Friday, September 05, 2008

Sarah Palin, I know her well, for she is a sister of mine.

Not by blood but by sex, gender, geography and generation. I am two years older than Sarah Palin, but I understand well how the times and culture played a role in shaping her. I know and understand small town life in harsh landscapes. I might have been Sarah Palin if I had a husband who lived beyond a ten year mark or I had not chosen to leave small towns behind in pursuit of an elusive dream. And yes, I have eaten mooseburgers and walked behind my grandfather on his trapline.

I know Gloria Steinem, she too is a sister of mine. An older sister, and one who dedicated her life to fight on the behalf of younger sisters like me, Sarah Palin and The Last Amazon. In fact, without Gloria Steinem leading the charge and manning the barricades of women’s rights; where would my beloved daughter be now? I shudder to think of her potential left to wither and grow cold, but today, because of the Gloria Steinems, and the Germaine Greers and countless other women, my newly turned 17 year old daughter begins her first day of official day of classes in a honours bachelors program in neuroscience.

Unlike myself, my daughter did not have anyone telling her that her sex and gender defined the whole scope of her life’s choices. She played Risk and Battleship and no one excluded her from the game for being female. She played hockey and no one told her – no girls allowed. She joined the Royal Canadian Cadet Corps of the 48th Highlanders and has been publicly rewarded and recognized for her shooting skills, and she a city girl for all of that. She was also free to spend her paycheque at Sephora - or not. The feminist movement I grew up under preached choices for women and equality of opportunity not to be defined or based on one’s sex/gender, and for a time, I believed every word my older sisters spoke.

Yesterday, I read a column penned by my estranged sister Gloria:
This isn't the first time a boss has picked an unqualified woman just because she agrees with him and opposes everything most other women want and need. Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie.Selecting Sarah Palin, who was touted all summer by Rush Limbaugh, is no way to attract most women, including die-hard Clinton supporters. Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton.

And it reminded me why I no longer call or self-identify myself as a feminist. You see, I believed in my youth and naivety that feminism was all about women asserting their rights as individuals without the traditional cultural constricts of sex and/or gender. In short, women have the same individual right to the pursuit of happiness of any man. One’s right to choose does not trump or supersede another’s sex and gender.

Implicit in that belief of emancipation for women was the right to choose to be a working wife and mother, or a stay in the home wife and mother, or even the right to chose to be neither a wife nor mother. I mistakenly believed being Pro-Choice should have been also included the right for a woman to freely chose to be Pro-Life as well. Woe is me, I learned by living that feminism as practiced by the old guard gate-keepers had very little room for free choice - if one is female and chooses orthodoxy or tradition. Mine and Sarah’s bad.

Don’t misunderstand me, I do not take offense at Sister Gloria for speaking out against Sarah Palin’s political beliefs for that is an individual choice and decision. What offends me is Sister Gloria’s assertion Sarah Palin opposes everything most other women want and need. Really? How so? In fact, I would assert Sarah Palin might possibly live a life which more closely mirrors most of how the sisterhood chooses either to live or aspires to live than the life Sister Gloria has chosen for herself - if the experience of my own eyes is anything to go by. What disgusts me, is Sister Gloria asserting Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton. So are we now to be counted male, female and lesser female being?

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