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Marianne Schnall

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Renowned Women Speak Out on Palin and the Election

Posted: 09/23/08 03:58 PM ET

Featuring exclusive remarks from Isabel Allende, Joan Blades, Eve Ensler, Melissa Etheridge, Gloria Feldt, Kim Gandy, Elizabeth Lesser, Courtney Martin, Kathy Najimy, Amy Richards, Deborah Siegel, Eleanor Smeal, Gloria Steinem, Loung Ung, Alice Walker, Jody Williams, Marie Wilson

Everyone is talking about women and the upcoming election.

As a woman, I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed and shaken by this election season, the highs and lows of it all. On the one hand, I have been feeling powerful -- everyone is talking about women and our decisive influence in this election. Even the cover of the September 22nd issue of Newsweek is asking, "What do women want?" It's a good question. So many important themes and dialogues have been raised during this election season -- about identity politics, what we expect from a woman leader, sexism in the media, diversity in the feminist movement, what masculine and feminine values are, and about Sarah Palin and the "Palin effect." It all made me want to talk to other women, to get clarity, to gain insight. I tried to think about what I, personally, could do to contribute to this dialogue.

I realized that, through my many years as a writer and as founder of the women's website and non-profit organization, Feminist.com, I possessed extensive contacts with a diverse cross-section of well-known and respected women. So, I decided to pose identical questions by e-mail to some of these dynamic women and just see what came in. Some of the responses I got were by e-mail, some by impromptu phone interviews, but, it was clear that people felt the urge to talk and vent their thoughts.

I believe that there is a cathartic benefit to all these complex issues and themes rising to the surface, as the world is being transformed, and that the transformation will continue -- no matter who ultimately winds up in office after November 4th. I join Melissa Etheridge in her optimistic attitude as she reflects:

"We, as a people, are rising up and saying, to hell with fear. To hell with the fear that an African American could never by elected President. To hell with the fear that someone who is a mixed race is somehow inferior to anybody else. To hell with the thought that a woman can't lead just as well as a man. That all of those differences that we've been circling around and finding ourselves in the middle of, are gone! They're gone. This is the future that we are all dreaming of. We're here. Here it is. Welcome to it."

So I offer the thoughts of these women and hope you benefit from reading them as much as I did.

In alphabetical order: Isabel Allende, Joan Blades, Eve Ensler, Melissa Etheridge, Gloria Feldt, Kim Gandy, Elizabeth Lesser, Courtney Martin, Kathy Najimy, Amy Richards, Deborah Siegel, Eleanor Smeal, Gloria Steinem, Loung Ung, Alice Walker, Jody Williams, Marie Wilson

Isabel Allende, author and activist whose books include Paula and The House of the Spirits, founder of the Isabel Allende Foundation.

Many women today are experiencing a conflict between wanting to see a woman in the White House and the fact that Sarah Palin's views are in complete opposition to the progressive agenda that many feminists tend to advocate. What is your reaction to this?
IA: Sarah Palin does not represent the interests of women in this place and time. Do we want to go back to the 19th century? Or maybe medieval times? I hope that no thinking woman, young or old, will fall in the gender trap. Palin may be a woman but she certainly acts like Rambo and thinks like Cheney. As a woman I demand the right to control my body, my income, and my beliefs. As a mother I want to protect my family from poverty, inequality, ignorance, racism, bigotry, fear, violence and patriotism (an excuse for war). As a citizen I support freedom of the mind, curiosity, knowledge, technology, information. As an American I embrace the world and want our country to recover the international respect and admiration that the Bush administration has squandered. McCain and Palin do not represent me and never will.

What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?
IA: Sisters, look at the issues, not color, gender or age of the candidates. Obama represents hope and change, he has ideals, he brings light and intelligence to a stagnant political situation that has lasted too long and has left the country economically bankrupt, trapped in a never ending war and divided. Sisters, be informed, work for the best candidate, vote and make sure that everybody around you votes too. Show up or we will all regret it. Obama is the girls in the race.

Any other comments or insights?
IA: McCain is old and sick. Can you imagine if he dies and Sarah Palin becomes the president of the United States, and the most powerful political figure in the world? If you thought Bush was bad, you haven't seen Palin in action yet.

