“Sarah Palin Feminism?” More Like Sarah Palin Sexism


Have you heard the news? After years of mocking us, the
right wing has discovered "feminism!" Well, sort of. In their Rovian factories
of deceit, they’ve minted a new kind of feminism that shoves those of us who
have actually been working for women’s rights out of the picture (we’re in the
dreaded community organizers demographic). They’ve taken the proverbial F-word,
the term we love, fight over, continually redefine, and work ourselves to the
bone for, and re- appropriated it into: "Sarah
Palin feminism
."

"Sarah
Palin feminism" means something very different.

Actual feminism means fighting
against genuinely sexist slurs, some of which have been used against Palin,
like the "VPIL…" meme, the "can a mother be a politician?" question and the
sexist action dolls. These are genuine, if surface-skimming, instances of sexism,
because reducing a woman to her body, or her motherhood, make her less than a full person. And the attitude behind the dolls
and the bikini photos is connected to anti-women policies that don’t just make
us feel bad, but curtail our freedoms.

We’ve heard
lots of complaints against this actual
sexism from real
feminist
quarters, and not much from the right wing. On the other hand,
what they have complained about loud
and clear are the attacks on Palin’s qualifications. "Sarah Palin feminists"
claim to believe that the media’s aggressive questioning of her record as Mayor
of Wasilla and Governor of Alaska is sexist. Nothing sums this up more clearly
than Jon
Stewart’s montage
of conservative figureheads scoffing at claims of sexism
from the Clinton camp, and then turning a 180 to cry "sexist!" once Palin arrived
in their corner.

Unfortunately, while feminists believe in voting for a
candidate based on what he or she will do for women, "Sarah Palin Feminists"
also believe that female voters will flock to Palin merely because she is a
woman. The callous reasoning behind the Palin pick was partly the idea that
women voters will say "You have a uterus? I have a uterus! Let’s get together!"

Now it
seems their calculation may have had some success. One
widely-seized-upon poll
seems to show a gargantuan shift in female support
to Palin from Obama, voters in the much-coveted "white women" demographic. (The
Obama campaign disputes this polling.) Chris Matthews is titillated beyond
belief because the "regular folks" (aka white folks) are back in play. 

One month ago, a different
poll
conducted on behalf of the National Women’s Law Center showed that "women
are significantly more pessimistic than men in their attitudes about the status
quo in America, both on a societal level and in terms of their own lives." On
issues like health care, reproductive rights, and the economy, women in this
poll would seem like the prime Obama demographic: hungry for change, eager for
a just government to help level an unfair playing field. Have women been so
wooed by the Palin hype — or offended by the Palin controversies — that they’re
moving against their self interest?

We don’t know which poll has better predictive value. But as the election draws near, we must take feminism back. We have
to shake off distractions like the nothing-doing
story
that is Barack Obama using the "pig with lipstick" colloquialism.
That’s not sexism. Making rape victims pay for their own rape
kits
is sexism. Calling a candidate out on lies is not sexism.
Abstinence-only education is sexism.

And reproductive rights are not
just a feminist pet issue, but rather
a genuine threat to the autonomy and health of all American women
. The
NWLC’s press release reminded us of the following statistics:

One in four girls drops out of high
school. More than 14 million women live in poverty, and more than 17 million
women have no health insurance. Women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar
paid to men.

These kinds of statistics may not
reveal the most glamorous aspects of the feminist agenda, like fighting
cleavage-gate, but most self-described feminists (including this pop-culture
columnist) agree that issues like poverty and health care are what underlie
our movement. We fight against attacks on women’s bodies on TV and on the street, we fight for women’s
rights in presidential debates and in
shelters, because they’re connected. We can’t follow the "Sarah Palin feminists’"
lead, and focus on the spin of sexism
without remembering the substance, on the ground, in our lives.

Are women so excited
by Palin’s presence that we don’t remember the laissez-faire at best and hostile at worst approach a far right agenda would include when it comes to our rights? Can we forget the
women who will lose their bodily integrity, maybe die, if women’s reproductive rights are lost?

