely on Christian terminology. By avoiding explicitly religious language, Palin used motherhood as the meeting point of her religious and secular values. I argue that this choice made Sarah Palin’s campaign rhetoric a good example of what Rogers M. Smith calls ethical public discourse.

Smith’s conception of ethical public discourse is created in conversation with what he argues is the unethical public discourse of George W. Bush. In “Religious Rhetoric and the Ethics of Public Discourse: The Case of George W. Bush,” Smith argues that following the 9/11 attacks, Bush increasingly used religious and prophetic language to justify controversial policy moves. Smith’s creation of the boundaries for ethical public discourse is closely tied to the debate over the role of religion in American politics, which continually asks us to locate where Jefferson’s “wall of separation” between church and state exists. During the 2008 elections, Palin needed to justify her authority as a conservative, female, political candidate, far before she even needed to consider justifying policies. Rather than using Bush’s explicitly religious discourse of divinely ordained politics, Palin used the rhetoric of motherhood to explain her authority as a political candidate. For Evangelical voters, her motherhood rhetoric can be read as a divinely ordained gender role—for liberals and feminists, Palin’s motherhood rhetoric had the ability to evoke the ideology of “choice.”  Her image and authority were therefore expertly constructed in an ethical discourse that built from a more seemingly secular discourse of family values, which resonates with religious voters without alienating non-religious or less-religious persons.

In Sarah Palin’s biographies and speeches, many of her life decisions and defining moments are spoken of in reference to her role as homemaker and nurturer. For example, in Going Rogue, Palin reflects on her first son’s birth, stating: “On April 20th, 1989, my life truly began. I became a mom” (Palin, 51).  This quote enforced the idea that Palin’s life as a daughter, wife, student, and worker was not truly complete until she had given birth. The narrative that Palin chose was strategic in that it made implicit references to Biblical mandates for womanhood without explicitly stating them.

Palin’s motherhood rhetoric reflects her purpose as John McCain’s running mate, which was to mobilize voters of the Religious Right along with conservative women who may have been reluctant to vote for McCain. Political scientist Jeffrey Broxmeyer phrased Palin’s purpose very interestingly when he wrote:

“…McCain strove to find a symbolical midwife to birth conservatism anew after the disastrous effects of the Bush administration on the electoral prospects of the Republican Party. After all, she was the mother of five children and yet a self-proclaimed political virgin, barely into her first term as governor of Alaska and virtually unknown on the national scene. Channeling the forces of sentimental populism, Palin fused the supposed inherent goodness and patriotism of market fundamentalism and heteronormative culture together with the possibility of a national-capitalist future [emphasis mine].”

Broxmeyer cleverly uses motherhood analogies here to discuss Palin’s role as John McCain’s running mate. In “Of Politicians, Populism, and Plates: Marketing the Body Politic,” Broxmeyer argues that “Sarah Palin… rode a wave of populist antipolitics” during the 2008 campaign (Broxmeyer, 142). Words like “midwife” and “birth” highlight her femininity and the importance that it played in what he views as the populist election of 2008.

By highlighting that her role as a mother comes first, Sarah Palin shared constituents’ skepticism of politics without attacking or denigrating any politician or party. In Going Rogue, Palin reflects on the moment when she received the call from John McCain asking her to be his running mate. Palin narrates her thoughts before answering the call: “…hoping it was my son Track calling from his Army base at Fort Wainwright…. But in case it wasn’t Track, I offered up a silent fallback prayer: Please, Lord, just for an hour, anything but politics” (Palin, 6). In this narration of a very important moment in her political career, Palin highlights her concerns as a mother of a soldier along with her impatience with politics, not her excitement to be asked to run for Vice-President. This moment in Palin’s biography was crafted to appeal to what Broxmeyer describes as the “wave of populist antipolitics” in the 2008 election.

