Patriarchy with a Woman’s Face

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El patriarcado con rostro de mujer (Spanish)

Patriarchy with a Woman’s Face

Jorge Majfud

The same day that Joe Biden is selected as candidate for the vice presidency by the Democratic Party, the campaign of John McCain reproduced several videos of Hillary Clinton sharply attacking Obama. Probably these ads were designed with a selection of Clinton in mind instead of Biden. But even though this expectation was not fulfilled, Republican Party strategists must have thought that such critical work should not be thrown away and chose to put it on the air anyway. Immediately afterward, McCain’s advertising called explicitly for Clinton’s sad supporters to vote for the Republicans, just as the old democratic candidate Joe Lieberman does now, allying himself with his ex-rival from the 2000 elections, George Bush, in support of McCain with the argument for the latter’s greater experience.

Shortly before the Republican candidate was to announce his selection for VP, a radio station called me to talk about this process. At that moment there were three names in play, all men, but considering the electoral market it was my opinion that McCain’s vice presidential candidate would be a woman. Since then we have not stopped hearing women’s groups and Sarah Palin appeal to women’s consciousness in order to gain power. If it is indeed true that there is still a long way to go to eliminate the arbitrary inequalities of power, perhaps one particular woman is not the best substitute for women in general.

There are still feminists today who take pride in Margaret Thatcher for having been a woman of steel in power in one of the old empires, even though women who ordered their black slaves whipped had already been abundant for centuries. It remains paradoxical that it was precisely Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher who put the brakes on the progressive movements, among them the feminists, that appeared in the 1960s and which represented a rebellion of minority groups and of the oppressed (although in reality this was only a consequence of a long historical process initiated, in my view, in the 15th century).

All of that, which was barely the visible and ambiguous face of a deeper historical change, was reversed by the conservative wave that, in my opinion, will be coming to an end in the next decade but which can be slowed down in its movement, depending on the success or failure of some political changes around the world, especially in the United States. In whatever form, even if postponed, inexorable generational change will not depend on any political party. But right now possibility matters.

Sarah Palin is recognized as one of the most conservative among the conservative politicians. She is associated, for example, with “pro-life” groups. The latest slogan prays “Pro-Life, Pro-Palin,” in the assumed ideolexicon suggesting that others are not in favor of life. This defender of life supports unconditionally the war in Iraq and anywhere else it might be necessary. She is a member of the powerful National Rifle Association. She can be seen in photographs posing together with her children, smilling as beautifully as Diana, with a rifle in hand next to a moose she brought down herself, lying in a pool of blood in the snow. It is likely that the fondness for hunting and weapons on the part of the governor of Alaska and “pro-life” conservatives is not for fun or for sport, but out of necessity.

Significantly, the major stir that Sarah Palin has produced in recent days came with revelations of the pregnancy out of wedlock of one of her daughters. The scandal of the revelation, not of the pregnancy, is attributed to leftist press like the New York Times. Nonetheless, the fact must be of interest to conservatives, who are always concerned about the sexual life of sinners. However, the diverse groups of conservative women, among them Jane Swift, the ex-governor of Massachusetts, declared that all of the criticisms of Palin are sexist, since Palin is a woman. It is not sexist that, according to Hillary Clinton, it is acceptable to McCain and the conservatives that a woman receives a lower salary for the same work as a man because women are less educated than men.

From the conservative wing of the U.S. political spectrum, to which Palin belongs, have come theories that can in no way be called progressive and where being feminist is an insult as serious as being gay, liberal or an intellectual. In fact the intellectuals of this ideological region hate intellectuals in general and their books, and with a deep psychological need to police they dedicate themselves to making black lists of people, almost always colleagues, who they subsequently call “dangerous” or “stupid,” as if a stupid intellectual could be dangerous at the same time, the way a stupid president can be. From their pens have come impoverished but well publicized theories, like the theories of the return of patriarchy according to which the fact that a woman complies with the fixed role of stay-at-home mother produces families with many children, and consequently sustains the hegemony of an empire. Toward this end they cite not only the decline of the Roman Empire but the high birth rate of conservative families in the southern states in comparison with the low birth rate of liberal families in the north (e.g., Phillip Longman).

One cannot say that this is a campaign filled with rhetoric because it does not even amount to that much. Everything is reduced to the repetition of six or seven clichés whenever possible and even whenever irrelevant. One of the preferred clichés consists in emphasizing the experience of the candidate and their family values. Question: “What is the central idea of your candidate?” Answer (eyes fixed on the camera, face impassive): “The other candidate does not have the necessary experience.”

Experience is the other supreme virtue that is attributed to Sarah Palin when it is suggested that she has none. Almost as much as George Bush, who has had more than enough experience even before the beginning of his career and who has been so unjustly criticized and attacked by Democrats and avoided by his own party, but recognized by the conservatives for his family values and for his respect for his self-sacrificing wife. A man who from the beginning stood out not only for his incredibly broad political experience but also for his intelligence and his culture, although to these last two faculties one might add the generous virtue of discretion.

In summation and in their own words, conservatives are defenders of the values of the family. That is, authority proceeds from the father and fathers have the biblical right to define what is a family and what are its values. They are respectful and do not invade the private life of gays and lesbians as long as gays and lesbians do not attempt to obtain the same civil rights as decent people. The traditional role of the woman has been established by tradition and questioning that is part of the corruption and lack of values, all characteristics of the “bitter leftists,” liberals, and feminists.

Nevertheless, according to the polls, millions of women who previously supported Hillary Clinton have gone over to the Republican side. The electoral market, like on other occasions, is nourished by the contradictions of its consumers: those women who passionately defend in the media and in the cafes their support for a woman as a strategic advantage for the feminist movement without caring that that woman represents the exact opposite, may signify for the more sophisticated a demonstration of false consciousness, of complete manipulation. Something along the lines of women’s liberation through the consolidation of patriarchy, or the feminization of feminism.

We hope, in this context, that such brilliant masters of political chess will continue then to promise more freedom, democracy, and justice, and to always speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Translated by Bruce Campbell


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