The right
wing is trying to redefine racism (which has genuinely been present
in the anti-Obama attacks and largely ignored) as something a black preacher
said, and sexism as attacks on political record of a right-wing woman. It’s
classic Orwellian double-speak from the folks who brought you "compassionate
conservatism," "time horizons," "No Child Left Behind" and yes, "Pro-Life." We
have to fight back now, and hard, to keep in mind what sexism truly is, and
where it hits the hardest.

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  • invalid-0

    Sarah Palin is a working mother who does not allow male privilege to prevent her from working in the previously male world of Governmental politics in a macho state. Sarah Palin shows her lack of closeness to the East coast urbanness of the United States by her choice of words, her non-hair-salon hair, her wearing of glasses, her reference to her husband as “the first dude”, her kind of apologizing last night for arriving in Alaska in a huge USA plane from McCain’s campaign, and in other little ways that are obvious only to urbanites and especially to news media who are very aware of appearances and meanings. If she has made a major unethical act in her political or personal life, such as the question about the safety of her youngest son in the manner and timing of his birth, as with all people being considered for a high power job, this must be determined. The issue of experience in this election is balanced in both parties’ candidates, and is of less importance than the issue of character, which is what news media attempt to help determine through the process of campaigning, which is a kind of public vetting of candidates.

  • invalid-0

    I find it so interesting that McCain’s campaign has made it clear that this campaign is about personalities, not issues. Janet made it clear that she likes Palin’s “personality”, but what about the ISSUES. The issues are what raises the price of gas and food, makes health insurance unaffordable and unattainable for 47 million people, further decreases access to basic maternal and child health services (including RH services), and further depletes our natural resources in an unsustainable and irresponsible way.
    Personally, Palin’s “personality” as well as that of McCain gives me the he-be-jeebies and I literally shudder at the thought of them continuing to drive our country into the ground as Bush has done for the past 8 years.
    Palin is well aware that people like Janet find her comments like “first dude” and her attempts at showing her humble side such as selling her plane on ebay are very effective at distracting voters from her record and the truth (for example, her plane was not sold on ebay, she did not let her chef go but instead reassigned her, and the list goes on).
    We cannot elect leaders based on their sex organs, it is their norms, values and beliefs that determine whether or not someone is a feminist and whether or not they truly believe in gender equality and basic human rights for all in the world. Janet, if you are electing your future President and VP based on character, I implore you to take the rose colored glasses you’ve been tricked into wearing.

  • invalid-0

    I encourage all who think that by voting for McCain they are somehow voting for someone with integrity to read the following piece from Andrew Sullivan, a conservative columnist and former McCain supporter: http://www.truthout.org/article/mccains-integrity

  • http://www.ravingatheist.com invalid-0

    Making rape victims pay for their own rape kits is sexism.
    Yes, Sarah, you’re right, it is. It’s sexist to this day that Illinois — NOT Alaska — still bills rape victims for the kits, even though federal law requires the state to cover them. And Obama never — NEVER — lifted a finger to stop this.
    It’s sexist that up until last month, every Democratic Mayor in North Carolina approved the billing of rape victims for their rape kits.
    Be honest, Sarah. You know very well that no rape victim in Alaska ever paid a penny for a rape kit. All that happened was that the police attempted to shift, where possible, the costs over to the insurer rather than the state. And this happened in many states — primarily because the medical care and forensic tests often overlapped and were rendered in the emergency room, so that the hospital stuck everything on the same bill. It was an administrative billing issue, not sexism.

    • invalid-0

      “You know very well that no rape victim in Alaska ever paid a penny for a rape kit. ”

      We know nothing of the sort. What we do know is that Wasilla was the ONLY town in Alaska where rape victims were billed for the cost of processing their rape kits and that it was a policy instituted by the police chief Mrs Palin hired after she fired the old one.. Indeed the reason that the Alaska legislature passed a bill making this vile practice illegal was because of Mrs Palin and her chief’s example.

  • invalid-0
  • http://godlessliberalhomo.blogspot.com/ invalid-0

    Why is it that so little attention is being paid to the McCain campaign’s contemptuous and misogynistic treatment of Ms. Palin? Why is McCain being left off the hook for his repeated sexual harassment of Palin at public campaign appearances?

