Romney Skewered by Candidate He Endorsed?

Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock told debate viewers last night that he opposes abortion even in the case of rape, because pregnancy from rape is “something that God intended to happen.” This occurred just as Mourdock’s campaign unveiled a new on-camera endorsement from Mitt Romney.

To his credit, Mourdock’s opponent, Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, later said that Mourdock’s comments didn’t reflect what “my God or any God” would intend to happen. And it’s no secret that most Americans, including Romney by own official campaign statements, reject such extremist views.

But Mourdock’s comments can’t help but damage Mitt Romney by association. Such a wild-eyed position by a candidate he has endorsed drives one more nail into Romney’s campaign coffin by revealing the stark truth about the extreme anti-woman positions the Romney campaign has been forced to take by the extreme right-wing of his party.

Just as Todd Akin did with his misogynistic attempt to parse what kind of rape is “legitimate” and what is not, Mourdock cruelly dismissed women’s moral autonomy and even their right to defend their own bodies against the assaults of their attackers. He even invokes God’s name to justify his position.

This is just one more illustration that the right-wing war on women’s fundamental human right to reproductive self-determination remains in full battle array. This conflict has nothing to do with abortion or babies or what God wants; it is a full-out culture war and its objective is to take away the economic, social, and political gains women have made over the last 50 years. It’s the ultimate way to keep women powerless—locked physically in those binders Mitt talked about.

Sadly, the formerly moderate Mitt Romney has proactively chosen to align himself with retrograde thinkers like Mourdock, and he is likely to pay the price.

This post was originally a response to a question asked in Politico Arena. My answer is here.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

On International Women’s Day, Tell Congress to Fund International Family Planning

Check out today’s guest post on 9 Ways.  It comes to us from The Population Institute. I highlight it because the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day is being celebrated at events around the world today. The best way I can think of to celebrate IWD is to petition the U.S. Congress and other world leaders to make good on their commitments to fund international family planning. In No Excuses, I show why reproductive self-determination is essential for women to have any other kind of power. But the Republicans are trying to eliminate or drastically cut family planning funds in the U.S. and globally. The political and social justice consequences of such a short sighted policy are stunning.

Even if you don’t have time to read the whole post, please click here to sign the petition now. You’ll be saving women’s lives.

Watch this video called “Empty Handed” to see just some of the reasons why you’ll want to join me in signing the petition and become one of a million for a billion–telling Congress to fully fund international family planning:


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Splitting the Health-Reform Baby: What Women Lost by Winning

This is part two in my three-part series about what the Affordable Health Care Act means in tangible terms to each of us. The first post in the series was Barbara O’Brien’s optimistic “Health Care Reform Will Help Everybody.” Today, in a post that originally appeared in the Women’s Review of Books blog, I address women’s health specifically in both a personal and political context.

Remember, that the Department of Health and Human Services launched a new website,, on July 1 to help consumers wade through the new law’s provisions and how they will affect our access to health care. So do check that out, and as always, your comments and ideas are very welcome here.

Let me be clear: Had I been a member of Congress, I would have pressed the “yes” lever for the health-reform bill when it came down to the vote for final passage. It was incredibly important that we start somewhere to make health care accessible and affordable to all Americans. And we can celebrate, as Ms. magazine recounts in “What the Health Care Bill Means for Women,” that contraceptives will be covered, gender rating that discriminates against women has been eliminated, and preventive services such as pap smears will be covered without co-pay under the new plan.

But sometimes when you win you lose. Continue reading “Splitting the Health-Reform Baby: What Women Lost by Winning”

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

What’s the Best Language: Choice, Freedom, Human Rights, or???

Really, really, I wasn’t going to write about this. It was a conversation on Twitter with @lynncorrine, @kcecilia, and @jendeaderick that made me do it.

You see, after 35 years, I’m tired of arguing about what is the most persuasive language to bring the most people into what we have for some decades now been referring to as the pro-choice fold. And frankly, I have moved on–or outward, as I prefer to say–to the bigger canvas of women’s equality and power, not just between the navel and the knees but also in politics, at work, and at home.

However, thanks to the perpetual obsession about women and sex by those who want to outlaw abortion, I find myself drawn in once more to the fray over the rhetoric of–well, whatever you want to call it. Historian Nancy L. Cohen started the latest public discussion of the terminology in her Los Angeles Times op ed proposing that we switch from “choice” to “freedom.”

