Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Jewish Feminist on the 2012 Election

While I won’t be able to vote in the 2012 election (I’ll be a few months shy of 18), I still want to educate myself and make sure I know where every candidate stands on the issues that are important to me, from Israel to abortion.

Obama claims to support women’s rights, and he has done stuff to show that he’s not totally indifferent to feminism. The first bill he signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, which ensures that women can sue if they don’t receive equal pay for equal work. He also appointed Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State, and Justices Sotomayor and Kagan to the Supreme Court. He wouldn’t expand an unconstitutional refusal clause that would deny contraceptive coverage to women who have insurance through a religiously-affiliated institution. (This is clearly not a comprehensive list.)

However, Obama has also disillusioned feminists, too. His Cabinet member Kathleen Sebelius nixed over-the-counter Plan B for girls under 16, despite the FDA’s approval. Despite the fact that he says he’s pro-choice, there have been dozens of cuts to women’s health care and abortion centers on the state level. And let’s not forget the brouhaha over the Hyde and Stupak-Pitts Amendments. (This, too, is obviously not an all-inclusive list.)

In addition to his subpar performance with women’s rights, his decisions regarding Israel have been downright outrageous. I don’t know the solution to the Middle East Crisis, but I can tell you that reverting to the 1967 borders is not it. Jews have fought and died to ensure that the West Bank is part of Israeli territory. The idea of giving it up is offensive, an affront to the memories of the thousands of Israelis who have been killed while protecting their homeland. Suggesting such a thing is just as stupid as saying that America should go back to its 1812 borders.

The Republican candidates don’t really seem to be such great friends of feminism. Newt Gingrich has proudly stated that he’s anti-abortion and wanted to defund Planned Parenthood. Mitt Romney actually claimed to be pro-choice in the past, but he now calls himself “unapologetically pro-life.” So while they’re not really on Team Woman, let’s all bear in mind that President Bush was an anti-choice Republican in the White House for eight years, and abortion is still thank God 100% legal. (I’m not trying to downplay any damage done during the Bush era, but it’s important to keep everything in perspective here.)

While the Republicans are anti-choice, they are definitely pro-Israel. Gingrich wants to bolster American-Israeli ties, realizing that Israel is America’s only true ally in the Middle East. He even went so far as to say, “I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs, and who were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places, and for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and it’s tragic.” Romney feels pretty much the same way as Gingrich, adding that the reason there isn’t peace in the Middle East is because groups like Hamas have an agenda to destroy, not make peace.

So this leaves me, as a pro-Israel Jewish feminist, in a bit of a pickle. This is how I see it, in chart form, being measured in terms of bad, eh, or good:

Women’s Rights

It’s a sticky question with a difficult answer. But at the end of the day, what makes more sense - supporting bad + good or bad + eh? Obviously my mind may change by the time elections roll around, but I really think I’m gonna endorse whoever’s running on the Republican ticket.

Personally, I’m dying for Debbie Wasserman Schultz to run for president, but that’s not gonna happen anytime soon. Until then, I think a write-in vote campaign for Harry Potter will be our best bet.

For all of you New York feminists, there's going to be a really awesome conference called Sex at the Polls: Debating Women's Issues for 2012 on February 6th at 6pm at the Greenberg Lounge, Vanderbilt Hall 40 Washington Square S NY, NY 10012. RSVP The panel will be former Planned Parenthood President Faye Wattleton, conservative feminist scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, feminist blogger and litigator at Kramer Levin Jill Filipovic, and director of MergerWatch Lois Uttley. Hope to see you there!


  1. I'm turning 18 right before the election and I will be voting to reelect the President. Since I agree 100% with him on Israel, it's going to be easier for me to support him than you. But think about this: has the policy of the United States towards Israel changed or is it the opposite? Almost every Israeli Prime Minister in recent memory has accepted the '67 borders as a basis for negotiation, except for this one. The Palestinians did not come out of nowhere and started demanding land; this conflict has a long history with both sides having its list of wrongs. it's not too late to resolve the conflict peacefully.

  2. Well, it's good to know that you look forward to the day Israel hands over the West Bank and Jerusalem is destroyed (God forbid), then. (I mean this only with a hint of sarcasm.)

    I like Netanyahu, I don't like any of his predecessors regarding the border issue. That land is ours. ("Ours" as in Israeli/Jewish.) It's offensive for someone to suggest that we give it up when we rightfully won it. While the Palestinians may not have come out of nowhere demanding land, I don't see why Israel has to give up part of its land to make them happy. If Canadians demanded that we give back Maine, would we (as in Americans) acquiesce or say heck no? (I know the parallel to the Aroostook War is far from perfect, but it's the best I can think of right now, in the space of a comment box.)

    This is not a subject I'm an expert in - to be honest, I'm relatively ignorant of it. But I know enough to know that I back Israel and Obama is not good for my brothers and sisters there.

  3. We're talking about two different eras; post-world war II, the idea of colonialism (which settlements technically are) took a steep decline in popularity and became unaccceptable. Not to mention the US has made peace with the Native American tribes, and obviously Canada and Mexico. Also indegenous peoples of Maine have voting rights in State and Federal elections; Palestinians in the West Bank do not.

    Not really an expert either. Just an observer. If you have time you should read the Oslo Accords--which is a binding document encoded into both Israeli and Palestinian law.

    I'm not anti-Israel or want to see anything bad happen to them. I'm pro-Israel in fact, I just think retreating to 1967 borders is in their best interests.

  4. As I said, the parallel is far from perfect.

    We (as in Israel/Jews) gave up the Gaza strip, and we've been getting bombed out ever since. What do you think giving up the West Bank is gonna mean? How in the world would that be for Israel's best interests? Do you think Israel has so many citizens it can spare a few to die from Palestinian/Arab bombs?