Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sarah Palin – A Sister’s Sister

Sarah Palin, if elected, could change the landscape for Mormon women more than any politician has for a very long time. From what I can tell, she is a huge hit with the LDS ladies. Mitt Romney of course resonated big time with Mormons, but he was just another man who happened to be a Mormon and longed to be the big dog in Washington. Had he won, Mormons undoubtedly would have had more exposure, but the victory wouldn’t have changed the status quo between Mormon men and women.

Sarah Palin is different. She is a Christian conservative mother. And guess what? She’s a woman. You can argue with her politics but not with her gender. In Palin, Mormon women have a sister who is similar to them who could ascend to the highest office any woman can hold. Of course, I don’t mean the Presidency of the Relief Society; I mean the Presidency of the United States.

There has been so much focus on Palin’s conservative credentials that her potential impact upon the average Mormon woman has been overlooked. Sure, Palin, isn’t going to appeal to the NRA-hating, pro-choice leaning, meat-distaining segment of Mormon women (how many can there be?), but she seems to strongly resonate with the other 99 percent of active Mormon women. Hillary Clinton sure as Hades isn’t going to be a role model for the majority of Mormon women any time soon. Mormon women mostly despise her and think of her as a kind of She Devil. Mormon women will experience Hillary-driven change only as passive or antagonistic beneficiaries.

But Sarah Palin, she’s a different story. She is almost one of them. If you can get past her evangelical strain of Christianity, she could be a member in the ward who happens to be successful in politics. Mormon women see that Palin is not that different from them. They relate to her. They can even get over the pregnancy of her 17-year-old daughter because we all know someone with a kid who’s made a mistake. Mormon women can embrace Palin and join her in her ride to the top. Mormon women can fancy themselves her partner in the journey. Mormon women can cheer her on her quest to reign supreme over a male-dominated society.

Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin represent the ends of a range within which the bulk of American women fall, politically and socially. Hillary Clinton anchors the liberal end and Sarah Palin the conservative. If a person gets much in front of Clinton they become politically marginalized. If you are more conservative than Palin, you are marginalized as well. But the range itself has shifted left. Palin may be a conservative, but she is not saying that women need to stay home with their babies. She’s saying they can run the country. Palin’s conservative end of the spectrum is to the left of most Mormons and I believe that Mormon women will find themselves shifting to the center in order to keep up with Palin.

Change comes not only from those who lead the pack, but also those who follow. If Hillary Clinton shows how far ahead of the pack a women can tread, Sarah Palin shows the limit of how far behind a woman can fall. But either way, the range has been moved dramatically forward. And for Mormon women, the more important marker just may be Palin, because she is a figure that most can identify with.

Here is what Palin shows a woman can do.

1 – She can work full time

2 – She can be a mother and work full time

3 – She can be a mother of five and work full time

4 – She can be a mother of five, including a Down syndrome child, and work full time

5 – Not only can she do these things, she can be a chief executive and preside over men.

6 – She can be a conservative Christian and do all of the above

This is not small potatoes for Mormons. I think it is not yet well accepted in the Church that a mother can work full time. Yes, it happens more and more, but I think generally it is still frowned upon in action if not in word. A woman cannot hold a position in the Church where she has authority over men. Palin does that as a Governor now, and if she were to become the President, she would be the ultimate authority over both men and women. Mormon women would have a role model who, in Mormon speak, would preside rather than just give counsel. I think if Mormon women got used to having female civil leaders that they relate to, they not be able to stop themselves from wondering why their religion does not allow women the same opportunities as their country.

So, am I voting for Palin? Not by a long shot, because I disagree with her on too many issues. But that doesn’t mean I am blind to the change she represents and the benefits that could come from her rise to power. In a Mormon context, Sarah Palin has the potential to be very empowering to the sisters.


The Faithful Dissident said...

You're right Sanford, I bet 99% of LDS sisters -- at least in the US, Utah in particular -- love her.

