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Kunin: Sarah Palin’s Unnoticed Empowerment of Women

Gov. Sarah Palin appears disastrously unprepared for the Vice Presidency (let alone, shudder to think, the Presidency). And yet a distressing number of white women are flocking to the Palin and McCain McCain/Palin ticket. What’s up with that?

Madeleine M. Kunin, author of Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead examines this phenomenon through the lens of empowerment in her latest article on the Huffington Post.

From the article:

There is a group of women whose support for Palin does not have much to do with the issues or whether she is qualified to be President. Only 3 percent of likely women voters deemed her most qualified and prepared to be President.

I hate to think that these women are supporting her just because she is a woman and “is like me.” But to some extent that is true. Almost all women have experienced–in a wide variety of ways–life-long forms of gender bias, both overt and subtle, in their families, at work, and in society. Most women have not had the opportunity to express their frustration or, their outrage. Turning the other cheek, remaining silent, denial, or smiling sweetly has been the most common rejoinders for many polite, conservative and liberal women.

Now, with Sarah Palin, they have a chance to vent their frustrations in a positive way by cheering her, supporting a woman who is not “like them” in most ways, but is enough “like them” in some ways so they can see themselves in her, and share in her present triumph.

Some of these same women cheered Senator Hillary Clinton–who is in most ways the exact opposite of Sarah Palin. She was prepared to be President, and she was vetted in a 16-month primary campaign. She spoke directly to women’s issues and was strongly pro-choice. But for some women these issues did not matter; they cheered her stamina, her grit, and her willingness to be in the political fight. In some odd, inexplicable way, Hillary made them feel stronger, more capable of standing tall at home and on the job. I got that message from a variety of women after I was first elected Governor in 1984. They felt proud to be women. They, to use a now well-worn phrase, felt empowered by my campaign, and my election.

A similar phenomenon is happening with Sarah Palin. Just watching her stand and speak before a huge cheering crowd, giving “them” hell, is rejuvenating. It is as if we are hearing a long exhale from women who have had to suppress their true feelings about being put down all these years. It doesn’t make sense in terms of the issues; it is not logical. But it is a reality that whether she is prepared for the job or not, whether she is right on the issues or not, some women simply are enjoying the moment of seeing her there at John McCain’s side.

Even I, a former Hillary supporter and now an enthusiastic Obama supporter, occasionally feel a little thrill when I watch her, even though I disagree with almost everything she says and would never vote for her.

Read the whole article here.


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