The ‘race’ is on

// 29 August 2008

Breaking news from CNN: McCain has selected a woman as his running mate. What hope now of disuading those Democrat women who were already planning on voting for McCain in protest over Obama’s nomination over Clinton?

Is it more important to have a woman, any woman, in the White House than a pro-choice President that is a man? No. Don’t do it America – a woman does not a feminist politics make!

And this from someone who has regularly argued about the importance of women in politics.

Update: I should explain. I’m not actually trying to say one party is better than another or dictate to people how to vote (ok, maybe I am a little bit). What I mean is that I don’t think people should vote for someone just because she is a woman. I think the politics of the person matter, not just their identity, however symbolic. And I put quotation marks on ‘race’ because of stories like this. I think we would be having a different conversation about Clinton’s defeat if she had been beaten by a white man who didn’t have a middle name that is in the Qu’ran.

Comments From You

Jess // Posted 29 August 2008 at 4:36 pm

I don’t understand how any Hilary supporter could vote for McCain on gender grounds, just because he ‘happens’ to have chosen a female VP candidate… After Bush got in that second time, I thought I’d officially lost all faith in the US electorate, but I just don’t actually believe in the existence of these hordes of women voters turning away from the Democrats to vote for a hard rightist like McCain, all in the name of feminism and women’s political representation.

Figleaf has a list of some of McCain’s past offenses.

Bee // Posted 29 August 2008 at 4:51 pm

Must admit, as soon as I heard this on the news, my first thought was that McCain hopes to scoop up some of the disaffected would-be Hillary voters, difficult though this is to imagine. (I find it amazing that any Democrat women would even contemplate voting for McCain “in protest”, but we are led to believe that such is the case.)

Not to suggest, of course, that Sarah Palin is unqualified for the role (I know little about her), or that there should, in theory, be anything remotely comment-worthy about her selection, but – this being the real world – one does speculate about McCain’s motives here.

Helen G // Posted 29 August 2008 at 4:52 pm

Interesting. She’s 44, has five children, including a son born in May who has Down’s Syndrome. She’s pro-life, pretty conservative although she seems personally likeable enough. A member of Feminists for Life. Very ‘man/woman only marriage’ and I’m not sure about her environmental policies.

Her selection seems almost calculated to try to steal some Hillary supporters. Which doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense, since not all women were supporting Hillary *because* she was a woman.

Julie // Posted 29 August 2008 at 5:05 pm

I was interested to see that the BBC news headline was originally “McCain picks woman running mate” and is now changed to “McCain picks female running mate”.

bzzzzgrrrl // Posted 29 August 2008 at 5:35 pm

I’m an American and a former Clinton supporter. I have not yet encountered one Clinton supporter who thinks Biden’s a bad choice.

I have seen the same stories in print that you have, but I have not heard one complaint from an actual person. And I definitely don’t know any Clinton supporters who are planning to vote for McCain.

Even the most ragey feminist Clinton supporters (I’m one of those, too, actually) were just hoping Obama wouldn’t pick some complete jackass misogynist like Webb, and he didn’t.

Also, I know little about Sarah Palin, but her selection just feels like pandering. There are women who are Republican and also qualified. Palin was the mayor of a town of 6,500 in Alaska until she became governor of Alaska (population 47th of 50 states), just 2 years ago. I cannot imagine what in her experience makes her seem like someone who should be a heartbeat away from the presidency, if we were to elect the oldest president ever.

Emily // Posted 29 August 2008 at 5:49 pm

I’m not sure it’s true that disgruntled Clinton supporters consider voting McCain. More likely they’d vote independant. Someone who actually agrees with their politics.

Voting Obama wouldn’t neccessary protect abortion rights- he’s talked about disagreeing with abortion because the woman ‘feels blue’ and how it’s a decision for her and ‘her family and pastor’. Joe Biden feels there should not public funding for abortion. It’s simplistic to say the democrats are the pro-female party.

Obama supported beating women over the head with Roe is not likely to convert them.