***
Joan Blades, co-author of The Motherhood Manifesto and co-founder of MoveOn.Org and MomsRising.org

Many women today are experiencing a conflict between wanting to see a woman in the White House and the fact that Sarah Palin's views are in complete opposition to the progressive agenda that many feminists tend to advocate. What is your reaction to this?
JB: My response is Fabulous that we had a powerful woman contender for the Democratic Presidential candidate and now a woman VP on the Republican ticket. And, because I do believe women are the equals of men and issues count, I want the same accountability from a woman candidate as I want from a man. I want to know if Sarah Palin will promote policies that provide meaningful support to families -- paid sick days and family leave, health care for all kids, after school programs, affordable quality child care, fair pay and flexibility at work that allows parents to be both great workers and great parents. Those are the MomsRising issues. Then there are all the other Progressive issues. Where does she stand on clean energy? The war? The environment? The economy? Choice? I can't imagine voting for someone based on their gender if their views are directly in conflict with mine.

What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?
JB:
Vote! Get your friends to vote. Talk about the issues. MomsRising.org has a MomsVote08 program complete with free bumper clingers.

Any other comments or insights?
JB: Sarah Palin is Governor in part because she has the advantages that mothers need to succeed. She has paid sick days, health care for her kids, flexible work and good child care -- her husband participates in the child rearing. We need to make sure that all families have the support they need to prosper.

***

Eve Ensler, playwright, performer and activist, author of The Vagina Monologues and founder of V-Day , a global movement to end violence against women and girls.

Eve Ensler is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo working with women on behalf of V-Day (which she described in her e-mail to me as "so very intense") and answered my query by selecting the following excerpts from Drill, Drill, Drill, her Huffington Post piece on Sarah Palin.

Many women today are experiencing a conflict between wanting to see a woman in the White House and the fact that Sarah Palin's views are in complete opposition to the progressive agenda that many feminists tend to advocate. What is your reaction to this?
EE: I don't like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country choose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.

What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?
EE:
I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S., but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.

***

Melissa Etheridge, Recording artist, human rights activist, www.melissaetheridge.com

The following interview was conducted by phone.

MS: Many women today are experiencing a conflict between wanting to see a woman in the White House and the fact that Sarah Palin's views are in complete opposition to the progressive agenda that many feminists tend to advocate. What is your reaction to this?
ME:
Well, if we stop and think about it, then we will realize that it is not about electing a woman. It's about understanding the feminine principles, the feminine energy. And it doesn't necessarily have to come in a woman. There is a difference between the feminine and masculine energies, and the feminine and masculine body. Every human being has a different measure of each in themselves. And we're all searching for balance. So, because we're so caught up in this material world, we think that all males are male and all females are female, and the energy does not apply so. And especially if you are a homosexual, it's easier to comprehend this, because you don't fall into those male and female categories.

So it's easy for me to look at Sarah Palin and say: oh, she is only representing the masculine energy, the masculine interests. Now I'm not saying "men's" interest, I'm saying the masculine side of this energy that comes from left brain thinking - "we have to create fear, and dominate and this is the only way we can do this, and big business is what it's all about, and we have to drill for oil, and we have to go take over a country" [laughs] - those are the masculine, darker side of energy way of thinking. And she represents that. And Obama is representing the more feminine, balanced side.

If we are going to survive, we have to have peace, we have to have an Earth that will be there for our children and our children's children - which is a very feminine way of looking at this reality, at looking at life, at what we're doing, what we're creating right now. So, if you just take a step further back and go, OK, it's not about a male or female, it's about the masculine and feminine. It's not about just about getting a woman in the White House. Any old woman [laughs] is not necessarily going to make the right choices.

MS: What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?
ME:
I would want to say, are you starting to get it just how important we are? We have the power. I sort of thought all along that we did, and this whole election cycle I was starting to go, wow - women, they have a lot of power here! And then when I went to the Democratic convention, and I saw a majority of women, and you saw that woman saying, "representative from California tell us your..." and she's up there, and Nancy Pelosi's up there - we're not on the side, we're not the minority, we were the majority! And we were making this happen!