While focusing on her role as a mother helped Palin gain the trust of the Religious Right, her motherhood rhetoric also appealed to those who were skeptical of the contemporary state of politics. In her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 2008, Palin used anecdotes that were borne of her motherhood rhetoric to court party members and convince them that she was not another politician full of empty promises. Palin stated, “I was just your average hockey mom and signed up for the PTA… I signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids’ public education even better” (Palin, RNC). Palin framed her entrance into politics as an almost accidental event influenced by her instinct to nurture and protect her children. In this way, Palin exploits her gender to avoid the trope that all politicians are looking for fame, respect, or power. While this appealed to a religious crowd that valued motherhood for theological reasons, it similarly appealed to populist ideals of the “everyman,” or in her case, the everywoman.

The particular form of motherhood (and womanhood in general) that Sarah Palin’s discourse referenced was heavily influence by popular conceptions of working mothers in the 2000s. In the article “Negotiating Work and Womanhood,” Gail Landsman argues that “popular media represents commitment to work and to motherhood as contradictory” (Landsman, 33). This highlights the main point of contention between feminism and conservative women. While most conservative women enjoy the gains of feminism, from voting rights to education to access to fulfilling careers, they rally against feminism because they believe that the movement inherently denigrates women’s role as wife, mother, and homemaker.

It is in this supposed biological role that religion begins to play a part. Many conservative women adhere to biblical mandates regarding the essential differences between the sexes. John Piper, a pastor and leading advocate of Biblical gender roles, states, “…the Bible reveals the nature of masculinity and femininity by describing diverse responsibilities for man and woman while rooting these responsibilities in creation…” (Piper, 20). Piper is one of the leading authorities on complementarianism, the view that God created the sexes for separate roles that complement each other. The complementarian view of gender roles assumes a biological determinism. Piper writes: “When the Bible teaches that men and women fulfill different roles in relation to each other… it bases this differentiation not on temporary cultural norms but on permanent facts of creation” (Piper, 20). With his nod to “temporary cultural norms,” Piper addresses the belief that feminism is a failed fad and that God’s creation of gender roles is inerrant as well as biological.

Along with differing roles, Biblical gender roles also mandate that a woman be submissive to her husband’s leadership. Many ask: How can women effectively be politicians or leaders while still being evangelical Christians? Doesn’t that go against the mandate for wifely submission? Sarah Palin often skirts around addressing the subject of wifely submission, which supports my argument that her rhetoric is crafted as ethical public discourse. For many conservative voters in America, that form of Biblical womanhood may seem too extreme. However, Palin does not ostracize those who may advocate for submission. In America By Heart, Palin speaks about her husband Todd, noting: “He has been a partner to me in every conceivable way…. He is a wonderful father, a wise adviser, and the love of my life” (Palin, 93). The terminology Palin uses here is very deliberate. The word “partner” appeals to feminist ideals of equality, while “a wise adviser” makes a very sly but motivated reference to wifely submission. In What’s The Difference, John Piper comments on the nuances of wifely submission.  Piper says: “…we define submission not in terms of specific behaviors, but as a disposition to yield to the husband’s authority and an inclination to follow his leadership” (Piper, 52). By calling her husband her adviser, Palin reminds conservative constituents that while she is the politician, she acknowledges his authority and leadership in her life.

However, Palin has refused to speak publically on the subject of submission. When a reporter confronted her about fellow conservative politician Michele Bachmann’s views on wifely submission, Palin agreed that respecting your husband was good but said: “I can’t imagine my husband ever telling me what to do, politically” (Bloomberg).  Palin smartly avoids bringing religious belief into this discussion, while her rhetoric regarding her husband does not alienate religious voters who may believe in submission.

Palin’s application of motherhood rhetoric in political spheres reconciles the contradiction that “the women’s movement has scorned mothers and homemakers, while conservative Christianity values that role and realizes how hard it is” (Manning, 57). Palin’s particular form of Evangelical feminism counters the belief that “by insisting women go out and have careers… feminists have denigrated their choice to be a homemaker” (Manning, 170).  Palin’s rhetoric of motherhood mixed with politics declares that she can have her cake and eat it too–that her true calling as a woman is to bear children, and that her political involvement is merely an extension of her motherly instinct to protect her children’s futures.
By addressing the personal importance of her role as a mother and wife, Palin implicitly communicates to religious voters that although she is active in politics, she has not forgotten that her true, God-given role is already defined by her sex. Palin addresses this convergence of her religious beliefs and her acceptance of the gains of feminism in her biography, America By Heart. Palin writes:

“…I consider myself a feminist. I believe men and women have God-given rights that haven’t always been honored by our country’s politicians. I believe that men and women have important differences, but those differences don’t include the ability of women to work just as hard as men (if not harder) and to be just as effective as men (if not more so). I also consider myself a grateful beneficiary of the movement for female equality, particularly Title IX… So I proudly call myself a conservative feminist” (Palin, 139).

