As a woman, wife and mother, politics is important to me. We live in a country that is struggling. We're at war in Iraq. Millions of Americans are jobless, have no health insurance and are losing their homes in a mortgage crisis. The economy is collapsing. (Or has already collapsed. And we're in recession!)
Our planet is dying a slow and painful death due to global warming, and our gasoline prices are skyrocketing because we live in a society dependent on automobiles. I've never been as invested in politics as I am with the 2008 Election.
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With so many problems that need to be addressed, many of which are important to women, I was excited when offered the opportunity to read The New Feminized Majority: How Democrats Can Change America with Women's Values, by Katherine Adam and Charles Derber.
As a lifelong Republican, I have often voted in elections based on my values. I'm Catholic, and my religious morals and values have influenced how I vote on issues such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research.
In their book, Adam and Derber shed light on the assumption that the Republican party is the "party of values", due to the fact that Christian Conservatives (the right arm of the Republican Party) often define themselves as "moral values voters."
However, Democrats have values, too, but they often avoid any direct claim to morality.
The book begins by explaining the difference between masculinized and feminized values:
Men are socialized into what we call masculinized values that include competitiveness, aggression, individualism and a belief that violence is a necessary tool to solve problems. Feminized values are those in which women are socialized in a given time and place. These values include cooperation, empathy, an appreciation for equality, a preference for nonviolent solutions to conflicts, and community, or the feeling that everyone is a part of something bigger. People with feminized values look at the issues affecting their families and their communities with the goal of "together we can." Those with masculinized values move through their lives with the feeling "alone I will".
This book illustrates why feminized values are fueling the desire for change in America, and explains why Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton will have a better chance at winning the presidency in November.
Adam and Derber explain that both Obama and Clinton represent feminized values, which are the same values that many American voters, both women as well as men, hold today.
The authors believe that John McCain and the Republicans are thriving on "hyper-masculinized" values, which might explain why McCain doesn't hesitate to say that American troops could be stationed in Iraq for "hundreds of years." Masculinized "values voters" often believe military force is the only solution to most conflicts in foreign affairs.
Today, the values of American voters are dramatically shifting, and the feminized majority first emerged in the 1960s when ideas about equality, social change and community inspired a new moral viewpoint.
The women's movement of the 1970s also contributed to the shifting of values in America, at a time when the new wave of feminism reshaped and transformed a new generation of women.
My favorite paragraph from the book offers explanation as to why women's values are not capitalist values:
Women's values lead to progressive politics because women are integrated into our social and economic order differently than men. They live in capitalism but are not entirely of it. Women's values generate a moral foundation for progressive opposition because: (1) women are subordinated in the existing order, and(2) their movement against their unequal position expresses values that can benefit all disadvantaged groups and promote equality and peace.
Women's values revolve around family, children, health care, maternal rights, a thriving economy, and a beautiful and well-preserved environment. We want our children to inherit a strong country of opportunity and prosperity, not despair and tragedy.
How can America embrace feminized values? The authors offer three steps for a Democratic victory in 2008, and beyond:
First, Democrats need to run a campaign directed towards feminized morality. Second, Democrats needs to renounce the masculinized morality of the current political atmosphere and present a feminized populist alternative. A majority of Americans want to move away from social Darwinist economic policies and perpetual war. Third, Democrats need to motivate disengaged voters to become part of the movement. The feminized majority includes many non-voters and Independents. They are crucial to Democratic victory.
In the Wisconsin primary, I voted for Barack Obama because I was tired of "politics as usual". I'm desperately seeking change, an end to the war, and to rebuild our flailing economy.
For so many years I've felt as though the Republican party has pandered to me because I'm a woman to win my vote, only to abandon my values for those that are more masculinized.
Adam and Derber pose the idea that Barack Obama is a more feminized candidate than Hillary Clinton because of his "Yes, We Can" campaign slogan.
Obama's vision for America inspires feelings of community and equality. He sparks a desire for change in our country. In every speech he gives, Barack Obama emphasizes that there is a common good that can and will bring Americans together.
On the contrary, Hillary Clinton faces enormous challenges because she is a woman. It's difficult to walk the gender line in this presidential campaign, and we shouldn't completely disqualify her simply because she doesn't use her gender as a means to win.
I was impressed with this book. I do think there are important lessons to be learned from the ideas the authors present.
I don't know what will happen come November, when Americans have to
choose between the Democrat or the Republican in the 2008 Election. I
believe that feminized values can lead this country to change. Is the Democratic party the only party that can implement this change, or can the
Republicans shift toward feminized values, too? What do you think?
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