Monday, November 28, 2011

Meghan McCain: a true Republican feminist?

One of the most interesting public figures to emerge from the hotly contested Presidential race in 2008 was John McCain's daughter, Meghan McCain. After gaining notoriety in 2007 by publishing her impressions of the campaign trail as she accompanied her father around the nation, Meghan's blog, McCain Blogette, was picked up by The Daily Beast in 2009. As recently as yesterday, I saw Meghan, along with prominent political analysts (as well as actor Kal Penn) featured as a guest on MSNBC's Now with Alex Wagner.

She is the author of two books. One, published shortly before the November 2008 election, is a children's book entitled My Dad, John McCain. The other, released in 2010, is a book entitled Dirty Sexy Politics, in which, as the book description writes, "She takes a hard look at the future of her party. She doesn't shy away from serious issues and her raucous humor and down-to-earth style keep her positions accessible." The book takes the reader deep inside the campaign in 2008, and on the way tells a story of how McCain discovered how far the GOP has ventured away from "its core values of freedom, honesty, and individuality."

Certainly known for speaking her mind and being much more progressive than her father, I am in a place where I'm not sure what to do with her. I first became acquainted with Meghan when she began taking very progressives stances supporting gay marriage, and against Proposition 8 in California. Indeed, on The Daily Beast, she wrote several pieces justifying her opposition to Prop 8, urging the GOP to support gay rights, and more recently standing against Don't Ask Don't Tell. She was featured as a speaker at several meetings of the Log Cabin Republicans, one of the only national organizations for Republican LGBTs and allies. Again and again, she outspokenly stood in opposition to her father's views on gay rights.

At the beginning of her time with The Daily Beast, Meghan got into a very public debate with staunchly conservative radio personalities, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham. As the debate progressed, Ingraham said, of Meghan, "Ok, I was really hoping that I was going to get that role in The Real World, but then I realized that, well, they don't like plus-sized models."  Meghan struck back with intellect, and a bit of feminist insight on The Daily Beast, writing,
Instead of intellectually debating our ideological differences about the future of the Republican Party, Ingraham resorted to making fun of my age and weight, in the fashion of the mean girls in high school....Everyone from Jessica Simpson to Tyra Banks, Oprah Winfrey, and Hillary Clinton has fallen victim to this type of image-oriented bullying....The question remains: Why, after all this time and all the progress feminists have made, is weight still such an issue? And in Laura’s case, why in the world would a woman raise it? Today, taking shots at a woman’s weight has become one of the last frontiers in socially accepted prejudice.
When her home state of Arizona passed SB 1070, Meghan spoke out against it--and her father's views--yet again. Additionally, I posit that Meghan might actually be a pro-life feminist--proclaiming she is pro-sex education, pro-life, and pro-family on an Episode of The Colbert Report. While some may disagree, her views on female body image, and supporting sex education, gay marriage, and gay adoption have made third-wave feminism part of the mainstream conversation that is happening in both political parties.

While researching more about Meghan, I discovered that in 2004, while she was a student at Columbia University, she voted for John Kerry. Despite her independent voter registration upon reaching age 18 and her seemingly liberal leanings, she remains devoted to the Republican party, changing her registration to Republican in 2008.

Indeed, Meghan's refreshing views of some social issues seem to be what could later become the saving grace of the Republican Party. With so many of the younger generation of voters supporting Obama and The Democrats, McCain may be a very important and instrumental figure in maintaining the GOP's popularity in the next decade and beyond. But, is she a feminist? I say she is. What say you?


Ringo1985 said...

I think that Meghan McCain is the perfect case study for the question: Can a GOP representative, who embraces "traditional" family values and other political leanings typical of the Republican party, truly be a feminist? I think that answer is yes. Though I think it is a rarity when a person so closely affiliated with GOP values can be considered a feminist, Megan McCain shows that this paradox can exist, with several exceptions.

I don't mean to sound condescending about GOPers, but I think that in this day and age, alignment with the Republican Party on social issues is quintessentially "non-feminist." Before the GOP was taken over by religious zealots and staunch advocates of traditional values, it probably was possible for a women to have conservative social and economic values and still be considered a "feminist." However, with the advent of radical GOP candidates, it appears that anyone who diverges from the protypical Republican rhetoric is not a party member.

