Feminism | Posted by Becka W on 10/26/2010

What Does Christine O’Donnel Mean for Feminism?

Christine ODonnel

Christine O'Donnel

First off, in all seriousness, I’d like to congratulate O’Donnel for making it this far in politics. It’s definitely not an easy game, particularly for women. Politics is still, unfortunately, largely a man’s world. Women who break through deserve credit, and that should be given to O’Donnel.

According to The White House Project’s 2009 Benchmarks Report, Women make up only 17% of the U.S. House and the Senate, only 23.6% of State Executive Officials, hold only 24.3% of seats in State Legislatures, and there are only 6 female governors – and that’s just the start of the shocking statistics. Usually, I can say that I wholeheartedly support any woman running for any political position around the country, regardless of whether or not I believe 110% in her politics. Just because I wouldn’t necessarily vote for her doesn’t mean I don’t believe in her right to be treated with respect and fairness by the mainstream media and to be given a fair shot. A woman running for office may not win, but she may inspire a young woman to.

But I’m not sure how much of a positive influence and backup point Christine O’Donnel is going to be for feminism.

So many say to me, “But Becka, isn’t ANY woman in politics a step in the right direction?” This is 100% true – any woman in politics is, generally speaking, a step in the right direction.

And then people like O’Donnel come along. She has lied on numerous accounts about her education – first in her 2006 Campaign for Senate, where she said she graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1993, when in reality she did not receive a degree until 2010, when she finally completed a required course. She also said she studied at Oxford University in England, when in reality she took a course through the Phoenix Institute that rented a space at Oxford. O’Donnel is unfailingly anti-woman – she continuously speaks out against abortion and for abstinence-only education, and has lobbied to Congress on behalf of numerous groups attempting to apply biblical scripture and ideals to U.S. Law and important issues.

Last week, Gloria Steinem came to my school (American University) to talk about her battle with Breast Cancer as part of the “Breastival”, a festival Women’s Initiative holds every year to raise awareness about Breast Cancer. Of course, the conversation moved to feminism and women’s rights/equality as a whole. At the end of her speech and the Q&A session, I went up to her privately and briefly told her my issue with the need for women in politics but how to deal with women trying to enter politics taking stances that are decidedly anti-women – such as O’Donnel. Gloria didn’t even pause to think about it before she said, “I oppose them. I think they should be treated fairly by the media, I think they deserve the right to run for office, but I reserve the right not to vote for them.” I nodded and smiled and shook her hand and thanked her again for coming to speak with us and (OF COURSE, come on, this is me) got a photo with her. As I left, I thought about how genius her answer was, but something was still irking me – My brain hadn’t entirely settled on the issue.

As a feminist, I firmly believe in more women in politics. But I also am pro-choice, believing that women deserve the choice over their own bodies. I am pro-sex education, believing that the only way to prevent pregnant women with unwanted pregnancies from having to make that choice of abortion is real sexual education, not abstinence-only, which has repeatedly proven to be unsuccessful. Personally, I believe that O’Donnel could be a step backwards for feminists and female politicians everywhere – but some days, I waver on that very thought.

I’ve learned to accept that not everyone has the same outlook on life as I do, and that religious values stop some short from feeling the same way I do. But I struggle with the idea that, although all women in politics should be role models for young girls, what happens when those women are extremely vocal about their desire to strip women of some of their rights? Are they still feminist role models? I still want more women in office, but isn’t it hypocritical of me to only want certain women? Or is it just politics as usual?

What do you guys think? Agree? Disagree? Leave it below!

Becka also writes for her own blog, Becka Tells All.

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  • Kim @ at 12:32 pm, October 26th, 2010

    I think why Christine O’Donnell (and Sarah Palin) has made it so far in politics is because she embraced patriarchal constructs that subvert women which perfectly places her within the status quo. Republicans embrace these women because it give them the clout to say “we support women too” but really what they have done is dressed patriarchy up in a skirt. I am pro-women, but I don’t think you can support any politician bases solely on their gender. There need to be more women in politics, yes, but at what cost?

  • Maren H @ at 12:33 pm, October 26th, 2010

    I think that voting for a woman solely based on the fact she is a woman is just as biased as voting for a man. I agree with Gloria, treat politicians with respect and fair representation, but vote based on their values and the quality of leadership you think they will provide.

  • Zoe @ at 1:48 pm, October 26th, 2010

    I knew what I was going to say before I even read this but then Gloria Steinem said it better.

    Yes, as feminists, of course we want to see more women in political positions. But let’s be honest, what good will that one women contribute to the feminist cause if she opposes reproductive rights or nationally funded day care and the like? Just because a politician is a woman and she manages to get a position of power doesn’t mean she’s there to help us out. It’s unfortunate but true.

    I’m going to vote for people who promise to do something about the issues I care about and hopefully, some of those people will be women. That’s all I can do.

  • Ren @ at 2:44 pm, October 26th, 2010

    As it is right now, we might find male politicians that are more feminist than the female ones running.

  • Katherine C. @ at 2:49 pm, October 26th, 2010

    Yesyesyes, to all of the above comments! It is not a feminist move to parade some controllable,anti-woman female politician around!

  • blakerivers @ at 4:39 pm, October 26th, 2010

    Kimm, Maren, & Zoe are right on.