And then when I heard that they had picked Sarah Palin, I thought, oh, my gosh, they know that the most important thing is the women vote. And if they can confuse us, then they will keep us from coming together on this. If they can divide us, with fear, and give us this image of a woman in office and feed her the lines to say and the things to do and give her a few good jokes, and make her a celebrity that can be on the magazines and newspapers and that stuff. She's almost like from casting central, it's almost like they cast her in a movie about the first woman from Anchorage, Alaska that got to be in the White House, played by Tina Fey [laughs]. It's like, no, no! But we have the power. It is all about us right now. And whatever we do is what happens. And if we react from fear, we are going to get four more years of fear. But if we stand here and go, wait a minute, it's all about me! What do I want? I want peace, I want a healthy Earth for my kids, and myself. And it's just real simple - we have the power. No matter how they try to make it look, in the magazines and on the television, we have the power. And I can tell it! I think in ten, twenty years we are going to look back and go - wow, that is really when the feminine started to balance out.

MS: I was just reading a speech by Elizabeth Lesser, founder of Omega Institute, who observed that it feels like we are birthing a new world, and that we are going through the painful contractions, and that we should all just relax and breathe and have the courage to allow it to be born.
ME:
I just had this very conversation yesterday with some mothers at the school my kids go to. And they asked me, "Tell me what it was like at the convention?" And I tell them, I say -- it was filled with hope. It was filled with a knowing that we are headed in the right direction. And they say, "Oh, but I am so afraid when I hear all the things that they say and the way that the news makes it look." And I tell them, no, no, no -- turn off the TV. And then feel it -- feel what's going on. Because it's huge and it's beautiful and it's amazing - we are right in the middle of history right now. We are the ones. We are going to be telling the story for ages to come of what happened in 2008. And enjoy it, and breathe and believe it - yeah, exactly what she said. I try to tell them because the more everyone can start stating that, the more everyone will see it.

MS: So you are hopeful.
ME: Totally. Oh, I know. Yes, I think it will be a resounding answer on November 4th. We are going to send a message out to the world that, yeah, we got really messed up, but we're on the right path now. And we can all join together. Yeah.

MS: What do you think we can take away from this whole election experience, no matter who wins? We have our first African American nominee for President...
ME:
Yeah -- hello? Yeah! That we are our government. And our government is for us. And we control it. And we are actually wrestling right now, not between Republican and Democrat or conservative or liberal, not between any of those dualities - we are wrestling for our democracy right now. For it to be about the people, and not about big business and the direction that it wants to take this whole world. And that's the struggle right now at the core of all of this. And we, as a people, are rising up and saying, to hell with the fear. To hell with the fear that an African American could never be elected President. To hell with the fear that someone who is a mixed race is somehow inferior to anybody else. To hell with the thought that a woman can't lead just as well as a man. That all of those differences that we've been circling around and finding ourselves in the middle of, are gone! They're gone. This is the future that we are all dreaming of. We're here. Here it is. Welcome to it.

MS: You attended and performed at the Democratic convention -- anything in particular strike you from that experience? Did you get to meet Obama?
ME:
I didn't get to meet him at the convention -- I had met him before, but I didn't get to meet him there. He was like the cherry on top of the whole thing. And it wasn't so much about a man, it was about a movement. It was about the people. I sat there with tears in my eyes when they did the roll call from state to state. And the diversity -- from women, to people of color, to different ethnic origins... As I watched the tape of me singing "Born in the USA," they flashed to all these people in the audience, and there were Hasidic Jews, and there's a guy in a turban [laughs] and it was like -- this is what we are, man! We represent everybody, we really do. Because the dream is what it's all about. It's not about the skin color or a certain religious dogma or anything -- it's about an idea. And that's what our country is. And I think that's what I think was the biggest change that I saw. It wasn't about Obama -- it was about all of us.

MS: What do you think of the achievement of Hillary Clinton's "18 million cracks in the ceiling" -- the overall significance of her run?
ME: I think it's brilliant! I think it's wonderful, that we had a choice between a woman and a black man. That we had that choice! And that we as women thought about it, and didn't just automatically go one way, but thought about the choice! And haven't we been fighting for choice for 30, 40 years? And now we know we can never go back. It is like she said, 18 million cracks in the ceiling. We're not going back. There will be a woman President and she will be the one who speaks truthfully and honestly and brings amazing balance to the world.

****
Gloria Feldt, author of The War on Choice, Heartfeldt Politics blog, and former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Many women today are experiencing a conflict between wanting to see a woman in the White House and the fact that Sarah Palin's views are in complete opposition to the progressive agenda that many feminists tend to advocate. What is your reaction to this?
GF: There's no conflict in voting against a ticket that includes Sarah Palin. While it makes my feminist heart sing that even the Republican right knows women are the key to the 2008 elections, Sarah Palin is to women's rights what Clarence Thomas and Ward Connerly are to civil rights: the antithesis of the struggle for social justice and equality. Palin's selection would be a giant leap backward from real hope and true change for women and the most important issues facing our country.