Seems to me a historian would have taken a longer view and realized that the language has morphed many times since the turn of the 20th century, from family limitation to birth control to family planning to reproductive health and rights to reproductive justice, with “pro-choice” becoming the short code word for a worldview predicated on the notion that women deserve to be able to make love without making babies: the right to choose whether, when, and with whom to have children.

Lynn Harris aka @lynncorrinne wrote this excellent, sassy piece in Salon expanding on the questions Cohen raised. Well, OK, she quoted me, so i will brazenly self-aggrandize by quoting her quoting me responding to Cohen’s theory that “freedom” would be the silver bullet to end so-called abortion wars:

Ooh, good one? Right? “Freedom”? That’s better than “choice,” right? (As we’ve learned, it’s also better than “French.”) Speaking of which, it kind of sticks it to ’em, stealing “freedom” back from those who invoke and champion it with their fingers crossed behind their backs. (And who attach it to the prefix “hates.”) Shades of Roosevelt, Bill of Rights; nice. Right?

Well, Gloria Feldt, for one, isn’t quite ready to start rewriting our signs. “I like ‘freedom’ fine,” says the activist, writer, former Planned Parenthood prez, and author of the forthcoming “No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power.” “But I’m a realist from experience, both with using the rhetoric and studying public opinion polls. Freedom is a strong American value but it doesn’t move the dial of public opinion because in the rhetorical wars, ‘life’ still trumps ‘freedom.'” (Goddammit!) “Anti-choicers easily turn ‘freedom’ into ‘license.’ Especially when it pertains to women and sex. There are limits to freedom, legally and ethically,” she continues. “Frankly, if choice weren’t a good word, the anti-choice people wouldn’t be co-opting it at every turn. I agree that it has become so diffuse as to lose its meaning. Still, in the end what is morality but choosing?”

Where does that leave us? “I think the only answer is to turn the tables and put the spotlight back on women,” Feldt says. “Our right to life, our human rights.” Well, OK. That doesn’t give us a new catchword, but — more importantly — it reaffirms the moral core of our fight. (Perhaps especially as the forced-pregnancy establishment has shifted strategies from pretending they don’t hate women to telling the truth.) Certain words are potent weapons, yes, but they’re not the war itself. And, as the polls suggest, we can win the war without them. Perhaps we should choose other battles after all.

“Choosing other battles” is a good way to put it. Because the biggest challenge for what in the interest of brevity i will call the pro-choice movement isn’t with those who oppose women’s human right to decide about childbearing, it’s with ourselves.

More than new language, we need a new surge of moral certitude about the rightness of our cause. That, much more than changing the rhetoric based on the latest poll, would solidify the amazing gains we have made for women during the last century and enable us to continue forging ahead to a more just and infinitely healthier future for women, men, and children.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Reclaiming the Means of Reproduction

Lilith Magazine asked me to review Michelle Goldberg’s The Means of Reproduction. The book waspublished earlier this year and at first I thought this review would be a bit dated. As it turns out, given the health reform debate in which women’s reproductive health is once again the battering ram for Republicans who want to kill reform and controversial fodder for the pundits, the subject matter couldn’t be more timely. In particular, Goldberg’s discussion of the damage done globally to women’s health by the Helms amendment shouts the warning about what might well happen in the U.S. if the Stupak-Pitts amendment prevails.

Michelle Goldberg’s captivating book, The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World (Penguin Press, 2009) is perfectly timed to remind those who came of age post-Roe v Wade and might think they can relax under an Obama administration, just how much work is left to do. An investigative journalist and author previously of Kingdom Coming: the Rise of Christian Nationalism, Goldberg has imbued this long-running story with fresh power by telling it in her young feminist voice.

The Means of Reproduction is a sweeping history of U.S. foreign policy on international family planning that spans four continents and the covers issues such as birth control, abortion, HIV/AIDS, their intersections with environmental concerns and economic development, and the gender politics of all, while staying in intimate touch with how America’s policies affect real women globally.

The story begins during the 1960’s cold war when Republicans like John D. Rockefeller and, yes, George H.W. “Rubbers” Bush led the charge to secure U.S. funding for international family planning, convinced that population pressures threatened national security. Then as now, family planning proponents met predictable adversaries. Goldberg writes, “There is one thing that unites cultural conservatives throughout the world, a critique that joins Protestant fundamentalism, Islamists, Hindu Nationalists, ultra-Orthodox Jews, and ultramontane Catholics. All view women’s equality and self-possession as unnatural, a violation of the established order. Yet in one society after another, we can see the absence of women’s rights creating existential dangers.”

