As I’m completely overwhelmed with a week’s worth of teacher workshops, new student orientation, and a classroom full of bright shining faces waiting for me to teach them on Monday, I received the ultimate gift.
But seriously … there has been much conversation about Palin and the feminist mantle. I mean, if you listen to her speak, she’s clearly lacking in the brain department and has achieved success on being the fairly attractive “Sarah Barracuda.” At the same time, though, you have to give Sarah Palin some sort of credit for reaching a political pinnacle most women could only dream of … and is that not a feminist action?
Oh, and my favorite part of this list involves Palin’s misconceptions on mother grizzly bears. Ah, Sarah Palin … trumped by Mother Nature. In a list form.
So here it is, a list of why Sarah Palin can legit refer to herself as a feminist.
1. Because, let’s be honest, feminism is a broad church. The history of feminism is a history of conflict, often vitriolic debate, and decades-long feuds over who can wear the mantle of true believer. A brief glance at history shows us that there are many different kinds of feminism—from traditionalists to radical extremists—even though American feminism has been dominated for three decades by the divisive, bitter question of reproductive rights. Yes, the right to control your own body is a key, crucial plank of feminist thought today, underpinned by the independence, autonomy, and rights of women. But it is not the only plank.
Yup, I’ll go with this one. My interpretation of modern feminism is that women should have the right to do what they want to do without limitations brought on by gender. Sarah Palin embodies this.
2. Because it will force us to properly scrutinize the Mama Grizzlies, the term Palin uses for politically active Republican women, which connotes fierceness, strength, danger—and size. It’s another of her very clever taglines, like pitbulls or hockey moms. As Palin and her supporters continually remind us, these women—and bears—are proudly pro-life. Big, brown female bears, rearing on their hind legs to protect their young, have become symbols for the anger and might of Republican women, ready to crush lily-livered …
… liberals in the midterm elections.
Yup, we’ll have to keep an eye on those crazy uber-conservative women (although, as the article points out, Tea Partiers are proving to be primarily middle-aged white men). But the best part, of course, is columnist Julia Baird’s assertion that, with the “Mama Grizzly” image, Palin actually picked one of the few animals on the planet that could be considered natural spokesbears for Planned Parenthood.
On a technical matter, female grizzly bears are, in fact, models of carefully managed reproduction. Sure, they’ll let a male try to impregnate them—but they won’t have any cubs until the time is right. Once a female grizzly has mated, a fertilized egg can wander in her womb for months until the conditions are right for growing the fetus—usually during hibernation. It’s called delayed implantation. Mama Grizzlies, then, could almost be pinups for (naturally) planned parenthood.
3. Because isn’t it just a little bit cool that suddenly people want to be feminists again?
Yes, and although this was almost certainly not Palin’s intent, it’s a pretty cool fringe benefit. Almost as good as listening to her speak. But not quite.
4. Because Palin is kicking some goals. Yes, many of her policies are dubious, her vision of America is troubling, and her defense of Laura Schlessigner’s use of the N word was inexcusable. Still, can’t we get even a glimmer of satisfaction from the fact that the unapologetic Palin is outshining most of the men in her party, with guts and charisma, if not political depth? How quickly we forget that for decades, women fought the idea that female candidates that were not electable—that men would get more votes simply for being men. Being a mother was considered a liability. In mid-2008 a Pew survey found only one in five Republicans would support a mother of school-age children as a candidate. In 2007, 53 percent of Republicans thought mothers of young kids working outside the home was bad for society. Yes, more than half. And yet Palin, a mother of five, presents being a working mother as a strength: “moms just know when there’s something wrong.” You may disagree with what these moms want to put right, but at least they are skewering outdated views about working moms.
This is also true. Okay, she’s by many accounts thrown her own children under the bus in the process (between Levi Johnston shacking up with Bristol unsupervised in the Palin family home and her lack of concern for her pregnancy with Trig, one she knew was at increased risk), but she’s proven that women and mothers can in fact attain positions of power.
5. Because we are thinking about what feminism is again—and abortion, in the lead up to midterm elections where, according to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, a record number of candidates hold extreme pro-life positions. Maddow called the anti-abortion-rights positions of Republican Senate candidates—such as Nevada’s Sharron Angle, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and Ken Buck in Colorado—the “sleeper issue” in this year’s campaigns. (The official GOP platform is that abortion not be allowed even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.) Few think Roe v. Wade is under threat, but perhaps this might make some more vigilant.
YES! But why does it always lead back to abortion? I’m reminded of Dick Cheney, who is not exactly a guy I want to emulate, and the courage he showed when he stopped talking smack about homosexuals when his daughter came out publicly. When it hits you personally, when your wife is impregnated by a rapist or your twelve-year-old sister is knocked up by your father or your wife and unborn baby are both going to die if the fetus isn’t aborted, you might very well feel differently about the Republican party line.
6. Because Democrats need to lift their game. The challenge for Democrats is to stop ridiculing Palin and start trying to outsmart her with their own rhetoric.
Yup, Palin has certainly become a basis for comparison …
I have long thought of Sarah Palin as “The Accidental Feminist,” actually. She is sparking discussions that need to happen, bringing up issues that need to be addressed, and yes, she is proving that women in politics are not necessarily held back by their gender (although it helps if they look cute in a designer power suit).