My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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As a woman, I’m offended.

As a woman, I’m offended by John McCain’s decision to select Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. It is clear that the decision is primarily driven by politics, by the belief that to get Hillary’s supporters, all you need to do is play the gender card.

I respect what Palin has done in Alaska in terms of calling out corrupt politics, and I’m sure that McCain does too. But being a whistleblower and working towards a clean state government are not qualifications for the (vice) presidency, especially not in times like these. We need whistleblowers and we need people who will work to clean up the government, but we need so much more than that.

McCain is not a young man. The most important quality in a vice president is their ability to be the president should something happen. It’s one thing to say that Obama is not ready because he hasn’t spent enough time in Washington, but he has worked on issues at many levels and he is very well connected globally and engaged in global political issues. There’s nothing that indicates that the same is true of Palin.

Palin is the Governor of a state with severe economic issues. What has she done? She played protectionist politics to keep a dairy company in business when it was clear that they couldn’t compete and they still failed. Trying to protect failed business plans is not the path towards economic growth. Her current plan, although not yet implemented (thank god), is to destroy the environment and put at risk future generations for economic prosperity today.

As a woman, I’m offended. Women have long borne the responsibility to protect the environment and future generations. How can she turn her back on this to reap short-term political and economic rewards?

Palin marks her identity by noting that she’s just a soccer mom. She is respected politically for questioning powers that be. She is respected by evangelicals for not aborting her son after learning that he would have Down Syndrome.

As a woman, I’m offended. Palin has the right to choose what she does with her body, and I respect her decision, but I also demand the right to make my own choices. Feminism isn’t about aborting – feminism is about the right to choose and make decisions about our bodies based on what is best for everyone involved in the social context in which we live. A woman’s personal choice alone does not make her eligible for presidency.

I voted for Barack, but I deeply respect Hillary. I am in awe of the work she has done and that she continues to do. In 1992, I would’ve (could I have) voted for her in a second over Bill. 2008 is different and I think that Barack is bringing to the table something far more important. My choice of Barack is not a diss on Hillary. For the first time in my life, I made a choice about who to vote FOR not who to vote against.

Palin is not Hillary. Palin lacks the experience, the connections, the political stature, and, most importantly, the deep respect for women and women’s issues that Hillary has.

As a woman, I’m offended. I’m offended that McCain is choosing a woman who is clearly ill-equipped to be the president of this country in an effort to woo over Hillary’s supporters. I’m offended because McCain’s decision is one of the most misogynist ones I’ve seen in recent history. Does he honestly believe that women in this country are so stupid as to believe that any woman is a substitute for another woman? That all that us women boil down to is our XX chromosomes and estrogen? C’mon now.

Don’t get me wrong – I want to see women in the highest positions of power in this country. But I don’t just want any woman. I want women in power who have earned the respect and worked to achieve said power. I want women who are chosen because of what they have done, not how they look in a political power game.

I was expecting McCain to choose a woman. I figured that’s why he waited this long. I was expecting him to go outside of the DC circuit and my latest musing was that he’d choose Meg Whitman. Sure, she’d be controversial as hell, but damn is she a professional power house. And, unlike Palin, she actually knows something about economics. Her experience as CEO of a major international company has given her tremendous experience that would complement McCain tremendously. She’s financially self-sustaining and appealing to the economic conservatives that the Republican party lost under Bush. Sure, she’s controversial and I’d hate to see that kind of corporate-ness inside the White House, but she’s beyond qualified and capable. Palin is an entirely different picture. She appeals to the social conservatives because of her personal views, but she lacks anything resembling the qualifications to be president.

As a woman, I’m offended.

I wasn’t going to vote for McCain before, but I had at least respected him and what he’s done for this country. He’s completely lost any ounce of respect in my mind. His decision to choose a vice president based solely on her gender is absolutely antithetical to every value I hold dear. Our sisters, mothers, and grandmothers did not fight for women’s rights only to have a woman toted around as an accessory in federal politics. I am confident that Palin is a smart, compassionate, and capable person, but she lacks the qualifications, experience, and long-term thinking to be president. This isn’t about DC. She hasn’t even done anything worth mentioning in Alaska. For McCain to tap her for this position is just outright offensive.

On the anniversary of women’s right to vote in this country, Hillary asked the crowd if they voted for her or for the people that she’s trying to serve. In asking the audience to vote for Barack, she asked them to move beyond individualist-politics and focus on the issues at hand. My hope is that women everywhere took that message to heart. This isn’t about getting a woman into the White House. It’s about creating a future that we want to live in.

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59 comments to As a woman, I’m offended.

  • Steve

    Kirsty,

    Thanks for the additional info, and for correcting the spelling of DogEmperor (I was trying to spell it from memory).