Audrey // Posted 29 August 2008 at 6:30 pm

Sorry folks but I think this is pure tokenism: she was selected over two more experienced candidates who were men to ‘grab’ the female vote, and for the litmus test: would she have been selected if she were a male? Nope.

The whole point of having women in politics is to prove their just entitlement based on credentials and experience, not to have them selected purely on the basis of their gender. Plus, personally I think she sucks: anti-abortion, anti gay marriage, pro Alaskan drilling. EEK.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 29 August 2008 at 6:44 pm

Tokenism again as if a Vice President will have much say in administrative affairs. But claims will be made that Republicans are enacting gender equality. I am certain US feminists are not easily duped by this attempt.

Anne Onne // Posted 29 August 2008 at 6:57 pm

Hear hear! Please Please Please don’t vote for McCain just because you wanna sulk! Seriously, hello!!! We’re talking REPUBLICANS!!! What kind of bizarre mind would contemplate that the net gain for women or minorities would be BETTER with a REPUBLICAN than with a Democrat, jsut because your first choice didn’t get in?!?

Unfortunately, I hear a lot on the US feminist blogs I frequent of disaffected ‘progressives’ threatening to vote for McCain if their liberal of choice didn’t win. Whilst I would hope that there

Everyone’s choices are their own, and nobody should be forced to vote for anybody. However, I defy anybody to call themselves ‘progressive’ and then vote for McCain. Dude, if you never planned to vote for the party with the political philosophy you supposedly shared and vision you most agreed with unless your favourite poster boy/girl got the job, then you’re just like a kid with a crush. What is so special about one woman (or man?) that it HAS to be them, and that if it isn’t, the next rich white guy from the Old Boys’ Club will do, because you can’t stand the other nominee for the party you believe in. Sorry, if someone’s really that shallow, they’re a ‘fauxgressive’, especially when we’re talking about voting for someone as anti-women as McCain.

And that’s what scares me. There are a LOT of progressives who still have a lot of racism and misogyny they haven’t got past. There are definitely ‘progressives’ out there calling themselves progressive, who were very uneasy when their only choice was between a black man and a white woman, because their were neither black nor female, and didn’t feel included any more. Nice try, how do you think the rest of us feel? Dude, what makes YOU so special that you have to sulk and threaten to vote for McCain when for once the person in the seat doesn’t look just like you?

On the topic of political sexism, I especially reccommend Shakesville, because they keep a watch on the sexism against ALL the women in the US political eye at the moment, and you can really see just how bad it is.

I especially like how Melissa et al. ensure that whoever they support, they will point out the misogyny (and racism, hompphobia etc) against ANYONE, even McCain’s female running-partner:

‘I will defend Sarah Palin against misogynist smears not because I like or support her, but because that’s how feminism works.’

Excellent. I agree that I have no desire or need for voting for a woman simply because they’re female, ESPECIALLY if their policies contradict all my interests. And I will fight to remind people that the policies are more important than the people, and that whilst I would have loved it if the next President (or next Prime Minister) would be a woman, I am far more worried that the policies must be the best they possibly could.

It’s all very well getting the poster person you want, but what if the policies are actually very, very misognyistic or racist? What will that accomplish? I wouldn’t want a racist (or sexist) woman in power (or a racist gay man, or a misogynist black man, or any possible combination thereof) any more than I want a racist, misogynist or homohpobic white man. Whilst being part of a minority increases the chances that a candidate might view women/POC/LGBTQ people etc as human, it doesn’t guarantee it, and if their policies are very worrying, then their gender, race or sexuality cannot change that.

Now I need to relieve my caps lock awhile. I get so worked up about this, and I’m not even from/in the USA. It’s just, after all that Bush has done, I reaaaaly don’t want McCain, who is really just an angrier, more unpredictable Bush, to get in power.