What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?
GF:
If you want better health care access, if you value your human right to reproductive justice, if you want a stronger economy and a safer nation, you'll vote for Obama. If you prefer going back to the days when women were barefoot and pregnant, you'll vote for McCain. Simple as that.

Any other comments or insights?
GF:
I was and remain a Hillary Clinton supporter. Obama-Biden isn't a perfect ticket, but there is no question it's the better ticket for women. Let's get them elected and then get more feminist women running for office at every level of government. That's the best way to honor and continue Hillary Clinton's legacy.

***

Kim Gandy, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW).

Many women today are experiencing a conflict between wanting to see a woman in the White House and the fact that Sarah Palin's views are in complete opposition to the progressive agenda that many feminists tend to advocate. What is your reaction to this?
KG: McCain's choice of Palin was a cynical effort to appeal simultaneously to disappointed Hillary Clinton voters and his party's right wing base. Fortunately, only the latter seems to be working.

What he does not understand is that women supported Hillary Clinton not just because she was a woman, but because she was a champion on their issues. They will not find Sarah Palin to be an advocate for women.

There's no question that a lot of women think it's a great thing for a woman to be running for vice president, but they are completely dismayed when they find out her positions. The idea that she opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest -- that as mayor of Wasilla she made rape survivors pay for processing the police evidence in order to obtain justice -- positions like that are completely out of step with American women and once they find out about those positions, they get a little less excited about a woman running for vice president.

What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?
KG:
For more than a decade, Barack Obama has said 'yes' to women's rights, while John McCain has consistently said 'no' -- NO to pay equity, NO to contraceptive access and reproductive rights, NO to appointing Supreme Court judges who will uphold women's rights and civil rights, NO to funding shelters and other anti-violence programs, and NO to supporting working moms and dads with policies that support work/life balance.

Any other comments or insights?
KG: NOW supported Sen. Hillary Clinton in the primary, and now we join with her in saying "NO" -- No Way, No How, No McCain! And we proudly stand arm-in-arm with her in putting our hopes and our dreams, our hard work and our hard-earned money, behind the next President of the United States -- Barack Obama, and his running mate, longtime friend and ally of women, Sen. Joe Biden.

***
Elizabeth Lesser, author of The Seeker's Guide and Broken Open co-founder Omega Institute.

Elizabeth Lesser was in Vienna speaking at a conference, so she e-mailed me this customized excerpt from her recent speech at Omega's Women & Courage conference.

EL: I started the year excited that a woman was running for president. Now I am terrified that a woman might BE president. As George Carlin said, "Just when I found out the meaning of life, they changed it." Just when I got all excited about a woman becoming president of the United States, enter Sarah Palin. But this confusion was setting in for me even before Sarah Palin entered the scene. I became disillusioned with Hillary Clinton's campaign when its tactics mutated in order to function within the dominant power structure. Early on I started to work for Obama. It hurt to do this. I had dreams where Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth and Betty Friedan and my dearly deceased mother were coming after me. But I had to follow my inner compass.

I'm looking for new language now to describe what I mean about women and power. I don't want the woman I saw on the cover of Time Magazine shouldering a semi-automatic rifle to lead my country. I don't want a woman in power who has not done the research about Iraq, global warming, Russian foreign policy, or sex education. I don't want a woman in power who cherishes the life of a human baby, but seems not to understand that the very web supporting all life is in grave danger. I guess what I want in a leader is a woman (or a man) who values the feminine values of tenderness, cooperation, courage, and wisdom. I want someone in power who will stand for, elevate, and dignify love as the guiding principle for human society. I don't want words like share and care to stay stuck in kindergarten. I want leaders who wear their woman's heart and soul on their sleeves, with pride and power.


***

Courtney Martin, writer, blogger and author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body, www.courtneyemartin.com

Many women today are experiencing a conflict between wanting to see a woman in the White House and the fact that Sarah Palin's views are in complete opposition to the progressive agenda that many feminists tend to advocate. What is your reaction to this?
CM: As my friend Ann Friedman wrote, there's a difference between a woman candidate and a woman's candidate. I think Palin actually reinforces gender norms as opposed to challenging them. And I think her politics are completely anti-woman.

