Thursday, September 4, 2008

What makes a woman

Criticizing Dave Blaska's logic is a lot like shooting fish in a barrel: it's easy to do, and more tempting than it ought to be.

I had to stop myself for a moment and decide whether or not it was really worth my time to tackle his latest blog opus, re: Sarah Palin, because I'm a little burned out by arguing the same points over and over again and never seeming to get anywhere because Blaska, and others making similar cases, seems to have his fingers shoved firmly into his ear holes.

Then it occurred to me, though, that there are an alarmingly large number of people out there who agree with Blaska's take on things, and have their own many and varied reasons for doing so. It would be incredibly naive (and a little condescending) of me to simply dismiss this reality outright. So here I am, criticizing another of Blaska's blogs. I beg your induldgence.

I disagree vehemently with most of what he argues in his post, but most offensive of his assertions is certainly this:
[Palin] made it clear that the Democrats are only the party of some women, the party for whom Down’s syndrome son Trig, whom she held onstage after her speech, would be a "choice."
As a staunchly pro-choice woman, I run into this harsh misperception (or blatant accusation) a lot. I can understand that the issue gets people hot under the collar--it certainly does for me. But take a step back for a minute and think about this: Blaska is trying to say that every pro-choice person regards a mentally handicapped baby as something to consider getting rid of, simply because it has said disability. That's appauling and so, so wrong that I hardly even know where to begin. I shouldn't even have to defend myself here, it's so ridiculous.

Let me put it plainly: being pro-choice does not equal being pro-abortion. It means, very simply, that you believe the decision as to whether or not a pregnancy should be seen to term should be left up to the mother first, informed doctors and family members second, and the federal government only in the most extreme cases of mental incompetence on the part of the involved parties.

I can think of very few (nay, none) of my pro-choice friends who are pro-abortion. Most of them, if faced with that unthinkable scenario and decision, would likely choose to see the pregnancy through. But thankfully, most of my friends have loving, supportive family and friends and lives of relative security. That is not the case with all, or even most, women who end up in this situation. Many end up in that terrible place as the result of poverty, lack of a good education, poor family life, abuse, etc. Palin's daughter is lucky to have a supportive family to help her through this big change in her life. Not everyone is so fortunate.

There is common ground between pro-choice and pro-life supporters, believe it or not. All of us, I would argue, want to see a decline in the rate of unwanted pregnancies and abortions. For pro-choice advocates, that means better and more comprehensive sex education for our youth, better and more comprehensive maternal and child care programs in our cities and states, better work leave deals for new moms and fathers, and so forth. Because what most of us recognize is that people are always going to have sex. It's a human imparative. The best we can do is to arm our children with the self respect, decision making abilities, and thorough knowledge of how to take care of themselves so as to hopefully avoid these kinds of situations all-together.

The big problem, it would seem, is the deep anxiety and fear that many of us still feel about sex, especially outside of marriage. I suppose that's a whole other issue for a whole other post, though, so I'm going to attempt to get back onto my original tack here.

In addition to accusing pro-choice liberals of viewing disabled children as disposable, Blaska also seems to think that most of us Obama voters secretly hate strong women like Sarah Palin. I won't pretend to speak for everyone, but I feel confident in saying that the vast majority of folks on both sides of this political race don't give a rats ass about Palin's gender.

I don't. What I do care about are her policy ideas, her record, her experience. I disagree with Palin (and McCain) on almost every single issue they've brought up. That's why I won't be voting for that ticket come November, and that's what I'd hope most people would take into consideration when they walk into their voting booths.

One other not-so quick point I'd like to make about Blaska's post--and it's a theme that's come up throughout the right-leaning media coming to Palin's defense since she was picked--is this idea that, to be truly feminine, a woman must be raising a family. Frankly, if you're looking for something to shout "sexism!" about, that would be it.

I think family is incredibly important, but a husband and children are not required to define and strengthen a woman. This goes for men, too. Can we draw inferences about a person's character from their family life? Certainly, but it cuts both ways, and I really, really don't believe that it should be the make-or-break of whether or not someone is fit for public service. Take a look at our politicians in general, and you will find a diverse sea of divorces, infidelities, long-term committments, children, no children, gay and straight. Just like the rest of the country.

Sarah Palin could have been a no make-up wearing, single person and it wouldn't have made a lick of difference to me. The sad truth, however, is that I strongly suspect it would have made a difference in how she was treated in the political sphere. Would that be true of a man? I don't know, but history suggests not.

So to Blaska and others who share his opinions, I honestly want to ask you this: do you really believe that those of us who don't support McCain/Palin are just a bunch of baby hating, woman subjugating, fearful little pansies? Because if so, we've all got a lot more work to do than I thought.

For what it's worth, just because someone is pro-life, conservative, etc., doesn't mean I immediately assume them to be a heartless, oppressive jerk. And they usually aren't. Frankly, we'd all do well to make that more clear when we debate the issues.

(edit to add: For further Palin reading, and just generally insightful and well-written blogging from an Alaskan perspective, I'd like to heartily recommend Mudflats.)

1 comment:

M Big Mistake said...

Frankly, I think a single person w/o kids would make a better president because they wouldn't be distracted by kids/spouse/partner. Conversely...having kids/spouse/partner doesn't qualify you in any particular way to do anything in particular. We are all probably able at one level or another to have and do those things...and we're all probably capable of screwing those things up too. I don't get why it matters to people in a political candidate.

The Lost Albatross