    No, it’s no hypocritical of you to only want certain women in office; that is mere good sense. Women could use more support than men since they are the underdogs right now, but that doesn’t mean they need partial treatment or that they should get away with being less reputable. That’s not progressive.

  • A @ at 8:39 pm, October 26th, 2010

    @ Maren- agree!!

  • Layla @ at 8:41 pm, October 26th, 2010

    I am thrilled with the idea of women shoving out stereotypes and barriers by stepping into the political field. Yet, I can’t vote for ANYONE whose opinions differ from mine on a colossal scale.
    For example, Sharron Angle is a female politician. Yet, she justifies rape by saying it’s “God’s plan” and will refuse to give rape/incest survivors the choice of an abortion when needed. I hate her guts.
    The point is that if a women wants to enter a male-dominated field, she must be treated like her male counterparts.

  • Nano (Nyxie) @ at 1:40 am, October 27th, 2010

    Here’s my thing – I can support women in politics, but I oppose certain politicians tremendously, some of which happen to be female.

    As a woman, I do give Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell some serious props. They’ve made huge progress as women in what was basically a legalized boys’ club, and it takes some serious strength to do that.

    As politicians, I think they are hypocritical nutcase liars who I don’t want anywhere near office, and more specifically, that I don’t want anywhere near the tax dollars I pay or near the policies which affect their jurisdiction, and the lives of myself and the people I care for. They are determined to strip women of their rights (and men who support liberal causes, people who care about the environment, people of color, poor people, and basically anyone who isn’t a rich heteronormative white man).

    As politicians, I say, let them rot out of office. The fact that they are female is absolutely irrelevant when it comes down their view – if they support anti-woman and anti-human causes, then the fact that they’re women won’t matter in the face of what they do to us. We want more women in politics to better represent our needs, which go on ignored when it’s an all-male government. But if a woman is continuing on with the anti-woman platform, then her presences is completely counterproductive to feminism and the feminist reason for women in politics in the first place.

    I’d take Dennis Kucinich over Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, or Sharon Angle, *any* day.

  • Liz @ at 3:17 pm, October 27th, 2010

    “I’d take Dennis Kucinich over Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, or Sharon Angle, *any* day.”

    Hear, hear. I will support any candidate that I feel is qualified, male or female. While I oppose any ridicule Christine O’Donnell gets on being a female in politics, from her behavior, I think she deserves much of the ridicule she gets. Politicians, male and female, get made fun of when they are not smart. And O’Donnell… is crazy.

  • Suzanne @ at 11:15 am, October 28th, 2010

    It’s a really interesting debate. There is no way I would support someone like Sarah Palin just because she’s a woman, (apart form anything else that would be hypocritical of me as a faminist) but I do respect the fact that she is a rare female presence in a male-dominated environment. Personally, the Australian PM Julia Gillard is an inspiration to me as a female politician as she shares many of my values.

  • Suzanne @ at 11:17 am, October 28th, 2010

    Sorry, I realised I spelt feminist wrong on the above post. Im sleep deprived, don’t judge me! :)

  • Seth @ at 7:50 pm, October 28th, 2010

    “The White House Project’s 2009 Benchmarks Report, Women make up only 17% of the U.S. House and the Senate, only 23.6% of State Executive Officials, hold only 24.3% of seats in State Legislatures.”

    Wow, this is all the fault of men and the patriarchy for sure. Down with men! We are going to need a lot more “women first” Affirmative Action laws ladies.

    We are going to have to force men to give up their seats like women have always done. Women can’t succeed on their own abilities and merit, everyone knows that. How sad.

  • David @ at 9:55 am, January 1st, 2011

    The Sarah Palin story is one that every feminist needs to look at in order to see what a hateful group the feminist have become.
    She did not ask to be in the spotlight, she was thrust onto it. What made her well known was the amount of hate and vitriol thrown at her from the left and feminist in particular.
    What made Sarah Palin a star was the fact that once she got knocked down, -she got back up. She showed that if you wanted to take her down, you had better bring a lunch with you. Here was a woman showing strength.
    Sarah Palin has been called every name a women can be called; Literally. She has been lampooned by some of the most powerful media outlets and openly ridiculed by so called feminist, -daily! And for what? What did this women do that was so bad. She stated her beliefs when asked and although she may not have been well informed, she was honest.
    Because of the Sarah Palin saga I have learned that feminism isn’t about women, -it’s about being on the left.

  • Catch @ at 3:26 pm, January 9th, 2011

    Feminist positions are seldom not anti male in some way. So I’m not sure who would be worse, a feminist or a right wing wacko like O’donnell. I prefer a reasonable moderate who is not anti anybody.

  • David @ at 12:17 am, January 10th, 2011

    Everything seems to be anti-something today; so many one issue groups that don’t care about the whole.

  • Rachael @ at 3:47 pm, May 6th, 2011

    Whoa there, David, let’s not get carried away with Palin praise there. You must have missed the reports on her policies as mayor of Wasilla requiring rape victims to pay $700+ for their own rape kits. That’s enough reason for me to oppose her. However, on top of that, her support of abstinence only sex education (despite her own daughter getting pregnant after undergoing such a sex ed curriculum) only furthers my dislike for her and her ideology.

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