What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?
CM: Many women identify with Palin's fierceness, her sense of humor, her multitasking life, but this is not a personality contest. It is a presidential election. We have to think about the ways in which Palin's policy positions will affect our lives.

***

Kathy Najimy, actress, human rights activist, www.kathynajimy.com

Kathy Najimy simply e-mailed me the following concise response:

KN: I would love a woman in the White House. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sarah Palin is dangerous and not meant for any public position.

***
Amy Richards, author of Grassroots: A Field Guide for Feminist Activism, Manifesta: Young Women Feminism and the Future , and Opting In: Having A Child Without Losing Yourself. She is also the co-founder of Third Wave Foundation and Feminist.com.

Many women today are experiencing a conflict between wanting to see a woman in the White House and the fact that Sarah Palin's views are in complete opposition to the progressive agenda that many feminists tend to advocate. What is your reaction to this?
AR: If Sarah Palin were running for President, rather than being picked as the Vice President, I might be more sympathetic to the dilemma. Even if I didn't agree with her, I could likely find some benefit in the novelty of having a woman president. However, she is not being legitimized in her role, but being used to fool voters into thinking that this symbolism reflects their policies and also being used to pit race against gender -- or to make voters think that one isn't inclusive and/or aligned with the other.

What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?
AR:
You are voting for McCain or Obama; not Palin or Obama -- and while I recognize that neither candidate is without their flaws, each voter has to decide who will best represent their issues. I am confident that most women will conclude that is Obama because his priority seems to be making the government work for the majority of Americans, not making it work a few and against the majority. And more than focusing on the presidential election, I really urge voters to consider the issues at stake in their own states -- what ballot initiatives, what local candidates -- these local issues are always more compelling reasons to vote than the presidency.

Any other comments or insights?
AR:
I have an instinct to defend Palin -- mostly because she is a mother of young children and some people are questioning her ability to do the job based on that. I am also charmed by Palin -- she's funny, human, personable. And I also think her vagueness makes her relatable -- in all honesty most of us can find faults between our "beliefs" and our "actions." I note this because even with all that I can't even bring myself to consider her as a candidate because it's not her that's running it's McCain and he is the one signing legislation not her.

***
Deborah Siegel, writer and author of Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild, creator of Girl With Pen blog.

Many women today are experiencing a conflict between wanting to see a woman in the White House and the fact that Sarah Palin's views are in complete opposition to the progressive agenda that many feminists tend to advocate. What is your reaction to this?
DS:
I firmly believe that Palin is unprepared and find McCain's choice, and logic, insulting to any Clinton supporter worth her salt. That said, I'm having a hard time reconciling my antipathy to the "Women Against Palin" rhetoric with my antipathy toward Palin. Now, Polar Bear Moms against Palin, that's something I can get behind.

What message would you most want to get out to women about the
upcoming election?
DS:
A woman candidate is not the same as a woman's candidate, to quote a feministing t-shirt. Don't be duped. Look at Palin's position on issues, look past the lipstick, see the woman who opposes stem cell research but approves "abstinence only," a woman who runs alongside a man who opposes the Fair Pay Act. To any Clinton supporters even thinking about it, Gloria Steinem said it best: "To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, 'Somebody stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs.'"

Other comments or insights:
DS: As a Hillary-supporter turned Obamanista, Palin's initial popularity terrified me. But on the issues, she's all hat and no cattle, and in the end, I think American women are far smarter than that. May history prove me right.

***

Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority Foundation

The following interview was conducted by phone.

Many women today are experiencing a conflict between wanting to see a woman in the White House and the fact that Sarah Palin's views are in complete opposition to the progressive agenda that many feminists tend to advocate. What is your reaction to this?
ES:
Well, what I said today at the press conference is that for those of us, for feminists who have been fighting for opportunities for women, we really don't have a conflict, because basically, it's great to see one woman get ahead, but we can't do that at the cost to the lives of millions of women. And basically her position would give women no choice in abortion, not even for rape or incest, would cut family planning availability, birth control availability, because she would drastically reduce funding and go to abstinence-only education, which we know is a failure.