Count me in that other 1%. :)

I will admit, I was never a fan of Hillary. Never really liked her personality, she's also too pro-choice for me. I prefer someone with Palin's sanctity for life -- minus the extremism. Many in the Church would also consider Obama's abortion stance as too liberal. But the reason why I prefer his over Palin's is because I know that if I was raped and impregnated by some maniac on the street, or found out that my husband impregnated my daughter, I wouldn't want someone like Sarah Palin standing in the way between me, or my daughter, and the abortion clinic.

As well, for all my non-LDS friends who don't raise their kids with the same morals that I would if I had kids, I would sleep better at night if I knew that kids were being taught about birth control, STD's, and the HPV virus at school so that:

a) there is less disease going around
b) fewer unwanted pregnancies
c) fewer unplanned pregnancies and therefore less abortion
d) fewer girls who develop cervical cancer later in life because they didn't know what the HPV virus was or that there was a vaccine for it
e) fewer kids born to kids, which often means they are born into a life of poverty and dysfunction
f) fewer abandoned babies who grow into older children with problems that no one wants to adopt

The way I see it, Palin's abstinence-only policy is wishful thinking. The US and most of the western world lives in a non-abstinence culture and because few kids are taught abstinence at home, she is throwing them to the lions by denying them a sexual education in an extremely sexualized world. Her view is idealistic, not realistic. She found out for herself that abstinence-only isn't foolproof, even in the best of Christian homes, with the pregnancy of her daughter.

There is a huge irony I see with Palin's popularity among LDS women. How many times have I heard (and even said myself) that women who have kids and put career first -- when they don't HAVE to work -- are selfish? If Palin is VP -- or President if McCain bites the dust -- how can she put a sick newborn or a teenage mother above the pressing, urgent issues of the Oval Office? ("Sorry, I can't attend the peace conference because my kid has the flu.") I don't care what anyone says, it just can't be done. There are only 24 hours in a day and only 7 days in a week.

So some people like to point out that Palin's husband is a stay-at-home dad. Wonderful, they say! That means she can dedicate herself to her job while he takes care of the kids. Actually, that's fine with me, but how many LDS people have you heard say, No one can replace the mother in the home. Only a mother can give that extra special care and love that men just don't have in them the same way as women." If Mormons didn't believe this, then we should be seeing many more stay-at-home fathers in the Church. How many do any of you know? I can't think of any.

I think maybe that to say that Palin strikes a chord with Conservative/Republican Mormon women is more accurate than saying she is popular among Mormon women in general. Of course, though, Conservative/Republican Mormon women far outnumber Liberal/Democrat Mormon women. Besides myself, I only know a handful of the latter.

To me, Palin is just another hypocrite-extremist polician to add to the bunch, Republican and Democrat alike. And all the Mormons who fall for the hype are the same ones who voted for Bush and Cheney and now complain that the US is going down the toilet.

pb said...

For me, the real question is, Are her children's clothing ironed when they attend church, and is their hair impeccably groomed?

jupee said...

Hmmm. I don't want to grow up to be like her. What do the sister's say about Track's tats? Why does God talk to her about pipelines and not, like, Darfur? Does this mean McCain didn't wing it because he was divinely inspired?

Anonymous said...

To tell you the truth, I really hate politics. I’m mostly left with the feeling that I can’t do very much but live in an aggravated state for the bold, inane, and often unpleasant things I see happening in Washington. I’m also adverse to conflict. I’m a fourth child—I just want us all to get along. It’s not that I’m not well educated, I am, or that I don’t hold a position of responsibility, I do. Confrontation is just not my way. I guess that’s why I’m usually loathe to discuss politics. I can’t talk about how I truly, deeply feel unless I’m talking to someone who agrees. If it’s with someone who disagrees, the conversation quickly deteriorates to at heated shouting match (usually them, not me) with quick barbs thrown in that I must be stupid (or some other lovely name) for thinking that an eight year sentence with the current President is enough.