While she courted religious voters with her divinely ordained motherhood, Palin’s acceptance of the feminist label created a more open dialogue between liberal and conservative women. By insisting that her religious beliefs did not completely dictate her political beliefs, Palin opened the Religious Right up to working mothers and moderate feminists who may have been previously ostracized by the explicitly religious rhetoric used by members of the Religious Right.

Sarah Palin’s particular vision of womanhood is also informed by her pride in her home state of Alaska, known to the “Lower 48” as the last great frontier. In fact, one of Palin’s famous quips revolves around the “mama grizzly” metaphor. Palin reflected on this in America By Heart, saying, “In Alaska, the only thing we take more seriously than a grizzly bear is a mama grizzly with cubs to protect… when the ones she loves are threatened, she rises up” (Palin, 127).  In the mama grizzly metaphor, Palin reinforces her image as a populist candidate with her state patriotism while simultaneously evoking a motherhood rhetoric that is based in instinct and biology.

Concurrent with Palin’s references to motherhood is her more specific pioneer woman rhetoric, which emphasizes the strength of early American women who helped shape the country but were not afraid to be women. Palin remarks, “…mama grizzlies have been with us for a long time. These are the same women who settled the frontier, drove the wagon, ploughed the fields, ran cattle, taught their kids, raised their families—and fought for women’s rights” (Palin, 129).  In her pioneer woman narrative, Palin locates the source of her brand of conservative feminism. This narrative is heavily reliant on the tropes of neoliberalism, as Palin emphasizes that women are not victims of oppression and that they can have it all if they just tug on their bootstraps.

Palin describes her new, conservative version of feminism in America By Heart. Palin writes: “Together, the pro-woman, pro-life sisterhood is telling the young women of America that they are capable of handling an unintended pregnancy and still pursue a career and an education. Strangely, many feminists seem to want to tell these young women that they’re not capable… The new feminism is telling women that they are capable and strong” (Palin, 153). Here, we see the neoliberal tropes that play a role in Palin’s reworking of feminism with a conservative and religious lens. Palin marries the Religious Right’s disavowal of liberal feminism with American narratives of a strong individual to create a modern conservative feminism.

In America By Heart, Palin describes how conservative feminism is able to reconcile the gains of the women’s movement with the divinely ordained gender roles espoused by Christianity. Palin, reflecting on how liberal feminists often claim that pro-life women cannot be feminists, writes: “…this new crop of female leaders represents a return to what the women’s movement originally was…. it used to be about respecting women’s unique role in creating and sustaining life” (Palin, 156). In defining how her conservative feminism operates, Palin advocates a return to First-Wave feminism, which recognized the differences between men and women but still wanted to afford them equal rights. It is in statements like these that Palin uses motherhood rhetoric to speak to conservative women—the women who often cherish the gains of the original women’s movement while criticizing how feminism has evolved to be incompatible with Christian womanhood.

I have argued that Sarah Palin created and utilized a rhetoric of motherhood to establish her authority as a political candidate and negotiate gender role dichotomies that equally challenged the belief systems of the Religious Right and the Secular Left.  Palin’s rhetoric, while using the strongly secular discourse of motherhood, had the ability to appeal to very religious voters through its implicit references to Biblical womanhood. Similarly, her avoidance of explicitly religious terminology allowed for greater support from less religious but still conservative voters. In crafting her authority through the rhetoric of motherhood, Palin also attempted to reconcile the inherent contradictions between evangelical Christianity and the feminist movement. Palin relied heavily on tropes of motherhood as well as traditions from first-wave feminism to define a new, conservative feminism where pro-family and pro-life women could feel comfortable expressing their strength. The many facets of Palin’s motherhood rhetoric in the 2008 elections provide an example of ethical public discourse that may help define the ways in which religious female politicians create their images in the future

Works Cited

Bloomberg. “Sarah Palin Visits Iowa State Fair.” YouTube. Web. 3 May 2012

Broxmeyer, Jeffery D. Of Politicians, Populism, and Plates: Marketing the Body Politic. Women’s Studies Quarterly Vol 38. Issue ¾ (2010): pp. 138 – 152. Print.