Goldberg glosses over the central role played by Family Planning International Assistance (as Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s international division was then known) in scaling family planning services overseas, and their lonely, ultimately unsuccessful, battle against the Global Gag Rule which off and on since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, has proscribed U.S. funding of birth control services to organizations that provide or even discuss abortion. (President Obama removed the Gag Rule by executive order but underlying legislation remains.)

But more important, The Means of Reproduction argues persuasively in today’s vernacular how the absence of women’s human right to reproductive self-determination contributes to overpopulation, environmental disaster, unhealthy families, HIV/AIDS, and sex-ratio imbalances that threaten global stability.

During my 30 years in the leadership of Planned Parenthood, I met many of the characters Goldberg depicts, with all their strengths and faults.  And having joined the movement soon after the infamous Helms amendment banned U. S. foreign assistance for abortion or abortion-related services, I hope her recounting of the political damage and human carnage Sen. Helms’ law has wreaked will ignite a ringing call to rescind it.

Reproductive rights aren’t everything women need, but without them, women can’t determine anything else in their lives. After eight years of the George W. Bush Administration’s all-out war on women’s rights, Goldberg awakens a new generation to the imperative of undoing the damage and moving forward vigorously once again.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Hillary Clinton Versus Chris Smith: No Contest

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Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

The Yanks Are Coming–Back–Now What?

The road to the international agreements forged in Cairo and Beijing was long and fraught with cultural potholes, but nothing like the challenges that our own government placed in the path of women’s reproductive self-determination. Now, there’s been a 180 degree turn back to the future, and the world is relieved. But other countries have moved forward, so what’s the next step for the U.S.?

Linda Hirshman, author of Get to Work and columnist for Slate’s new XX among many other accomplishments, and I wrote this commentary. After we were rejected by the New York Times and the Washington Post (what else is new?), we decided it was too important an issue not to see the light of day. So we’re publishing it on RHREalityCheck, Huffington Post, and here on good ol’ Heartfeldt.

At the very moment the Obama administration’s decision to seek a U.S. seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council grabbed headlines, the United States quietly took the reins on the most important human rights issue for humanity’s future: sexual and reproductive rights. On March 31, State Department Acting Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Margaret Pollack, told delegates to the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, meeting in New York, that America was back.

Marking a 180 degree turnaround from Bush administration policies that fought international efforts to enable people to control their own reproductive fate, the U.S. will once again defend the “human rights and fundamental freedoms of women” and support “universal access to sexual and reproductive health.” Abstinence-only sex education, the bête noir of health providers attempting to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, was Kung-Fu kicked aside. Human rights apply to all regardless of sexual orientation. The U.S. commits to ratify CEDAW, the women’s rights treaty already signed by 185 nations, and even endorses “equal partnerships and sharing of responsibilities in all areas of family life, including in sexual and reproductive life.”

The global sigh of relief was palpable. For with all its money and diplomatic resources, the U.S. is the 10,000 gorilla in international reproductive policy. Now the question is, while this is certainly change we can believe in, is it all the change we need?

U.S. foreign policy since the 1970’s has included funding for international family planning programs. We’ve been the largest contributor to these preventive reproductive health services (by U.S. law, abortions aren’t funded) globally. The U.S. led the march to the groundbreaking 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development agreement that women’s rights and health, including reproductive rights and health, are central to development and poverty-reduction, environmental sustainability, and the strength and security of democracy itself.

Since the Reagan administration, though, cultural and religious conservatives have fought U.N. commitment to women’s reproductive rights. Reagan issued the first global gag rule denying U.S. funding to organizations that perform or even discuss abortion.

President Bill Clinton rescinded the gag rule; George W. Bush’s first official act was to reinstate it. In the last eight years, the United States government, in alignment with fundamentalist Islamic nations as well as Christian fundamentalists and Catholics, used U.N. meetings aggressively to push abstinence education and faith-based institutions as the source of guidance on sexuality and reproductive matters. And U.S. staff on the ground enforced the strictures on the ground with increasing zeal.

