The triumph of feminism
Sep 11th 2008
From The Economist print edition
America’s feminists may have lost a battle or two. But they are winning the war
THIS was supposed to be the year in which America’s feminists celebrated the shattering of the highest glass ceiling. They had the ideal candidate in Hillary Rodham Clinton, a woman who had been tempered in the fires of Washington. And they had every reason to think that she would whip both the young Barack Obama and the elderly John McCain.
But it was Mrs Clinton who got the whipping. She not only lost an unlosable primary race. She was dissed and denounced in the process. Chris Matthews of MSNBC said that she owed her Senate seat to her husband’s infidelity. One lobbyist created an anti-Hillary pressure group called Citizens United Not Timid. A couple of young men ordered her to “iron my shirt”. Mr McCain, whom she regards as a good friend, looked on benignly when a Republican asked him “How do we beat the bitch?”
Mr McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running-mate has turned the defeat into Armageddon. Mrs Palin is everything that liberal feminists loathe: a gun-toting evangelical, a polar bear-hating former beauty queen, a mother of five who opposes abortion rights and celebrates the fact that her pregnant teenage daughter has “chosen life”. During her campaign for Alaska’s lieutenant-governorship in 2002 she called herself as “pro-life as any candidate can be”.
Gloria Steinem, the founder of Ms magazine, says that “Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton”. Kim Gandy, the president of the National Organisation of Women, dismisses her as a “woman who opposes women’s rights”. Debbie Dingell, a leading Michigan Democrat, said that women felt insulted by the choice. Joe Biden says that, if Mrs Palin becomes the first female vice-president, it will be a “backward step for women”. “Eighteen million cracks”, says the New Republic, (referring to Mrs Clinton’s 18m votes and the glass ceiling) “and one crackpot.”
Ms杂志的创办人Gloria Steinem称”帕林和希拉里的共同点仅仅只在于一条染色体”。国家妇联主席Kim Gandy对帕林表示不屑，称她是一个反对妇女权利的女人。密歇根民主党的一位高层Debbie Dingell称，这个选择是对女人的一种羞辱。Joe Biden称，如果帕林成为第一个当上副总统的女人，这将是”妇女的退步”。新共和杂志将这一切称为”一千八百万的裂缝和一个疯女人”
Mrs Palin’s arrival on the national stage is inspiring some startling political somersaults. Some feminists claim to be outraged that Mr McCain has promoted somebody just because she is a woman. Sally Quinn, a writer for the Washington Post, has even argued that, given the size of her family, she cannot possibly be both a national candidate and a good mother. At the same time, conservative traditionalists are suddenly realising that they have always been supporters of mould-breaking working mothers, whatever impression they may have given to the contrary. The whole business is also inspiring plenty of speculation about the end of feminism. One group of Hillary supporters said that their heroine’s defeat was like being told to “sit down, shut up and move to the back of the bus.”
帕林女士的闪亮登场确是掀起了些许政治波澜。一些女权主义者声称因麦凯恩只是因为女性性别原因而提升某人而大为光火。一位华盛顿邮报的作家Sally Quinn甚至坚持说，”鉴于她的家庭规模，她不可能同时成为一名合格的国家候选人和一位称职的母亲。与此同时，保守派的传统主义者突然意识到，他们一直以来都是作为突破传统枷锁的全职妈妈的支持者，不管这样做最终是否会导致怎样相反的效果。这一整个事件也激发许多对于女权主义最终将走向何方的猜想。一组希拉里的支持者称 他们女英雄的失败就好比被人教训说：”坐下，闭嘴，然后挪到公车的后面去。
But is feminism really faring so badly? American women are certainly under-represented in public life. They make up less than 20% of governors and members of Congress. The number of women on the Supreme Court has recently fallen by half, from two to one, thanks to Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement. But what Ms Steinem regards as the most “restricting force” in America is nevertheless getting ever less restrictive. Some of the most culturally conservative states in the country, such as Kansas and Michigan, have female governors. In 1998 women won the top five elected offices in Arizona. Mrs O’Connor was arguably the most powerful voice on the Supreme Court for decades.
但是，女权主义的表现真的就如此差劲儿吗？的确，美国妇女的地位在公共生活未被充分代表。她们在政府和国会工作的比例不到20%。而由于Sandra Day O’Connor的退休，在最高法院工作的女性数量也跌至近半。然而，Steinem女士认为，在美国，最强力的制约也开始慢慢放松了。一些文化上最为保守的州，例如堪萨斯和密歇根，都拥有女性地方长官。1998年，亚利桑那州的女性赢得了前五位由选举产生的最高级别职位。而O’Connor女士则无可争议地成为了数十年来，最高法院里最具影响的声音。
Women are also winning the most important of all gender wars-the war for educational qualifications. They earn 57% of bachelor’s degrees, 59% of master’s degrees and half of doctorates. And they are doing better all the time. In terms of higher education, women drew equal with men in 1980. By the early 1990s six women graduated from college for every five men. Projections show that by 2017 three women will graduate for every two men. The meritocracy is inexorably turning into a matriarchy, and visibly so on many campuses: the heads of Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Brown and the National Defence University are all women.
Boys, meanwhile, are more likely to drop out of high school than girls. They are also more likely to be consigned to special education classes or prescribed mood-managing drugs. Men are more likely to commit crimes, end up in prison, kill themselves or be murdered. Even their sperm count is headed south. The long-term result seems unavoidable: men are becoming ever more marginalised, while women are taking over the commanding heights of wealth and power.
The new Madonna
It is even plausible to argue that there is feminist-friendly news buried in the recent headlines. One reason why younger women did not coalesce behind Mrs Clinton in the same way as their mothers must surely be that they have simply become accustomed to living in a world of opportunities. On Super Tuesday, for example, Mr Obama did very well with women under 30, while Mrs Clinton won easily among women over 60. Convinced that they will see a woman in the White House during their lifetimes, they did not feel the same “fierce urgency of now” (to borrow a phrase from Mr Obama) as 70-somethings like Ms Steinem.
In her idiosyncratic way, Mrs Palin also represents the fulfilment of the feminist dream. She demonstrates that gender is no longer a barrier to success in one of the most conservative corners of the land, the Alaska Republican Party. She also proves that you can be a career woman without needing to subscribe to any fixed feminist ideology. Camille Paglia hails her as the biggest step forward for feminism since Madonna. One can argue, as we have, that it was astoundingly reckless of Mr McCain to have picked her on the basis of having once met her for 15 minutes. But if feminism means, at its core, that women should be able to compete equally in the workplace while deciding for themselves how they organise their family life, then Mrs Palin deserves to be treated as a pioneer, not dismissed as a crackpot.