November 21, 2008

Gender, media and politics post election

No one can deny the role that gender played in the recent election.  From the beginning, scores of articles and opublic discussions revolved around gender, race, class and their collective role in the political campaigns.

New York Women in Communications examined the intersection of gender, media and politics at their recent panel discussion on November 13 featuring Geraldine Ferraro, Arianna Huffington, Marie Wilson and Lesley Jane Seymour.

Naturally, a significant portion of the discussion revolved around Sarah Palin and her post-feminist feminist image:

“She isn’t going away,” Seymour said of Governor Sarah Palin. “There is a group of women out there who love her, who think she’s a feminist; she thinks she’s a feminist. Listen to her talk. She is a post-feminism feminist in many women’s eyes.”

“Women are hungry to see people fight, to see people be confident, to see people stand up and say things,” Huffington continued. “Even women who deserve confidence don’t have it.  So, when a woman stands up like she did at the convention and speaks with confidence fearlessly and also has children, it’s very appealing.”

Of course, the panelists stressed that we must remember Palin’s true anti-feminist nature, but the conversations about her did not end. There is something very significant in the fact that Palin dominated a discussion at an event of educated, motivated feminists and it begs the question: Is Sarah Palin setting the agenda for modern feminists?  When did we go from leading the movement to reacting to it? And ultimately, where does the feminist movement stand in 2008?

When the discussion turned to Senator Hillary Clinton, the commentary remained somewhat unsettling. “The way Hillary gave her final speech of the primary was very significant because it showed women, who are so terrified of failure, that you can fail magnificently, that you can fail and still succeed in so many ways,” Huffington revealed. “When she said that there was no resentment or bitterness, despite whatever she may have been feeling, she came across as somebody who was ready to move on and be in the future.”

While it’s true that Clinton’s conduct spoke to women and set new standards, how did she become an example of graceful failure and how is Sarah Palin considered bold, confident and still trying to win?

Feminist ideology, feminism and feminist identity also became a hotly debated issue post-Hillary and in light of Sarah Palin.  The relationship between feminism and the media has a long, sordid history and there was ample discussion on the future of that relationship in the wake of Clinton and Palin.

Whatever you believe, this event spoke to the urgency and relevance of feminism in 2008.  The panel proved one thing — that truly feminist, intelligent women must be involved in drawing up the country’s blueprints and maneuvering the cranes of change in the next four years. Donning political and cultural hard hats is the new feminist imperative. This is our chance to build a future, where all people can flourish equally. And it’s about time to get to work.

Read Maric G. Yerman’s complete article at the Huffington Post here.