Thursday, August 11, 2011

Steinem's sour grapes

Ms. Gloria Steinem, who found rather late in life that sometimes, yes fish do need bicycles, is being feted in events surrounding publicity for the HBO documentary, Gloria: In her own words. New York Magazine interviewed her at one of those luncheons and asked her about Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. Proving, for the 567th time, that the "women's movement" was only ever an "upper middle class women's movement", Steinem responded, "They’re there to oppose the women's movement. That's their job." It's not about a mythic glass ceiling or women who can make it in a "man's world". Never was. If it was truly a movement of women who believe that "women are people, too!", Steinem would be applauding the fact that a woman had been on the presidential ticket for the second time in a generation and that two women (Hillary Clinton in 2008 and Michele Bachmann in 2012) are given serious consideration for a presidential nomination.

The truth is that Steinem sounds frustrated. It also sounds as if it is Evangelical Christianity which she really despises and not merely politically conservative women. Read the rest of the article here.

Steinem is wrong and rather than moaning, she should be celebrating. Her movement has gone so mainstream/underground that, while certain pundits and media darlings use their sex to attack Palin and Bachmann, no one really thinks their place is, well, out of place. Steinem makes my point for me when she lumps Palin and Bachmann in with Rick Perry (you know, that guy who organized a really dangerous gathering of people to . . . pray, right?). You know a movement has done its work in permeating society when the bulk of Evangelicalism has embraced it. So, chin up, Gloria! Your moment has passed and your work is done. Were all feminists now.

Sarah Palin and those around her embraced the feminist label and created a new species, the Frontier Feminist with a mama grizzly as their mascot. Michele Bachmann is more soft-pedal in her feminism. In fact, I don't think I've seen her mention the word in any of the speeches I've heard or articles about her I've read. While Todd Palin publicly appears to be an absent husband-father, Marcus Bachmann is very much presented as the servant-leader a good complementarian husband should be. Palin also has a young and troubled family with a teen daughter known to be pregnant out-of-wedlock when she accepted the offer from McCain. Bachmann has raised her children and is staging the next act of her life.

So there are stark differences between the families and life stages of Palin and Bachmann, are they really that different? Is Palin the cheerleader more of a feminist than Bachmann the class president? Well, yes. Bachmann's candidacy is much less of a concern than Palin's was, because of all those reasons I just listed. But the question remains whether or not public office, especially national office, is an appropriate goal for a woman. If, as Complementarian Evangelicals believe, a wife is to submit to her husband's headship in the home and that she is not, by virtue of her sex, eligible for ordination or presiding office in the church and because St. Paul ties these conditions to creation (as indeed the big picture of Scripture does from beginning to end), then:

How can a woman submit to her husband at home and the rule of the elders in church but then, when she sits at the desk in the oval office, become her husband's, her pastor's, her elder's Commander-in-Chief? Who are we? Who has God created us to be as male and female? And how can what holds in the Church and the home not hold in the workplace? Are we not the same person, male or female, no matter where we are, how we relate to or how we engage the world?

Yes, we are. And before the advent of religious feminism we would have known that. In consequence, I must conclude that Michele Bachmann still presents us with feminism, even if it is the sort of compromised feminism Steinem decries.