    The corporate media are treating the discussion of sexism as a partisan, Republican political tool rather than as an important issue in our society.

    • http://www.tonerall.com invalid-0

      That’s a very interesting observation. Can anyone help and give an example of when this happened and what exactly did McCain say that was considered sexual harassment towards Sarah Palin? I think I can totally see him do it, but would like to know the context of it all. Thanks. – Mei

  • http://www.applied-visions.at invalid-0

    There was a time when female did not had the right to elect. This time is thank goodness over and women like you have achieved very much till now. But there is still an unbalance between men and women (e.g. job and money). So don´t stop your efforts. Greetings, Niki

  • http://www.automatedfitness.com/ invalid-0

    I love how Hillary was attacked from all sides when she has claims of sexism but Palin can complain all she wants and the right wing base is right behind her screaming sexism.

  • http://www.gipsy-info.com invalid-0

    Sarah Palin acted like the kind of woman who don´t distinguishable very much from a man in policy. But I think it is the gain of power what implicates it. Meanwhile Sarah Palin is past but we don´t know for how long ;-)

  • http://www.thailandfotos.com invalid-0

    Well written article and we can say that the author came to the point what sexism is and why an “uterus” makes such a difference. I hope many men will read this article too and start thinking about it. It is time that women should also say more in politics. I enjoyed it to read this article. Thank you for that, Sarah.

  • http://www.goldring.it invalid-0

    I have to think by sexism about the old greek legend. Man and woman where long time ago one person. Because of being unique this person was very powerful – too powerful for the gods. So they split this person into man and woman. At this time I think sexism was born. Thank you gods for it, was it really necessary?! ;-)

  • http://smartcosmeticsworld.com/ invalid-0

    I am not sure how legitimate the sexism claims were. I think the republicans tried to take advantage of the fact that a woman was running for the vice president position. The sexism characterization was just one more weapon in their arsenal. Fortunately or unfortunately their strategy didn’t work not because Palin is a woman but because she didn’t inspire confidence in the American people.

  • http://javascript-reference.info invalid-0

    We know nothing of the sort. What we do know is that Wasilla was the ONLY town in Alaska where rape victims were billed for the cost of processing their rape kits and that it was a policy instituted by the police chief Mrs Palin hired after she fired the old one.. Indeed the reason that the Alaska legislature passed a bill making this vile practice illegal was because of Mrs Palin and her chief’s example.

  • invalid-0

    If Sarah Palin is a feminist, so is Phyllis Schlafly.
    (For those of you too young to remember, Schlafly was one of the most vituperative opponents of the Equal Rights Ammendment.)

    There is nothing feminist about declaring that a woman pregnant by rape or incest must be compelled to carry that unwanted burden to term. (Even worse when one makes that same declaration about one’s own daughters.)

    Calling one’s husband a “dude” does not make one a feminist, though it may well be a term of endearment some husband’s would enjoy (and others would not) and may be a term some feminists would use and others would not.

    Expecting to be judged by a lesser standard of competence than a man applying for the same position is quite definitely NOT feminist. A feminist expects to be judged and paid by the same standard as any other person applying for or doing the same job. Feminists generally have grown up expecting to have to work twice as hard and be twice as good. Feminists consider that “twice” standard grossly unjust but they will meet it if that’s what it takes to get the job and get the job done. Palin doesn’t even meet the standard of being half as good as the typical Veep candidate.

    Feminists don’t spend $150.000 on a new wardrobe unless they themselves earned that money. And most feminists who have earned that kind of money find better ways to spend it.

    (I suspect most feminists don’t take joy in shooting helpless animals from airplanes, but I could be wrong about this. Feminists may well fly airplanes or be astronauts, but they generally have a more worthy purpose than wolf-murder.)

    Hillary Clinton is a feminist. Sarah Palin is profoundly anti-feminist.

  • http://herbiemichael.com invalid-0

    I think this whole situation about feminism and sexism was a bit over the top. Well, the whole Palin thing was a bit over the top as well. Many times it seemed that the Republicans would do and say anything they could to win this….