Gweem // Posted 29 August 2008 at 7:24 pm

I generally don’t blog much on the American elections, I’m all for Obama now but what can be said is usually said by other people who are more well-informed than I! However, when I heard the news of the new Republican running partner I couldn’t help noticing that, whereas the BBC headline gave Biden an identity, now it just called the new potential VP ‘a woman’.

Anna // Posted 29 August 2008 at 8:02 pm


Extolling the virtues of the family because she’s in a position of enough economic privilege to pay someone else to look after her kids?

Hypocritical woman. [edited]

Pro-life and pro-gun sums her up entirely.

Daniel // Posted 29 August 2008 at 10:08 pm

The fact that McCain was 72 today means this could end up being a lot more than tokenism, she is now the most likely candidate to be the first female president of the us.

Renee // Posted 29 August 2008 at 10:27 pm

Of course McCain thinks that women can obviously be fooled. Palin is a colluder of the first form. What is disgusting about it is that women like her work to support patriarchy. I fully believe that Palin proves why colluders are dangerous. The one thing she is not is a pro woman candidate.

Bee // Posted 30 August 2008 at 11:31 am

Daniel – do you honestly think the fact that McCain is 72 means that he’s highly likely to drop dead at some point in the next four years? He’s recently released his medical records, and his health doesn’t look that bad to me.

I don’t support him at all, but I also don’t believe his age should be a factor in this election… any more than Obama’s race should be, though of course both are.

It’s an interesting thought, though. Could Palin’s selection actually put some Republicans off voting for McCain, for the reasons Daniel has suggested – the horrific prospect of a young(ish) female President??

Robert // Posted 30 August 2008 at 12:17 pm

I was brought up by a single mum who was a follower of third wave feminism. As such ive always had an intrest in feminist politics. Watching the US race was really starting to get to me as it seemed a lot of women in the united states where going for identity politics, any women for power, rather than feminist politics, a politician who would give women power. I am glad to see that zohra has made the distinction. I hope america see’s a women in the top office soon but one that is there on her own credits rather than put there by a old white man to win votes.

Robert // Posted 30 August 2008 at 1:38 pm

Just had a thought how Mccains stratergy may run a little deeper than tokenism. Now i know its not a true feminist move, there is no way this man would choose a feminist when he giggled at that person asking him “what do we do about the bitch”(ie hillary).

Rupblican stratergies often run by turning your oponents strong points into weakness. This may be a master move. Obamas running mate is a seasoned attack dog, lending obama the strong point of having someone who can rip into mcain and particuarly mcains VP choice. However up against this mother of five obamas strong man may apear more of a bully. Therefore neutralising obamas attack dog and tarring obamas as less gentle reformer and more dirty old politics. Or maybee im reading too much into all this.


Mystery Dyke Squadron (Bombing Division) // Posted 30 August 2008 at 4:29 pm

See here the woe of getting too dependent upon gender. The only think really remarkable about Palin is her vagina. Otherwise she’s a typical John McCain style conservative: anti-abortion, pro-creationist, anti-gay.

We need to cease seeing this as anything remarkable. It’s a publicity measure that has worked immensely, intending to drown out Obama’s superb speech and managing just that. Palin is an archetypal right winger and her femininity is just an ounce of freshness dappling a pound of poison.

Cara // Posted 30 August 2008 at 6:48 pm

Agree with Emily.

Clinton supporters voting for McCain is largely a myth to make women look “irrational”, “angry”, etc. – as feminists are always portrayed as.

No-one rational would vote for someone with completely different politics just because they are pissed off Clinton didn’t win! It’s as likely as Labour voters turning Tory because they disliked Blair (personally, I hated Blair and voted Lib Dem).

Also – Obama said “mental distress” is not a reason for abortion. That if you think about it is SO misogynist. He may as well have said women are all emotional and hysterical anyway, who cares if carrying a pregnancy to term is, you know, a bit upsetting, silly girls, it’s just a little inconvenience! Grrrr.

Jess // Posted 31 August 2008 at 12:22 pm

I agree with most of the comments above… however, voting for McCain may give Hillary a chance in four years time…

But if the McCain/Palin combo wins and is a dud then it may ruin the chances for women in the presidents seat for a while (as people may blame Palin for the problems)..

