Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sarah Palin is Not a Feminist, Revisited

Sarah Palin I thought we covered this already; in fact, I know that many covered this during the 2008 presidential election, as well as after, but mostly during election time. But since this has come up yet again, I guess it’s time to give everyone a little refresher. So, for the record, Sarah Palin is not a feminist.

The first time I had ever even heard of Sarah Palin was when John McCain announced she would be running alongside him for the vice-presidential seat and within 11 minutes of hearing her name and doing some very mild research on her, I was seething from the amount of people saying she was a strong, positive, feminist role model. A woman who does not support pro-woman legislation does not a feminist make, folks. I wrote about Sarah Palin and how she has proven to not be worthy of the feminist label nearly two full years ago and at that time (and since) I have received nearly 100 comments, some from people who agreed with me and many others who did not and told me basically, that just because Sarah Palin is not “my kind of feminist,” doesn’t mean she cannot call herself one.

Sarah Palin and the word feminist seem to have a habit of coming up in the media quite a bit. It seems that whenever Sarah Palin emerges from her Alaskan bunker to face the world or to give a speech (that she is now charging upwards of $100,000 a pop for), the media is so eager to slap the title of feminist on her. Not so surprisingly, the only time that the media as a whole chooses to run a “feminism is positive” feel-good story, it is when they are attributing the title to someone grossly anti-woman who supports tragic, anti-woman policies.

During a speech earlier this month to the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List, an extremely modest spin-off of the pro-abortion-rights group, Emily’s List, Palin brought up feminism, feminists and sisterhood. She told the more than 500 women in attendance that they are “responsible for an “emerging, conservative, feminist identity” and have the power to shape politics and elections around the issue.” To complete this point, she also told these women that they should only support candidates for public office who are uncompromisingly opposed to abortion.

Is this sentiment a nod to the fact that she will, indeed, be running for president in 2012? Oh I’m pretty sure that’s a yes.

Also appearing in her speech were a few words for us other feminists out here, you know, the feminists who work hard and wholeheartedly believe in passing legislation that supports women and gives women the power to make choices that affect their lives. After speaking about her decision to not abort her youngest child because she found out at 12-weeks of pregnancy that he would be born with Down Syndrome, she said that women are strong enough to handle having a family in addition to “pursuing career and education and avocations.” A sentiment that feminists do in fact believe in; we actually want legislation passed that would make it easier for women to realistically have everything they want and work for in life. But then she goes on to say, “Society wants to tell these young women otherwise. These feminist groups want to tell these women that, ‘No, you’re not capable of doing both.’ … It’s very hypocritical.”

Sarah Palin is not new to the buzz word-invoking tactics she uses in speeches and interviews. When she was interviewed by Katie Couric she said that she was a feminist, but later told NBC’s Brian Williams that she was not going to label herself anything. In the world of politics, that is called a definite flip flop and apparently Sarah Palin is now making herself comfortable by calling herself a feminist, but only when it suits her needs and viewpoint.

As Jessica Valenti put it in the Washington Post, “It’s not a realization of the importance of women’s rights that’s inspired the change. It’s strategy. Palin’s sisterly speechifying is part of a larger conservative move to woo women by appropriating feminist language. Just as consumer culture tries to sell “Girls Gone Wild”-style sexism as “empowerment,” conservatives are trying to sell anti-women policies shrouded in pro-women rhetoric.”

So I’m just going to come out and say it, and yes, I know some of you out there were waiting for it. I’m sorry, but you don’t just get to say you’re a feminist and automatically be one. It doesn’t work like that. It’s not allowed.

Meghan Daum wrote an entire article for the LA Times about how Sarah Palin has “made peace” with the “F-word” and how now that it’s a word that she can use to work for her to win more people over by spinning its connotations completely backward, we should be all be overjoyed with this. Daum’s own view of feminism, as she highlights in her article, is pretty much something anyone can relate to and attribute to themselves regardless of where they stand practically anywhere on the political scale. Can a man who hates gay people, goes to pro-life rallies and has everything Rush Limbaugh has ever said recorded for repeated listening be a feminist? In Daum’s world, absolutely!

I don’t necessarily believe that people must be able to go down a list of viewpoints and be able to check most, if not all of them off as something they agree with before being able to be called a feminist, I just think that people who openly call themselves feminists should probably have a good grasp over the women’s liberation movement and where feminism gained its roots. I want people who call themselves feminists to know what they are talking about and I want them to work hard to make sure legislation and policies on a country, state and a community level are passed that will help more women than hinder them. Feminists should want to make sure that children today are raised with the knowledge and with the confidence to know that they can do anything and nothing can stop them from fulfilling the dreams that they wish to some day accomplish. I want someone who calls themselves a feminist to believe that people deserve to live in a world without gender stereotypes or roles, without bigotry, without hate or discrimination, without sexism and misogyny and yes, I want them to believe that women deserve to make their own choices, not only when it comes to their bodies, but when it comes to every single aspect of their lives.