But it goes beyond that -- because she's on a ticket that is opposed to pay equity legislation for women, paid family leave, paid sick leave, funding violence against women, even funding breast cancer research! All these things. McCain, who is the head of that ticket, has a 26 year record of voting against women's rights. So it would be a staggering loss. Not to mention the stacking of the court with anti-women's rights jurists. Not just the Supreme Court, but the entire bench! I mean, we would go backwards on Title 9, Title 7, Violence Against Women -- you name it!

What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?
ES: We can't afford the election of McCain! It would cost women their rights, economic opportunities, and the ability to make a decision about their very lives, in the area of reproductive rights. And not to mention the war. I mean, there's so much! We have gone through a huge amount of information in his voting record. It's staggering his negative votes. This man even voted against funding for breast cancer research! It's subject upon subject he is a zero. He was the worst Senator on voting for child programs in 2007 according to the Children's Defense Fund. It just blows you away! He voted against S-CHIP -- how can you vote against insurance for poor kids? It's everything.

We have to create awareness for the depth and breadth of the negative votes and negative positions he has on women. On women's economic opportunities, on women's reproductive rights, on educational opportunities.

Any other comments or insights:
ES:
I have spent 40 years fighting for women's rights. This man spent 26 years in the Senate blocking women's rights and women's programs. He wasn't a leader for women in the 20th century, let alone the 21st. And I just feel that if American women understood that for us to go forward, for us to close the wage gap, we need an even playing field. He wants to keep the playing field uneven.

The stakes are devastatingly high. And you've got an economic crisis and you have a war without end. You know, they call themselves mavericks and reformers. These are not mavericks, and they're not reformers, they're straight right wing votes.

I mean, the thing that just gets me is -- not only is Palin against reproductive rights, no abortion, not even rape or incest -- she's charging for the rape kit!. Who's for that? [laughs] What kind of reform is that? There's no reform record here. And I don't know how we get that out. I mean, we all are saying it, but he keeps calling himself a maverick - not on anything I see. He's a straight Bush vote! Has been -- for the last 8 years and then before that he had 26 years of voting no against women's rights.

We're going to do a site called Feminists for Obama, and we just know that we want our conscience clear that everybody knows the difference in these tickets. I have been working on party platforms since '76, trying to get more progressive platforms for women. This is the best platform of a major party in history. And it isn't that it just happened because women are finally strong in the democratic party, it's also -- I don't think people know this, or feminists know this -- but Obama has amazingly strong women in his team, feminists on his team. He has a really strong, informed team of women in his core.

We all feel so strongly -- they have depth inside. And there's no question where they stand. And the stark differences in their positions are startling. Not imperfect, but it's so strong in comparison to anything in the past, and it's really like setting a higher bar in the 21st century. And instead of setting a higher bar in the 21st century, the other ticket is representing pre-1960's positions on women -- I mean think about that. Isn't that ridiculous?

****

Gloria Steinem, feminist activist and writer, author of
Revolution From Within,Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, Moving Beyond Words and co-founder of Ms. Magazine and the Women's Media Center.

Many women today are experiencing a conflict between wanting to see a woman in the White House and the fact that Sarah Palin's views are in complete opposition to the progressive agenda that many feminists tend to advocate. What is your reaction to this?
GS: The more women learn about her, the less there is any conflict. Palin is more popular with men than with women. She is the candidate of Rush Limbaugh, who started promoting her last February, and she was chosen by McCain to please the extreme religious right-wing that shares her belief in Creationism, disbelief in the human causes of global warming, and opposition to pretty much everything that the majority of women say they want and need, from the Equal Pay Act and the Violence Against Women Act that McCain opposes to sex education in the schools and reproductive freedom as a human right.

For example, Palin's state has a rate of sexual assault, child sexual abuse and women murdered by men that is far above the national average, yet she tried to make rape survivors pay the cost of their own of rape kits, and to replace a conscientious public safety commissioner with one who was himself facing charges of sexually harassing a female employee. She also tried to fire or harass out of their jobs a disproportionate number of women, from the librarian in Wasilla who wouldn't censor the library to Lyda Green, a conservative Republican herself and the president of the Alaska state Senate, who says about Palin, "She's not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president? Look at what she's done to this state. What would she do to the nation?"