Women’s right to safe abortions were the sharp point of this wedge issue, but preventive family planning, comprehensive sex education, and HIV/AIDS prevention programs were opposed equally. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that—ironically–each year Bush denied them the $34 million funding Congress authorized, it led to 2 million preventable unintended pregnancies, 800,000 induced abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths, and 77,000 deaths of both mother and child.

European countries took up some slack; UNFPA’s largest supporter is now tiny Netherlands for example. And many of the nations in the developing world have contributed more than their fair share commitment stated in the Cairo agreement. But U.S. legitimacy suffered. After euphoria in Cairo, followed by the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing where then-First Lady Hillary Clinton declared, “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights,” reproductive rights advocates struggled to hold land they had gained while the largest richest country in the world aided the sexual conservatives.

Now all that has changed again. Not only did Obama rescind the global gag rule, UNFPA’s funding was reinstated and increased to $50 million. USAID’s 2009 budget for international family planning assistance increased to $545 million from $457 million in 2008. All great news. The 10,000 pound gorilla has pivoted back to the future.

But much of the world has advanced since Cairo to a more ambitious agenda for women’s full social and economic equality. And what does that mean for the U.S. vision for its own leadership role for women, population, and development globally?

Domestically, five former directors of USAID’s Population and Reproductive Health Program are calling for immediate doubling of U.S. funding for family planning overseas, to $1.2 billion and increasing to $1.5 billion over the next few years, if global anti-poverty and development goals are to be achieved amid the worldwide economic downturn.

And it is essential that the U.S. address the legitimate place of safe and legal abortion within women’s reproductive health and human rights; after all, in meanwhile, groups opposed to women’s rights and abortion are redoubling their efforts to push back. That is why the Center for Reproductive Rights and other organizations are working to establish legal theories regarding why reproductive rights are indeed human rights , and we can see in countries such as Mexico how these perspectives are advancing women’s access to safe, legal abortion based on human rights  rather than the right to privacy as in the U.S.

Michelle Goldberg argued persuasively in her recent book, “The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World,” that the absence of women’s reproductive rights contributes to overpopulation, environmental disaster, family instability, HIV/AIDS, and sex-ratio imbalances that threaten global stability. Other matters may make more news, but nothing will make more difference. Whatever the next steps in this continuing struggle, U.S. policy will lead the way.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

How to Reverse That “Perverse Cosmic Myopia”

Guest blog today by Jane Roberts, cofounder 34 Million Friends of the United Nations Population Fund and author of the book “34 Million Friends of the Women of the World”. Though written in present and future tense terms, the post reminds us that we can rewrite the history of women’s global economic and reproductive subjugation.

The term PERVERSE COSMIC MYOPIA (PCM) was used by David Brooks in a New York Times column on March 20, 2009 which intimated that the world economic and financial crisis was so bad that President Obama needed to concentrate his attention on this single tiger sinking its teeth into the world’s neck and forego at least for now health care, energy, immigration, and education.

To me PCM is a fitting term for only one all encompassing area of concern. Gender inequality, the neglect of women’s and girls’education, health, economic empowerment, and human rights, and the coming 9.1 billion people on the planet by 2050, fighting over resources and for survival, and living on a planet with a down-spiraling environment, now that, and only that is COSMIC!

Hillary Clinton at her Senate confirmation hearings: Of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls who comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unschooled, unfed, and unpaid.

Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations: In women the world has the most significant but untapped potential for development and peace.

Stephen Lewis, former U.N. ambassador to Africa for AIDS: I challenge you to enter the fray against gender inequality. There is no more honorable or productive calling. There is nothing of greater import in the world. All roads lead from women to social change.

How perverse to deprive girls, who will be the givers and keepers of life, of an equal welcome into the world, of food, education, and health care!

How perverse to marry girls off at 13 or 14 thereby cutting off all their choices for later in life and terrifying many of them with sexual intercourse and childbearing!

How perverse to let over 500,000 women a year die as a complication of pregnancy or childbirth!

How perverse to tolerate the deaths of 9.2 million children under the age of 5 every year, forty percent of them dying in their first month due to the ill health of the mother during pregnancy and/or post-partum!

How utterly perverse to tolerate at least 40 million abortions in the world very year representing twenty percent of the 200 million pregnancies! The family planning which has been promised in U. N. human rights documents has simply not been forthcoming. Fully half of these abortions are illegal and dangerous resulting every year in 68,000 deaths and over 5 million serious injuries, hemorrhages, and infections. And behind every abortion is an erectile functioning you know what which hasn’t made sure that any resulting baby would be enthusiastically welcome!