So lately, I’ve been thinking about how truly horrible and frightening our political state of affairs has become. I’ve been thinking a lot about the cheap bill of goods that snappy sound bites, a wild cowboy and Rovian politics delivered to the American people for the last 8 years. Never in my adult memory can I remember such a wretched political state. Talk about Deja Vu! Now we have another cowboy and more snappy if not snippy sound bites to nibble on.

So I’m writing to describe what I really care about in those who serve me in government.

1. I want a government and president that protects all aspects of the constitution not a President that thwarts and weakens the constitution
2. I want a government that will tax me moderately and spend my contribution to society to do things that I can’t.
a. Build roads and other infrastructure
b. Enforce the laws
c. Protect the public from predatory or unfair or unsafe business practices
d. Protect the environment and create a governmental structure that incentivizes business to protect the environment too
e. Provide reasonable access to health care
f. Create strong avenues for research so that the difficult problems of today can be solved tomorrow
g. Protect the country from hostile invaders and maintain and uphold a strong army
h. Create programs that gives those in need a leg up
i. Educate children
3. What I don’t want
a. A government that interferes in my life, my bedroom, your bedroom
b. A government that preaches religion and then shoves it down my throat -- leave that to another sector of society
c. A government in charge of my body -- it's none of their business -- really!
d. A government with reckless foreign policies that will endanger and weaken our country for generations to come
e. A government reckless with our tax dollars whose policies will soon become a noose around my children’s necks
f. A government blind to the perils of pollution
g. A government that is elitist and exclusive
h. A government perfectly tuned to double speak

My overall grade for the current administration is a solid F and McCain voted with the President between 89 and 94% of the time. And Sarah is far to the right of McCain. I’m furious at congress for falling asleep at the wheel, Republicans and Democrats alike. And who is Sarah Pallin? She represents every thing and every policy that I don’t want in a government. Don't know what this response has to do with LDS women but oh well!

Fifthgen said...

Want to have some fun? Google "Palin and Mormon" and read all the speculation about whether Sarah Palin actually IS a Mormon woman! ("She must belong to a cult like Mormonism! She has FIVE children! And she is from Idaho!"). Google perhaps shows you why Palin can and does resonate with Mormon women.

But, what would the sisters think if it comes out that Palin is every bit as ambitious and ruthless as they perceive Sen. Clinton to be? Or as dishonest as they perceive “all” politicians to be? Or better yet, what happens if Palin the evangelical pulls a Huckabee and calls the Mormon Jesus a fraud, Mormonism a cult and says that Mormons believe that Jesus is Satan's brother? Mormons tend not to like bigoted anti-Mormonism. (I am not suggesting Palin is a bigot. This is pure speculation.)

Mormons’ place in the American religious right has proven to be a precarious one. It will be interesting to see if and how Palin influences that. I think that Palin's appeal with and impact upon Mormon women will depend a great deal upon what is seen when we scratch the surface - - which no one has really done with Palin yet.

kframpton said...

Wow. All this and I was just going to leave a smart ass comment. Maybe next time.

reddirtgirl said...

Will the LDS sister's vote for Sarah Palin? Hmmmmm.

In my experience there are three "types" of Mormon sisters.

1--The type that revere men and the priesthood power. I think these are the women that would normally vote for McCain and might be put off by the possibility of Palin actually being in power over men. McCain might actually loose votes with these ladies. (They probably won't vote for Obama instead but I can hope, I can dream, I can pray. Can't I?)

2--The type that feel the sting of not holding the priesthood and not having as much value and power in the church outside of motherhood. My experience is that these sister tend to be a bit more liberal so they could go either way McCain because they are excited about the possibility of a woman in power or Obama because if they are liberal in their church views they are probably liberal in their political views.