Kate Harding wrote over at Jezebel about the 5 Ways Of Looking At “Sarah Palin Feminism” that is both incredibly hilarious and informative.

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Posted in: Musings | | 7 Comments

7 Thoughts on Sarah Palin is Not a Feminist, Revisited | Leave a Comment

  1. Jen C says:

    Thank you for saying, so succinctly, what I've been feeling/trying to say every time a see someone say “Oh well I'm a “pro-life” feminist” (by “pro-life” they mean anti-choice.) They somehow think advocating against a woman's right to decide what happens with her sexuality, body and future is feminist?? I don't get it. It's like saying, “I'm a democrat but I'm for states rights, against big government, gay marriage and abortion….” THEN NO. YOU'RE NOT A DEMOCRAT. You can't be against the basis of the platform and still say you're a feminist. It doesn't work that way bub. Feminism is not a “choose your own story” adventure game. It has a plot, if you don't like the plot, you don't like the book. The end. Brava.

  2. Epiphora says:

    I just think that people who openly call themselves feminists should probably have a good grasp over the women’s liberation movement and where feminism gained its roots.

    EXACTLY. I don't care how non-inclusive it makes me/you seem — Palin just doesn't get to claim the title of feminist, especially when she only uses it to make her shitty points.

  3. gun safes says:

    “the only time that the media as a whole chooses to run a “feminism is positive” feel-good story, it is when they are attributing the title to someone grossly anti-woman who supports tragic, anti-woman policies.” – thank you for writing that! I notice that a lot in the media too. Feminism as a whole is portrayed negatively in the media (always showing images of butch women or overly-feminist women) and it irks me whenever they suddenly attach the word to their battered women new features.

  4. There is a good point in this part of your essay: “I want someone who calls themselves a feminist to believe that people deserve to live in a world without gender stereotypes or roles, without bigotry, without hate or discrimination, without sexism and misogyny and yes, I want them to believe that women deserve to make their own choices, not only when it comes to their bodies, but when it comes to every single aspect of their lives.” It is so true. I cannot really understand the discussions whether Sarah Palin is a feminist or not. Does this really matter? Not to me. Either I like her personally and her political views or I don't. And so should everyone be treated. Regardless of any feminist or other tendencies.

  5. Julialampman says:

    Greetings. In the early 80's I started working at an organization which provided a crisis line/suicide hot line as well as an advocacy center for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. During the nine years I worked there I learned about feminism. When I started working there I was searching for answers as I was healing from a violently abusive marriage from years prior. I wanted to help others as help was not available in the early to mid-70 's when I was experiencing domestic violence.

    In the small state I am from, I feel that I have been fortunate enough to be on the cutting edge of the feminist movement. As there was very little financial funding for this type of project most of the assistance/advocacy for victims was provided by volunteers.

    I take offense at Sara Palin on this issue. She has told the public that she does not believe in birth control for her children so her daughter got pregnant before graduating. No big deal (and of course Sara has made every attempt to use it to her advantage). Okay, we already get it that the “just say no to sex” for adolescents just doesn't do it. This is not a feminist stance, in my belief. What if her daughter really did not have the choice to have sex with the father of her child? He certainly is not the poster boy for the “boy next door” great guy. I have never heard her speak up for her daughter or for ways to protect other young women from having children too soon.

    As always, I am concerned for the message this is sending out to our young women. You have a major female figure who does not support a young woman on her right to chose birth control if she chooses to engage in a sexual relationship. In other words, the message being sent is “if you choose to have sex, then you must be accountable for you actions.” The same goes in that even if you do not choose, and you have sex then it is still your fault, and you are still accountable.

    How sad that after all of these years of hard work by women and men who have equally fought for equal rights no matter the gender, culture, sexual preference or whether a person is green, purple or polka-dotted, that Sara can walk right in and declare herself a FEMINIST. It is a mockery to every individual who has ever had to fight just to be allotted his/her individual rights in our country because of gender, race, religion, culture or sexual preference (sorry if I left anyone out. didn't mean to).

    Keep up the great work of getting this message out to the public. Love your stuff.

  6. Very nice article.
    She's a feminist by convenience. Only when she fells like or needs votes.

    The only good thing is that she looks soooo like Tina Fey that always find her somehow funny when I look at her pictures or at the tv :)

  7. Laura Reed says:

    Holly,

    I am as well versed in the feminist movement as I would like, and while I agree with your denouncement of most of Sarah Palin's views and proclamations related to feminism, I have to ask: What stance would you rather have her take on the mentioned issues? You alluded to it a bit, but it seemed vague.

    Thanks.

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