There hasn’t been much media coverage of the stunning endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket by the current president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), long-time feminist and pro-choice activist Shelly Mandell.
At a McCain-Palin rally on October 4th in Carson, California, Mandell introduced Palin by saying:
“I’m here today speaking not on behalf of NOW, but speaking as an individual, as a women’s rights activist for 30 years, who has worked for all those years to see this day.
“Let me share with you where I’ve been and why I’m here. I was there in 1977 for IWY. That was the International Women’s Year, in Texas. I was there in 1978 when we campaigned hard all over the West for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, working right alongside my dear friend Maureen Reagan. I was there in 1984, when we worked so hard to get Geraldine Ferraro on the ticket and then to support her historical place in that election.
“And I’m here today, proud to support Sarah Palin, a woman who will fight [for] women’s rights, a woman who will fight for the middle class, a woman who will, Lord knows, shake things up. Now, make no mistake, I’m a lifelong Democrat. I don’t agree with Governor Palin on several issues. Hey, she’s going to work on persuading John McCain on ANWR. Well, I’m going to try persuading her on things of my own.
“But I know Sarah Palin cares about women’s rights. She cares about equality. She cares about equal pay. And, as vice president, she will fight for it. She cares about our children, and she cares about women’s lives. She’s an athlete, and she knows what Title 9 did for girls like her.
“Change must come to Washington, and Sarah Palin has what it takes to lead that charge. I believe she is courageous. I believe she has integrity. And I know that Sarah Palin is a reformer who will break up the old-boy network, buck the system and get Washington back on our side.
“It is an honor to call her sister. America, this is what a feminist looks like, Governor Sarah Palin!”
This strikes me as something more than post-Hillary bitterness from a feminist elder who in 1980 said that a Ronald Reagan Presidency would be “a clear disaster for women.”
What is going on in the feminist movement?
Is Shelly Mandell (who was prominently involved in the bizzare Ginny Foat case in 1983) simply an aberration or an idiosyncratic malcontent?
Is it all about Hillary?
Or is Mandell representative of a tendency in contemporary feminism that is willing to jettison reproductive choice and other crucial feminist issues in order to support a woman perceived as someone who — whatever her stand on important social issues — will “break up the old-boy network”?
Is feminism self-destructing?
“As President of California NOW and as a member and officer of Los Angeles NOW, I can assure you that there is no local or state affiliate of NOW, including LA NOW, which endorses or supports the McCain/Palin ticket. John McCain and Sarah Palin oppose many of the rights and freedoms we have fought for throughout NOW’s 42 years, and we will not be pushed back to the days of back-alley abortions, forced pregnancies, and pay discrimination without remedy.”
“Nor will we let the media distractions deter our members and activists from our organizing for freedom and equality for all women, putting our hopes and our dreams, our hard work and our hard-earned money, behind a proven team for women: the next President of the United States – Barack Obama – and his running mate, longtime friend and ally of women, Sen. Joe Biden With equal ferocity we will fight to protect young women by defeating Proposition 4 and to keep bigotry and discrimination out of our state constitution by defeating Proposition 8 here in California.”
I’ve been a fellow traveler of the feminist movement for a long time. But I don’t think I’m in the best position – as a man — to critique or analyze what Mandell’s amazing endorsement of the staunchly anti-choice McCain-Palin candidacy means, both for the feminist movement (within mainstream feminist organizations such as NOW or elsewhere) and for women in American politics.
I wish that women active in the feminist movement would tackle this topic, especially someone with knowledge of what is going on in women’s groups and organizations, or familiar with the latest development and divisions in feminist theory.