Sarah Palin, and How She is Using Feminism for Her Own Misogynist Ends

11Jun10

So, Sarah Palin!  More specifically, the idea that Sarah Palin seems to have that she is feminist!

It’s been a while since writing about these things has had a natural flow for me, which is why I haven’t been writing much.  But then I starting commenting on Facebook about this, and I realized: Hey!  This is what it feels like when you get pissed off and start writing passionately about something!  Don’t you remember this surge of power and ideas and coherence when expressing said ideas?!  Haven’t you missed that?

And so, here I am.  To discuss Sarah Palin.

There are many days when I really wish Sarah Palin would just pop out of the American consciousness as quickly and easily as she popped in.  Sure, she’s provided us with some good laughs, but is it really worth the trade-off?

This feminism debacle has torn me two ways — on one hand, I really wish she would disappear and take her attempt to redefine feminism with her; on the other, I can’t help but wonder how this might open new doors for actual feminists to discuss what that means with others.

Sarah Palin is certainly not feminist.  You cannot be feminist and actively fight to strip women of their rights (for example, you can be personally pro-life, but not politically — you can make the decision for yourself, but to be feminist you must at the very least accept that every woman deserves the right to make that choice for herself).  Sarah Palin is attempting to make feminism synonymous with misogyny — it is the same patriarchal you-don’t-know-what’s-best-for-you bullshit wrapped up in a pretty pro-women package.  See, when it’s the women instead of the men telling you it’s for your own good, it’s feminism!  And, as a bonus, if you’re just using feminism as a guise for forcing your misogyny on other women, you don’t have to worry about the pesky consequences of actual feminism!  Wanting silly things like bodily autonomy, equal pay, government representation, healthy and comprehensive sexual education in schools, that just pisses people off.  And, well, you know how the patriarchy is, it just can’t help itself!  It will do everything in its power to make your existence difficult and problematic!  You might even have to spend every single day fighting to live your life on your own terms!  Theoretically simple aspects of daily life might turn into huge ordeals!  So, you understand, it’s best just to accept your proper role, settle into having a nice, heteronormative family, and forget about trifles such as equality and respect.  Trust me, after you are forced to carry three pregnancies to term and the pressures of rearing children you weren’t ready for (for one reason or another) and taking care of your husband kick in, you won’t even have time to worry about equality!  See?  Aren’t you grateful we “real” feminists dictated the terms by which you will live your life?

Okay, that turned into a major rant I did not intend.  What I meant to say was:  There are consequences to being feminist — most especially if you are open about being feminist.  It isn’t really popular.  I’ve been faced with a great deal of hostility when I reveal myself as feminist to people who knew me before I identified as such (and sometimes to people who did not know me before, but I’ve experienced the greatest hostility from people who were friends at some point).  At times this hostility is open, but often it takes the form of snide jabs that are brushed off with a “just kidding” if I actually respond.  Have you ever experienced someone rejecting and mocking something that is a huge part of your character, that greatly defines you as a person?  Have you ever experienced them doing so and then acting as if the fact that you took offense to it was just so inconvenient, and really you shouldn’t take it so seriously when they are expounding on how worthless and unpleasant people like you are?  If you have, you know it isn’t fun.  In fact, it really, really sucks.  (It’s worth it, for me, without question — even if I thought I was capable of eschewing feminism, I would not do so.)  If you’re misogynist-under-the-guise-of-feminism, those consequences don’t really exist.  You’re toeing the line.  In short, you are firmly “in your place,” and there is no worry about you questioning the laws of the patriarchy.  If you’d like to tell yourself and the people around you that said laws are actually for the good of all women everywhere, even better.

So when Sarah Palin calls herself feminist while not actually holding feminist views, I get pretty pissed off.  (And you can say she’s been advocating for women in positions of power, but she’s mostly been advocating for privileged white women in positions of power — women who will continue to further misogynistic goals — and that just doesn’t cut it.)  But I also wonder what opportunities might open up when people don’t automatically break out the crosses and garlic when the words, “I am feminist” pass someone’s lips.  How many more chances will we have to complete that with, “And this is what that means?”

Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t make Palin’s co-opting of the term for her own anti-women ends acceptable.  But, since I do not think we will be able to stop that — she seems pretty determined to use it despite the objections of the people who actually are feminist — perhaps this will open up more chances for us to discuss feminism and what it really means.

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