    Larry,

    The question of Christianity in the Old Testament is a fascinating one, which can be approached on a number of levels. The question breaks down into two major subthemes.

    (1) Do professed Christians consider the Old Testamen tto be part of their heritage and authoritative to their faith? (This is not controversial and with few exceptions can be answered affirmatively.) We find in general 3 major points of support for this.

    (1)Jesus conducted his ministry within the Theocratic Jewish state of his time, and worked within the religious traditions of that community – although being sharply critical of much of the contemporary practice nominally derived from those traditions. Thus Old Testament Judiasm is very much the theological/cutural “soil” out of which the teachings of Jesus grew. (Hellenistic influences in the early church and in the teachings of Jesus are a fascinating topic to explore, but are beyond the scope of this discussion).

    (2) Biblical literalists among Christians generally consider the Old Testamant to be “incorporated by reference” (to borrow a legal term) by a New Testament scripture passage which goes something like “All scripture is profitable for…” followed by a laundry list of good uses). Since the canon of New Testament scripture had not then been established, this passage is generally interpreted as referring to the Old Testament and validating it as authoritative for Christians.

    (3) Christian theologians who may or may not be Biblical literalists consider many Old Testament prophecies and imagery to foreshadow the life and ministry of Jesus. FOr instance, The image of Israel “the suffering servant” is widely regarded by Christians as a foreshadowing of Jesus’s suffering for humanity in the Crucifixion.

    All that being said, the more interesting question is what is the true message of Christianity, as distinct from that taught Sunday mornings by confused pastors and lying theologians, and to what extent can the Old Testament be considered Christian in the light of whether it coheres with that message. Obviously, your mileage may vary, but my understanding of Jesus’s message rests heavily on the question of “the Law” as it was understood by the theocratic culture of h/His time and place. I understand him to have been critical of the notion that righteousness consists in attempting to adhere to text-based behaviorial constraints and prescriptions with something approaching infinite precision – which roughly describes the teaching of the influential Pharisee faction within the Judaism of that period. In fact, one of my very favorite lesser-known New Testament quotes is where Jesus rants “Ye tithe mint, dill and cumin but know not righteousness!” I think a really huge poiny of mis message, and arguably the point that got him crucified, can be unfolded by exploring the implications of that short quote – in the context of the rest of his ministry, of course.

    Now we can ask, if I’m right about that being Jesus’s message, and thus a necessary basis for anthentic “Christianity” in subsequent generations, to what extent does the Old Testament cohere with this message.

    I’m not going to dwell on this question at length. To my mind it’s a mixed bag. There is much in the Old Testament thaat would be right at home in a Jesus-centered approach to life. Mainly where they exhort the people to righteousness, call upon the powerful to deal justly with the weak, etc. On the other hand, the bloodthirsty parts where God’s people are commanded to mercilessly slaughter God’s enemies does not seem to me to be compatible with Testament 2.0 (Jesus fork). (The book of Joshua is full of it). In like manner, I find little Christian in the legalistic passages full of nitpicking dos and donts typified by much of Leviticus, for instance.

    Larry, I hope this makes a start at an adequate answer to your point.

    As a side note, one of the fascinating ironies to me, if indeed is turns out that Sarah Palin is of a Pentecostal tradition which practices “speaking in tongues” is that any unbiased reading of the New Testament story of Pentecost must find that it fails to support such practices.

    At Pentecost, it is said that a multitude from many nations were assembled and that via the miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit people speaking different languages were able to understand one another. This is commonly regarded by Christian theologians as a reversal of the curse of Babel. Now look at “tongues” in a modern “Pentecostal” church, such as the Asemblies of God (Palin’s alleged former and perhaps present denomination). They speak not in the tongue of their nation, but in an *unknown* tongue. And far from people being able to understand one another when their native tongues are diverse, those of the same nation cannot understand the tongue being spoken by their compatriot. Only one with the “gift of interpretation” can decode the secret message. So, th the extent that these gropus claim the miracle of Pentecost as their scriptural authority for this practice, they are engaging in a falsehood which is trivial to refute.

    Just a thought,
    -Steve

  • Larry Johnston

    Steve:

    ‘Faleshood has an infinity of combinations, but truth has only one mode of being’
    – Jean Jacques Rousseau

    Perhaps I can clear this up for you without writing a thesis. Jesus’ preaching was based on relationship, not on the law of ANY testament (or government). The main point He was(is) trying to make is that, in order to truly fulfil His purpopse and become all that we were designed to be, we must put away the dogma of law – especially the law that attempts to use the power of ths institution of ‘religion’ to control the people – any people, and any institution – this includes the precious state.