How myopic that the world’s governments spend more money on arms than on education and health!

How myopic that in the 21st century gender equality is not the order of the day for all activities which pertain to civil society, especially in all government decision making and in all peace negotiations and peace making!

How cosmic will be the implications of 9.1 billion people on the planet in the next 40 years all wanting a decent life? VERY COSMIC! If you think things are getting ugly now, just wait.

We can smile though at a few developments in this country. The Obama Administration has released $50 million to the United Nations Population Fund. This puts us once again on the side of the world’s women. (During the Bush Administration a total of $244 million was withheld. That is one of the reasons 34 Million Friends will keep going and going.)

Melanne Verveer, after being confirmed by the Senate, will be at the State Department as Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. This is change we can believe in.

The Obama Administration has recommended an eighteen percent increase in the US-AID allocation for reproductive health. He does know and he does understand.

President Obama’s rescinding of the Global Gag Rule will mean more family planning, better reproductive health, and fewer abortions worldwide.

But worldwide there is still perverse cosmic myopia about the centrality of women to any chance for a decent future.

But you can reverse the PERVERSE COSMIC MYOPIA by becoming one of 34 Million Friends of the United Nations Population Fund. GOT ONE DOLLAR? GO FOR IT!

Best of Weeks, Not So Best of Weeks

The best: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill signed into law by President Barack Obama. This photo says, better than a thousand words, the joy of this step forward for gender equality in compensation. That’s Lilly, the blonde in the middle (I won’t identify by her red jacket because it seems Senators Barbara Mikulski and Olympia Snowe and Rep.Eleanor Holmes Norton also got the memo).

Am I alone in noting the contrast between this photo, with its diverse group of people and the photo of old white men surrounding George Bush when he signed the abortion ban bill? Quite a sea change. Breathe out now. Guess which one of the signings I was invited to, and which one not.

But on to the not so best, for some happenings this past week were more like Washington as usual:

*The beached whale alarms bellowed by the Republican Right, shocked (!) that the Medicaid expansion provision of Obama’s stimulus package includes bureaucratic relief so states can, if they choose, extend preventive family planning health care to women who are above the poverty line but low income and uninsured. Well, apparently, the Democrats–the men at least–aren’t any more comfortable with the topic.

*The Democratic president’s lightening-swift and utterly gratuitous capitulation to those politically beached bloviators. As if they hadn’t known when they put the family planning extension into the stimulus package that it would be a red flag. Did they perhaps intend it as bait to draw the sting away from other vulnerable provisions? But if so, why pray tell did they have to choose the one aspect of the plan that had “woman” written on it?

*The media pundits making jokes when they had to say the words “stimulus” and “contraception”, because, well, isn’t sex always amusing? As in, not a serious issue for legislators to consider? Suddenly shy of controversy, Chris Matthews posited that family planning is a private matter, not for the government to consider. Where was his dismay these last eight years when the anti-choice right was plunging straight into Americans’ “private” reproductive decisions?

*Disputes within the women’s movement and family planning faithful. “Maybe this really doesn’t belong in the stimulus plan even though it is important.” “Maybe we don’t want to put forth the argument that family planning saves $4 for every $1 spent on health and welfare funding alone; it sounds too elitist.” Or, “Maybe we need to duck, withdraw the provision and quietly fight this battle behind the scenes so it doesn’t make news and stir up the opposition. As if the opposition wouldn’t notice. Meanwhile, Beltway veterans will say, we need Obama for so many other things. He’s removed the Global Gag Rule already. He issued an eloquent tribute to Roe v Wade. And he supports the Prevention First Act. What else do you want, they ask.

Maybe the best of next week will be the Prevention First Act, with (my fantasy) the addition of the Medicaid waiver provision that got cut out of the stumulus package. After all, Obama says family planning funding is a high priority for him, and TPM reports sources indicated to them that a bill could start moving very soon.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Palin Speech: Sneers Like Cheney–but if You Go Moose Hunting with Her, Hope She’s a Better Shot

John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, delivered an engaging speech last night at the Republican National Convention. Her roaring crowd voraciously devoured every morsel of the copious red meat she served up with a fierceness that illustrates how she earned the nickname “Sarah Barracuda” in high school sports competition.