Dexter, Hedy Red and J.M. Lagrander. Bible Devotionals Justify Traditional Gender Roles: A Political Agenda That Affects Public Policy. Social Justice Vol 26. Issue 1, 1999:        pp. 99 – 114. Print.

Landsman, Gail. Negotiating Work and Womanhood. American Anthropologist, Vol. 97. Issue 1 (1995): pp. 33 – 40. Print.

Manning, Christel. God Gave Us The Right: Conservative Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, and Orthodox Jewish Women Grapple with Feminism. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1999. Print.

Palin, Sarah. America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag. New York: Harper Collins, 2010. Print.

Palin, Sarah. Going Rogue: An American Life. New York: Harper Collins, 2009. Print.

Palin, Sarah. Republican National Convention. St. Paul, MN. 3 September 2008. Speech.

Piper, John. What’s the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible. Illinois: Crossway Books, 1990. Print.

Smith, Rogers M. Religious Rhetoric and the Ethics of Public Discourse: The Case of George W. Bush. Political Theory Vol. 36. Issue 3 (2008): pp. 272 – 300. Print.

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5 Reasons to Keep Your Eyes on Senator Gillibrand

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to the US Senate by Governor David Paterson in 2009 to fill the vacancy left by Hillary Clinton when she was selected by President Obama to serve as Secretary of State. Previously, Gillibrand spent two terms representing New York’s 20th Congressional District in the House of Representatives. Many were surprised by Paterson’s appointment of a relatively unknown Democrat from the mostly rural district which represents the Catskill, Adirondack, and Hudson Valley areas of upstate New York. New Yorkers outside of her district may not have been familiar with Senator Gillibrand before her Senate appointment, but for the past two years she has been turning the heads of those who might be looking for an alternative to Hillary for next woman President.

Senator Gillibrand will be running for reelection to the Senate in 2012. There has already been talk about the possibility of Gillibrand running for President in 2016, though Senator Gillibrand has made no statement on that possibility as of today. Nonetheless, here are five reasons to keep your eyes on Senator Gillibrand through the next political election.

1. She’s pro-choice. 

Senator Gillibrand has continually defended a woman’s right to make decisions about her reproductive health. During the Health Care debates in 2009, Gillibrand spoke out against the Stupak Amendment, which would have severely limited access to abortions in this country.

2. She supports LGBTQ rights. 

Senator Gillibrand was instrumental in repealing military’s discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. She has alsospoken against the Defense of Marriage Act, along with Senators Feinstein and Leahy, introduced a bill to repeal the law. Gillibrand also supported the legalization of gay marriage in the state of New York.

3. She wants women more involved in politics. 

Senator Gillibrand launched Off The Sidelines, a movement to encourage women to engage in their communities, vote, advocate, and participate in the current political climate which often discourages such involvement.

4. She calls herself a feminist!

Unlike many politicians who treat it as a dirty word, Gillibrand is not afraid of calling herself a feminist:

Yes. Feminism represents a core belief that women matter and that their contributions and views are both valuable and necessary for the growth and success of families and communities….I have focused on women and family issues since my first term in Congress. I am committed to fair and equal pay for women in the workplace, addressing maternal mortality issues in America and abroad, and protecting reproductive rights for women.”

5. She’s not too radical. 

Though she has always supported reproductive rights, the distict that Senator Gillibrand served while in the House of Representatives was actually very conservative. Senator Gillibrand often supports measures which are fiscally-conservative while socially liberal, which puts her in a position to be popular even among Baby Boomers who might be reluctant to vote Democrat due to our increasing budget issues. Eventually, feminists would love to see a woman in politics who can bring up Judith Butler in a Congressional debate, but we need to first take the baby steps to show America that a feminist President would be a very good thing.

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