That being said, Meghan McCain, the progeny of Republicans such as John McCain, who essentially spawned the GOP parade of horrors by mindlessly choosing Sarah Palin as his choice for VP, seems to be somewhat of an anomaly. I would argue that Meghan McCain IS a feminist because she does not fit the traditional GOP image. I think that a large part of this has to do with the fact that McCain, before he was "converted" by the extreme GOP Bush fundamentalist camp, was not the conservative candidate that he tried to mold into when in it came time to run for the presidency. I would also argue that McCain is more of a "Team Arnold" member (disregarding all of Arnold's escapades as an unfaithful husband) who possess fiscal conservative beliefs but is socially liberal at heart. Arnold was not against gay marriage and was not a strident "pro-lifer" and I believe that McCain is of the same political disposition as Arnold.

That being said, Meghan McCain is not Sarah Palin or Rick Perry's daughter. Therefore, Meghan's rhetoric that appears out of line with GOP values makes her "UnRepublican." The GOP is in dire of need of a reality check and a wake up call, and it will drive itself into the ground if the party continues to preach hard line, anti-abortion, anti-gay and strict family values that do not resonate with the rest of America.

So to answer your question, Meghan McCain probably is a feminist. Personally, someone like Meghan McCain has the ability to bolster the feminist movement and make female issues central to the GOP debate. She is articulate, well- educated, and has the resources, time, and persona to make feminism and other issues related to feminism a forefront in the fledgling generation of GOPers who are against the hardline, intransigent, and backwards view of the rest of the GOP.

Megan said...

I agree with the post and Ringo's comment that there can indeed be such a thing as a Republican feminist, who "embraces 'traditional' families values," but perhaps knows when to bend traditional notions of family (ie-to accept same-sex marriage). I know my parents used to identify as Republican because of economic policies they agreed with (they have since converted). But they were never very swayed by the social issues that loom large in dinner-table conversations regarding elections and party affiliation. Thus, one could say that they were essentially, feminist Republicans.

AMA said...

I think that it's sad that in 2011 a major political party's ideology is essentially anti-woman. That said, female Republicans this day and age really confuse me: do they not want equal rights? As Ringo1985 stated, the new GOP is a different animal than the pre-Reagan GOP, and unfortunately the new GOP seems to want to invest more energy is hindering social progress than making meaningful advancements for this country.

In my opinion, Meghan McCain is not really a Republican; by today's standards she is likely a "fiscally conservative" Democrat or some sort of Libertarian. Either way, it's so refreshing to see a smart, articulate, young woman who is willing to speak her mind, even if it's not in step with her party's ideology. Further, I respect her for confidently speaking up about sexist comments from other women - go Meghan!

AMS said...

I too agree that Meghan is a feminist, and, like AMA, I do not consider her a Republican. Yet, Meghan identifies as both a Republican and a feminist. Thus, in a case like that of Meghan McCain, it makes sense to further explore the concept of identity.

Throughout this semester, we have discussed many different definitions of feminism and issues central to feminism. At many points, I too questioned whether a woman could consider herself a feminist and still identify with any traditional, social values. Ultimately, though, I prefer to embrace women who identify as feminists, so long as they support changes and causes that will surely improve the status of women in America. Women still have a long way to go to achieve equality of treatment and respect. Thus, even when I question whether a given woman's identities conflict, I know that some progress is better than none.

Meghan’s identity as a Republican is also interesting. In our predominantly two-party system, one essentially chooses between two options that do not always completely fit his or her views on every issue. Many people affiliate with the party that best represents their views on the issues they value most. Many Americans also tend to vote with the same party as their parents. As the daughter of a politician, Meghan’s political identity matters to her family, her father’s party, and America. If Meghan is a feminist, it’s quite possible that she values her family, her economic positions, her stance on the pro-choice/pro-life debate, and/or some other issue more than her feminist positions.

Caitlin, I believe you’re exactly correct in pointing out that Meghan may prove an instrumental figure in terms of GOP popularity. It says a lot when a person with liberal views on many social issues still identifies as a Republican. If women like Meghan--with identities like Meghan's--represent the future of the party (rather than many of the other women we’ve seen representing the Republicans over the last few years), then I’m very interested to see how the party evolves over the next few decades—especially with respect to women.