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the politics of feminism

Last week primary state elections took place in the USA, resulting in five women (four Republican, one Democrat) successfully winning their campaigns in the five key states. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, it seems a great individual achievement for each of those women. It’s also a sign that times are changing when a traditionally conservative party has four females running for key state leadership.

American TV show, Good Morning America, had a short interview with two relatively high profile women and asked their views on the female electoral successes. Journalist and magazine editor, Tina Brown, shares her take on the situation with the following statement:
‘It almost feels as if all these women winning are kind of a blow to feminism, because each one of them really is against so many of the things women have fought for for a long time.’

Being a Democrat, and presumably unhappy with the Republican success, it’s a shame Brown decided to put her political agenda ahead of her gender.

Former judge, Catherine Crier, later chips in with:
‘It’s of great concern that what I am seeing is that, um, people will realise that women can make the same mistakes….as men.’

Ahhhh, Ms Crier? Isn’t that kind of the point? For better or worse, women and men aren’t all that different. Neither gender is perfect.

Australia, too, has experienced an increase in female participation in the political arena. Kristina Keneally, Anna Bligh (both State Premiers), Julia Gillard (Deputy Prime Minister) and Julie Bishop (Deptuy Leader of the Opposition) to name just a few. As a young Australian woman, I am grateful and inspired by the fact that women are now working in such significant political positions. Though, I can’t help but wonder if things would be different if we didn’t tag gender onto female achievement when it can and should be irrelevant.

In the mentioned TV interview both Crier and Brown acknowledged the fact that gender wasn’t a huge issue during the election campaign. Which leaves one asking why make it an issue now, especially with such frivolous comments.
Perhaps the news story should have focused on the proposed policies of those elected, rather than their gender. They did win in the five key states, after all.
Would the whole thing seem a more natural progression if the feminist discussion was omitted? I think so.
This isn’t to say there aren’t occasions where feminist dialogue is necessary and productive. But, in my opinion, what’s happened in this instance was a disgraceful interpretation of events which may further stigmatise both feminism and women alike.

You can check out the interview with Tina Brown and Catherine Crier here.

2 thoughts on “the politics of feminism

  1. I agree, Christina, that the interview should have focussed on the policies of the elected women.

    Having just watched the interview, I think it’s important to note that neither Tina Brown nor Catherine Crier themselves introduce feminist discourse. They were asked a specific question by the interviewer regarding the significance of women being elected – over men. The interviewer prompted discussion of feminism.

    I also tend to think that both women would agree that the policies of the women, are more important than the fact that they ARE women. Comments like “each one of them really is against so many of the things women have fought for” seem to indicate so. That is a comment regarding each woman’s policy, not her femaleness.

    Anyway, I agree that policy should be more important than femininity – both during the election campaign, and in the discussion that follows. It’s great that in modern society women can be elected – not because of, or in spite of the fact that they are women – but because they’re the best (wo)man for the job.

  2. Hi Melissa, thanks for your comment!

    You’re right. The host was the one to introduce the feminism to the story. But I’m pretty sure that that was a given. I believe feminism was the premise behind the news story and Brown and Crier would have expected such questions/themes before engaging with the show. As I said in the final paragraph, both women noted that gender wasn’t an issue during the election.. so I cannot comprehend why they chose to discuss it with such thoughtless comments. I mean, there is no excuse for the stupidity of Crier’s statement.

    All five politicians successfully ran their campaigns without media hype and gender stereotypes (unlike the 2008 spectacle with Sarah Palin). That’s why I find it disappointing that Brown would take to a national television program and label this all as a blow to feminism.
    I think it’s a shallow take on a monumental success.

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