Jill Miller Zimon at Writes Like She Talks put together a wide compendium of opinion about McCain’s veep pick and concluded it will turn out to be a miscalculation on his part. Seems to me that Palin’s speech last night suggests otherwise.

It Takes Which Woman?

Early on I urged that both McCain and Obama should choose female running mates. Obama, leading in the polls, chose the safe route with Senator Joe Biden. McCain, who had both more to gain and more to lose, took the risk of choosing the clearly underqualified but attractive and ambitious Palin.

She’s one tough cookie and good for her. It makes my feminist heart sing to know that even the right-wing Republicans know women are going to decide the outcome of this election.

But in a twist of fate both cruel and predictable, Palin is to women’s rights what Clarence Thomas and Ward Connerly are to civil rights: the antithesis of the quest for social justice and equality.

Sarah Palin: Mother of Contradictions

She’s a mother of contradictons, a faux feminist who claims her right to run for the second highest office in the land while aligning with the masters of women’s subjugation. She demands her family’s privacy and that her pregnant 17-year-old daughter Bristol’s “choice” to continue her pregnancy be respected yet wants to take away all other women’s privacy and their right to make their own childbearing choices without government intervention.

I could write on, but Gloria Steinem summed it up eloquently in this Los Angeles Times op ed:

Palin’s value to those patriarchs is clear: She opposes just about every issue that women support by a majority or plurality. She believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but disbelieves global warming; she opposes gun control but supports government control of women’s wombs; she opposes stem cell research but approves “abstinence-only” programs, which increase unwanted births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions; she tried to use taxpayers’ millions for a state program to shoot wolves from the air but didn’t spend enough money to fix a state school system with the lowest high-school graduation rate in the nation; she runs with a candidate who opposes the Fair Pay Act but supports $500 million in subsidies for a natural gas pipeline across Alaska; she supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, though even McCain has opted for the lesser evil of offshore drilling. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger


Over at Blogher, there has been much back-and-forth, multipartisan banter about Palin’s speech, but one comment really caught my eye:

I am offended that while Palin’s family is supposed to be off limit to criticism, and I agree that they should, she gets to parade them before the public and score Mommy points and, by inference, anti-abortion candidate points as a mom with a special needs infant and a pregnant, unwed 17 year old daughter standing there with the Baby Daddy at her side. You don’t get to have it both ways Palin. I’m not saying Palin has to hide her family. Absolutely not. But there was something surreal about watching a Party whose strong conservative base believes that a woman can’t/shouldn’t pastor a church and that a wife should submit to her husband trot out a woman with a young brood of five as a candidate to run the country. Take off the gloves, ladies.

Did You Catch the Sneer?

By and large CNN’s pundits give Palin’s speech an “A” grade with caveats about what that means and whether it might or might not turn into votes in November. Stacy Beam at CafePolitico says Palin benefitted from low expectations going into the speech.

But did you notice how she curled her mouth into a Cheney-esque sneer while hurling epithets at the mild-mannered Sen Harry Reid and while sarcastically disparaging Barack Obama’s community organizing work? Never mind that we’d never have had an American Revolution were it not for community organizing. I predict that one  will come back to haunt her.

But Palin doesn’t just sneer like Cheney ); her environmental policy is like his too–drill, drill, drill.  In fact, she threw out all the buzz words her audience wanted to hear, as this graphic shows:

Many times during the speech I had that “down-is-up and up-is-down” feeling I’ve experienced so many times during George W. Bush’s presidency, and for good reason: every economic, national security, war, and tax policy she mentioned predict four more years, or heaven help us, eight just like the same failed administration America is reeling from now. Yet she managed to spin it as though all these failures have been the fault of either the Democrats or the media.

Joe Biden’s tepid response today on the morning shows didn’t give me any sense of security that the Obama campaign has figured out how to deal with the bundle of contradictions that make up Sarah Palin. How will the terminally loose-lipped, grey haired Biden play in a debate against the spunky, charismatic Palin? How will these two men counter the energy she has brought to the evangelical Republican base?

Since we’re all agreed women are going to determine the outcome of this election, it’s clear Obama/Biden need the help of all the women who agree a McCain presidency would be a disaster. As the Blogher commenter advised, “Take off the gloves ladies.”

cross posted at Blogher

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.