3--The type that are just going along working, taking care of their families, doing their church jobs and not puting a whole lot of thought into politics or religion. This probably describes most of the sisters in UT. And these are probably the sisters who will relate most to Sarah Palin.

So unless there are enough super conservative sisters who can't stand the thought of a woman being in a power position over men Utah will vote republican in November. Surprise, surprise. I know.

What I am REALLY hoping is that we can get something good out of the far right conservatives. I hope they will be so taken aback by the possibility of a woman in charge of the country,(and men, and armies and economic policy etc.)(because let's face it John McCain is not a young man) that they will write in their own candidate and pave the way for my candidate of choice.

Fifthgen said...

Results of informal poll of the “sisters” in my family:

Wife: Initially liked her, but would not vote for her. Thinks she is too inexperienced and too conservative. Likes her less and less.

Mother: Likes her. Thinks she is "spunky." (Sheesh.)

Mother-in-law: Does not like her. Thinks she is a sarcastic lightweight. Does not agree with her "family decision" to run for VP.

(Actual, biological) Sisters: Uniformly dislike her. Disagree with her on the issues and find her annoying.

Maybe women don't all agree on Sarah Palin?

reddirtgirl said...

Aahheemmm. ( This is a throat clearing sound.) It's Monday morning. More posts please.
Although I guess I have no room to talk:)

Anonymous said...

Why is working full time and attempting to be VP will still claiming to be a good mother a good thing? The church teaches what a mother should be, Sarah Palin does not match up.

Jfearless said...

I don't know how much a conservative Christian woman will be for mormon women. You have to keep in mind that mainstream Christians ie Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Evangelicals, Pentacostals, Baptists, Non-demonational Christians etc. do not recognize the Mormon religion as Christianity and vice versa. One major difference between the two groups is the doctrine of the trinity. Mainstream Christianity believe that there are three distinct persons in one God and not that there are three separate gods. The Mormon religion or the LDS Church teaches that God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are three separate entities. This belief is rejected by all mainstream Christian groups and is the reason why many Christian groups do not recognize Mormonism as orthodox Christianity.

reddirtgirl said...

I am out of the Mormon loop at this point in my life, but my understanding of Mormon doctorine is not that they believe there are three seperate Gods. There is God the father, his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost which is not God but more like the spirit of god activating your inner knowing. God's helper maybe.

Still, good point in wether Palin would be 'for' mormon women. Too bad that so many Christians want to nullify another religion that in essence says "follow the teachings of Jesus."

Allie said...

As a mormon woman who a) does have some issue with the culture of the church and their views on women, and b) does not feel like women need to have the priesthood (not that that has anything to do with Palin) (Oh also, I'm lukewarm on the NRA- we own hunting rifles, but lets not get carried away folks, I'm pro-responsibility, and enjoy a good steak every once in awhile (especially if it's happy buffalo meat). I also like Hilary, but didn't vote for her because I think she's too divisive.)

Anyway, as all of those things, I don't like Sarah Palin. I feel like her gender was some card that McCain was playing, and not that she was chosen based on her competency (although I guess VPs are usually chosen to help the ticket somehow rather than because of their competency).

I do like Tina Fey's impersonations. The one with Palin and Clinton was priceless. They've made the election season much more bearable.

Anonymous said...

Luckily for the free world, you crazy fundamentalist mormon whacks didn't have an impact in the presidential election.

I'm sure you're disappointed you don't get another 4 years to screw up the country even more. Sure you love the uneducated two-faced palin. Hypocrites relate well with this kind of power mongering personality.

I'm LDS, but despise your conformist attitude that turn you into cheerleaders for the republican party. You're not winning any converts with your twisted minded politics. I've endured 8 years of your BS in sunday school and priesthood every week...I'm free at last...

You goobers should focus more on saving your own souls and following your savior not bowing down to the confederate flag and swearing allegiance to those thugs you call "troops".

You PREVENT decent people from coming into Christ...REPENT.