Even for extreme right-wing women who share Palin's views that sex discrimination doesn't exist or isn't important -- that every woman can be Superwoman -- there is her character problem. Palin has misrepresented everything from her sale of the state plane on eBay and her record on the Bridge to Nowhere to the fact that she left her small town in first-ever debt with a major law suit and a polluted lake. If elected governor, she promised her husband would leave his $100,000 a year job with an oil company -- but he still has it -- and she has misused her expense account to pay her for staying at home. Indeed, she is so absentee from the governor's office that state legislators have taken to wearing buttons that say, "Where's Sarah?"

As social justice movements have learned the hard way, having someone who looks like you and behaves like them -- who looks like a friend but behaves like an adversary -- is worse than having no one. It's parallel to the anti-semitic Jewish person, or the African American who acts against civil rights. I have friends who supported Clarence Thomas in order to have an African Amercan on the Supreme Court -- and he was more qualified than Palin -- but every one of them is now sorry. It seems that Sarah Palin is the classic Mean Girl -- the unqualified woman the sexist boss hires to put down other women -- and that's the last thing we need in the White House.

What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?
GS:
The fault for selecting Palin lies with John McCain. Given the choice between a vice president who actually could be President and one who might help him get elected by pleasing religious extremists, he took the selfish and unpatriotic path. This alone should disqualify him for the Presidency, especially in this life-and-death election. This is the most crucial in my lifetime for every reason from the purity of food and water to the cost in lives of armed conflict and irreversible damage to the environment. The life and health of men and women -- disproportionately the female half of the world -- literally depend on electing Obama and Biden.

By lowering qualifications for vice president for his own selfish reasons, and giving us a woman who would set back women by her policies, and embarrass us by being obviously out of her depth, McCain has practiced a classic form of sexism. His campaign has kept her from the usual press questioning and lowered the standards of the vice presidential debate in order to protect the unqualified Palin. More and more women are feeling embarrassed and angered by McCain's cynical and self-interested effort to confuse and pander by selecting the wrong woman.

Any other comments or insights?
GS: The country's economic meltdown is due to the de-regulation policy of McCain and Bush. Obama and Biden understand that Wall Street needs law and order just as much as Main Street. However, Palin knows so little about economics that she failed to get title to the land on which she built a sports stadium in Wasila, thus leaving law suits and a continuing source of big debts behind. If there were a contest for the politician least qualified to lead this country -- male or female -- it might be the one thing that Sarah Palin should win.

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Loung Ung, author of First They Killed My Father and Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites With the Sister She Left Behind, human rights activist, www.loungung.com.

Many women today are experiencing a conflict between wanting to see a woman in the White House and the fact that Sarah Palin's views are in complete opposition to the progressive agenda that many feminists tend to advocate. What is your reaction to this?
LU:
I don't understand the conflict. To be honest, I'm confused by it. I want the best person in the White House -- woman or man. Come November, I will vote for the team that supports human rights and women's equal rights, family values -- in all shapes and forms, including same sex marriages and a women's right to choose, someone who understand the importance of the U.S. as an integral part of the Global world, and someone who has not just the guts, but the heart, thoughtfulness, intelligence, experience, and the holistic, global vision to lead.

What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?
LU:
When I was watching Sarah Palin's acceptance speech at the RNC convention, my prevalent thought was, "what do our global friends and foreign leaders think?" We are living in the age of the global world, where for a few dollars we can cross boundaries, cultures, and countries; with the click of a mouse, we can connect with friends, allies, and supporters in the four corners of the earth. What happens in the global world effects us here at home, and vice versa. This is our time to be inclusive, to elect leaders who understand, celebrate, and are genuinely, passionately, aggressively interested with their hearts and minds about foreign policies and the global world. We need leaders who can work with foreign leaders and who foreign leaders respect and want to work with. We need leaders who not only move the hearts and minds of American women, but women all over the world, who make up over 50% of the world's population, and have enormous power to create true change.

Any other comments or insights?
LU:
In his 1961 Inaugural Address; President F. Kennedy urged Americans everywhere to get involved and be of service to our country; "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." That speech was made many years before I was born but I heard the call and followed. Together, we make up over 1,000,000 registered charitable organizations in the U.S. today, and do the daily work of changing and altering lives through grassroots community activism. I stand proudly with many others who believe that together, through grass root activism, we can create change and make a difference in our world.

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Alice Walker, author of many books including The Color Purple and We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness.