Robert // Posted 31 August 2008 at 3:29 pm

I dont think this move was soley about bringing over the feminist supporters of clinton. A lot of women who supported clinton and have doubts about america would not be considered traditional feminists. Many would have been what the americans annoyingly call soccer mums. Maybee palin will have more appeal to this particular demographic. This group is often charachterised as being relativly right of centre and concerned about “family values” and security issues. Dunno maybee im looking for more in this than there really is.

PS Mystery Dyke i couldnt agree with you more. Its about the politics and the personalties not the side show of certain biological diffrences. Politics should not be decided on the diffrence between an xx and an xy.

Diane Hepburn // Posted 31 August 2008 at 10:42 pm

How can feminists on here be against a female vice predident?

I thought feminism was there to promote women but it appears that for a lot of people politics comes into it and is actually more important than just promoting women.

As a mother, I find it amazing that to be a feminist you are expected to be pro choice.

The thought of somebody choosing to killing an unborn child is disgusting. Please stop to consider their rights as well as the rights of the mother. More than half of aborted babies are female after all.

There should be more room in the feminist movement for a range of veiws than is currently the case. Only accepting left wing veiws as acceptable is to the detriment of the movement. It is also why so many women mock feminists.

lauren // Posted 1 September 2008 at 3:21 am

I am an American, and I will not vote for either major party. I think it is terribly naive to say that Obama/Biden ticket is not misogynist – apart from Obama’s votes on abortion in the Illinois Senate and his support of the misogynist campaign against Hillary Clinton, Biden is the worst pick he could have. Biden trashed Anita Hill, when she stood up to sexual harrasement in 1991. He headed the commitee against her and nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.

My intuition is that both Obama and McCain could appoint a conservative justice to the Supreme Court. Obama

has a very conservative background and will do little, if anything, to help women, low income people and people of color,

Sarah // Posted 1 September 2008 at 1:22 pm

Diane Hepburn, I don’t think feminism is about ‘promoting women’ just because they’re women. I’m glad Sarah Palin’s gender hasn’t been a barrier to her career progression, and I despise any misogynistic insults thrown at her. But I don’t have to agree with her views or consider her to be the best qualified candidate, just because she’s female. That would be patronising and irrational.

I also disagree that ‘left-wing views’ are the only ones compatible with feminism – I have certainly come across feminists who take a fairly libertarian, pro-capitalist approach. Someone’s feelings on the morality of abortion is not necessarily related to any political ‘wing’, the most obvious example to me is socialist-leaning Catholics (liberation theology and all that) who might well find abortion morally unacceptable due to their religious beliefs. Similarly you could be a very right-wing libertarian and consider abortion to be a private medical matter that government has no business interfering in.

Anyway, ‘pro-choice’ does not mean ‘pro-abortion’. It’s perfectly possible to be uncomfortable with the idea of abortion and never consider it for yourself, while recognising that trying to force unwilling women to give birth and criminialising those who don’t want to or feel unable to, is not a sensible or ethical approach, and unlikely to result in a good outcome for anyone involved.

Anna // Posted 1 September 2008 at 7:20 pm

Well, though the idea that Trig [the Down’s syndrome child] was originally Palin’s daughters remains little more than speculation, Palin’s daughter Bristol is now pregnant at 17. Palin has stated that her daughter *will* keep the baby AND marry the father, which I find highly disturbing.. it’s like her daughter has no say in this at all.

That is completely aside from the fact that if Palin had been decent enough to sit down with her teenage daughter and explain how to use a condom, she wouldn’t be pregnant now. Sigh.

Robert // Posted 2 September 2008 at 12:09 am

Why diffrenciate between men and women , just because they are men and women. Surely the full equality of women will come when their intrests are seen not as seperate feminist intrests but as the same interests of the whole human race. Its only half a set of chromozones that seperates the biological distinction between men and women.

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