    That means that any law created by man that tries to regulate my relationship with others is ‘of man’ not of God. Therefore, as a Christian, my first authority is always God – not what the state says. and it seems to me that the libs are trying VERY hard to regulate the way I spend my money (i can use it for the good better that ANY government agency), the way I interact with my children (I don’t need an extra year of state-run preschool to teach my kids to read), the way I plan for the future (I know what I’ll need to survive in my old age better than any politician, AND will invest it in ways that will show a REAL return on my money – unlike social security). The same premise applies to the way I interact within His creation. The arrogance of puny humans to think they know how to take care of an entire PLANET is not only appalling, but entirely false.

    It seems to me that this (and most) political debate boils down to control – the libs feel it is their right and privilege to control the ‘unclean masses’ simply because they are part of the educated elite. God’s answer is much simpler (though not as easy to disseminate): “Do your best, love Me and I’ll take care of you AND my creation.”
    I think that G.K. Chesterton said it best – ‘once abolish the God and the government becomes the god’ I’m not ready to equate ‘governent’ to ‘God’ just yet and it makes me sad that you seem perfectly willing to become another puppet for the socialist state

  • Steve

    Larry,

    Unfortunately, an attempt to discuss fully the points you raise is beyond my present resources. These are issues that touch on fundamental philosophical questions such as the nature of humankind, and also what is sometimes called the “paradox of the one and the many”. (For example, social progress is not possible without individual effort – but at the same time the development of individuals is not possible with out the existence and support of the larger society.)

    In my youth, I was for a time an anarchist, and I rejected the idea of any behavioral constraints that were not freely chosen. On further thought, I now believe that some kinds of commonly accepted constraints are necessary in order for people to live together in society – as a practical matter if nothing else. I see Jesus as making the point that following those constraints is not what makes somebody a good person “”righteous”) and that the constraints themselves, though they may be motivated by moral intentions, are not themselves the same thing as moral goodness.

    All that being said, I acknowledge the government does a lot wrong – although you and I might disagree about which things those are. But I think accepting the principle of government authority as a social necessity, and trying through political action to cause the government to make better decisions, is preferable to not having one. (Of course, your mileage may vary).

    As to the particulars of your beefs against the government, it’s too big an issue to argue about effectively in this venue. I think we will just have to note that we disagree. I will just say that IMHO the government does do quite a bit that is right and necessary, and if people who think their individual decisions about spending their money would create a better life suddenly found themselves thrust into a libertarian utopia, they might be rudely surprised at the results.

    Best wishes,
    -Steve

  • I applaud McCain’s decision to choose Pallin. I applaud his decision because it means he now has less chance of getting into the Whitehouse. As an Australian I’ve suffered watching George Bush run roughshod over international relations. His legacy will not be pleasant reading. The thought of another four years of Republican war-mongering is too much to bear.

    I’m glad McCain has made such a disdainful, insulting, and, let us hope, career limiting, move.

    Bring on Obama.

  • Muumm! I don’t know. Shall I be offended as a working class person or as a white person becouse Obama choose Biden?

  • Janine

    I couldn’t have said it better. Beautifully written and nothing but the truth. Kudos to you

  • Necoli

    danah- mom and i were JUST discussing this over breakfast at the cheesecake factory.

    Peter F.- well said. I had respect for McCain until he ran for president. Now I shudder to think that IF he is successful and has any health issues we could end up with her for president. I really hope picking her has lessened his chances, but with my 80-year old grandma stating she “likes” Palin and will go vote, I AM SCARED.

    Someone who is the governor of a state like Alaska (I am referring to numbers) and whose previous job was mayor of a city with less people that my alma matter frightens me as a prospective president [which let’s all admit, is a high possibility with McCain’s age and health history]. This is not about her gender, because any MAN with such limited qualifications would worry me too. IF McCain is elected I for one would gladly pitch in to make sure he stays healthy for at least the four years he would be in office.

    I am not going to even address the comparisons people have made between Palin and Obama, they are beyond ridiculous!

  • Jeff

    This reminds me of why I’m neither a Democrat nor a Republican even though I’m planning on voting for Obama. When will both Liberal and Republican women accept women from other parties without being personally offended by it? It was a brilliant move by McCane and let’s be honest, it was going to be a close race without having to pick Palin. Palin was all McCane and after watching him for 20 years it doesn’t surprise me that he’d pick who HE thought was best. If anyone is surprised by McCane then they’ve ignored or are ignorant to his political career. My only disappointment in Obama has been him not taking a stance like McCane to expose and make politicians who try and pass pork barrel laws.

    I think we’d be better off if we stop typecasting women to be the sole bearers of environmental issues and other such matters. When Obama said we could fine middle ground on issues such as high gas price and Alaska oil reserves everyone applauded. When Palin said the same thing, she pissed off democratic women everywhere and everyone was outraged. This is one of those, “why I can’t call myself a Democrat issues” because I see the bias and it sure isn’t pretty.

    Seriously, where’s the third party that gets this crap right?