Alice Walker submitted the following response adapted from her recent piece in The Guardian:

What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?
AW: When we are offered a John McCain, who is too old for the job (and I cherish old age and old men but not to lead the world when it is ailing) or a George Bush, or a Sarah Palin, how unloved we are as Americans becomes painfully plain. McCain talks of war with the nostalgia and forgetfulness of the very elderly; Palin talks of forcing the young to have offspring they neither want nor can sustain; both of them feel at ease, apparently, with the game in which their candidacy becomes more of a topic of discussion than whether the planet has a future under their leadership.

Where does this leave us, average Americans who feel the chill of Global warming, the devastation of war, the terror of the food crisis, the horror of advancing diseases? Hopefully with a sense of awakening: that we have had few opportunities to be led by those who have the capacity to care for us, to love us, and that we, in our lack of love for ourselves, have, too often, not chosen them. Perhaps with the certainty that though we are as we are and sorely imperfect, we still deserve someone in leadership who "gets" us, and that this self-defeating habit of accepting our leaders' contempt is one we need not continue. Maybe with the realization that we, the people, are truly the leaders, and that we are the ones we have been waiting for.

***

Jody Williams, Nobel Laureate (honored in 1997 with the Nobel Peace Prize for her work against anti-personnel mines), co-founder Nobel Women's Initiative.

Many women today are experiencing a conflict between wanting to see a woman in the White House and the fact that Sarah Palin's views are in complete opposition to the progressive agenda that many feminists tend to advocate. What is your reaction to this?
JW: I'd like to see a woman in the White House too, but not at any cost. Shared anatomy does not necessarily mean shared values and a shared vision of our country's future. I feel no conflict whatsoever in completely opposing Palin as a serious, viable candidate for vice-president of the United States -- a heartbeat away from the presidency. I don't give a damn that she's a woman -- what she stands for and promotes is the polar opposite of what I believe in.

What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?
JW: Personally, I think the choice is simple -- do you want four more years (at
least) of Bush-Cheney governance, this time in the guise of McCain-Palin or do you want the possibility of real change in a country desperate for change. Vote for what course you want our country to take. Weigh the candidates' ideology, not anatomy.

Any other comments or insights?
JW: I do not believe that this country can stand four more years of the disastrous policies of Bush-Cheney: They have brought low American leadership and esteem in the world. They have brought down the economy and supported and promoted rapacious greed in the "great free market economy" (not!). They have shattered the hopes and dreams of middle-class Americans. They have left the nation impoverished with debt so huge I cannot really contemplate the figure. As long as they and their cronies are enriched, they do not give a damn about the fate of Americans, our environment, our world. How anyone can seriously consider a vote for more of this is beyond my comprehension.

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Marie Wilson, author of Closing the Leadership Gap: Add Women, Change Everything and president of The White House Project .

Many women today are experiencing a conflict between wanting to see a woman in the White House and the fact that Sarah Palin's views are in complete opposition to the progressive agenda that many feminists tend to advocate. What is your reaction to this?
MW:
Our work at The White House Project has always been about getting enough women into the political pipeline, at all levels, so that choices made about candidates are based on agenda, not gender. In his book Megatrends, John Naisbitt observed that the railroads in America failed because they thought they were still in the railroad business; what they didn't understand was that they were now in the transportation business. It's an apt metaphor for the work we do. We are not in the "gender" business, but in the transformation business. We want women in power who are agents of transformation -- the kind of transformations that benefit women and our democracy.

What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?
MW: In regard to the upcoming election, we need to realize that the future is really hinging on the women's vote. It has for years, but now both the parties and the press are finally, finally talking about women -- and both Clinton and Palin share credit for this. But since the country is paying attention now and can see that more women vote than men and that what women do will determine the outcome of this election, we had better vote in great numbers and vote well. At this time of domestic and international crisis, it's likely that women will be held responsible for not just the outcome of this election, but also the actions of the administration that ensue.

Any other comments or insights?
MW: We are at our new "Seneca Falls" -- a time where women gathered and expressed their intention to be full citizens of this country by demanding the right to vote. Women now have to step up and take on the full responsibility that was engendered in suffrage: women's active participation in democracy was fomented by suffragettes with the anticipation that women would use their citizenship not just to vote but also to run and lead. Now is the moment that women must commit to voting, running and leading in greater numbers than ever before. It's a tough time to be stepping up -- but women stepping up and bringing new solutions to the table is the only intervention our country has not tried.

 
 
 

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