Once more, with feeling: Sarah Palin is not a feminist

Headshot of Sarah PalinSeriously, y’all – how many times does it have to be said? Sarah Palin is not a feminist. I thought we had covered Palin’s gross appropriation of feminism and feminist rhetoric during the election, but media coverage of Palin’s recent speech for the anti-choice PAC the Susan B. Anthony List has reignited the debate. (Incidentally, the whole thing about Anthony being pro-life has been debunked.)
Meghan Daum at the LA Times writes,

“But putting that aside, I feel a duty (a feminist duty, in fact) to say this about Palin’s declaration: If she has the guts to call herself a feminist, then she’s entitled to be accepted as one.”

So, simply declaring oneself a feminist is all that it takes to be a feminist? Methinks not. Under this standard of feminism anyone – a racist, a misogynist, etc – could be a feminist just because they identify as such. Ridiculous. Daum’s argument also presupposes that it took “guts” for Palin to identify as a feminist, something that’s so often maligned in U.S. culture.
Now, there is no doubt that there is a backlash against feminism and the women who identify with the movement – but that backlash is largely confined to feminists who actually espouse and fight for feminist values. Conservative and anti-feminist women who have appropriated the feminist label – like Palin or organizations like the Independent Women’s Forum – only benefit from using the word. Because, they claim, they’re the “real” feminists. (The “feminists” who want to limit women’s reproductive rights, cut funding to VAWA and claim that pay inequity doesn’t exist.) These self-proclaimed “feminists” are using the word because they know it has power and because they know it resonates with women. But when it comes to actually implementing policy that’s feminist, or fighting for women’s rights…well, not so much.
The fabulous Rebecca Traister said it best during the election in her piece on “Zombie Feminism”:

The pro-woman rhetoric surrounding Sarah Palin’s nomination is a grotesque bastardization of everything feminism has stood for, and in my mind, more than any of the intergenerational pro- or anti-Hillary crap that people wrung their hands over during the primaries, Palin’s candidacy and the faux-feminism in which it has been wrapped are the first development that I fear will actually imperil feminism. Because if adopted as a narrative by this nation and its women, it could not only subvert but erase the meaning of what real progress for women means, what real gender bias consists of, what real discrimination looks like.

Exactly. What’s truly unsettling is that women like Palin and IWF want to use the feminist label to fight against women’s rights! After all, Palin keeps touting herself as a working mom, but she ran on a presidential ticket that supported business’ right to discriminate on the basis of gender, that opposed increased funding for SCHIP and that supported cuts to the Family and Medical Leave Act. And, of course, Palin is anti-choice – she even opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest, and is against emergency contraception. And while I’m sympathetic to the idea that abortion shouldn’t be a litmus test for feminism – I believe, for example, that one can be personally pro-life and feminist – there is simply no way that you can advocate for the limitation of other women’s rights and access to health care and call yourself a feminist. And seriously, Palin doesn’t even support those women who do decide to keep their pregnancies – remember when she cut funding for a shelter for pregnant teens in Alaska? Explain to me how this is feminist.
However, the clearest indication of how anti-feminist this Palin-as-feminist framing is, is the conservative response actual feminists’ criticisms of Palin. “Liberal feminists” (as they’re calling us now) don’t like Palin because she’s attractive and happy, because we’re jealous of her sexuality, we hate her because she’s a mom, or – my personal favorite – we simply all have “post-abortion syndrome”. The fact that these proponents of Palin’s brand of “feminism” can’t help but fall back on sexist stereotypes about women’s political beliefs shows how full of shit this argument is. The proof’s in the pudding, folks.
At the end of the day, Palin can call herself a feminist all she likes – shit, I can call myself an astronaut! – there’s nothing we can do about that. But we can hold media accountable when they repeat her line of crap – so next time you see an article about how feminist Palin is, try telling them what a real feminist thinks.
Related Posts: Note to mainstream media: Sarah Palin is NOT a feminist
Is Sarah Palin a Feminist? Friday Feminist Fuck NO.
Brian Lehrer Asks, Is Palin a Feminist?
Parsing Palin’s empty “feminist” rhetoric
Palin backtracks on being a feminist

Join the Conversation

  • Jessica

    No, I think transphobia isn’t an a “strict brand of feminism,” but the very antithesis of it.

  • Kessei

    I think you missed my point. I’m not saying that Sarah Palin is a feminist; I’m just saying that some people saying she ISN’T a feminist are hypocrites, because they themselves are not feminists and have no idea what feminism constitutes.
    In order to say she isn’t a feminist, first feminism needs to be specifically defined. You seemed to say feminism is belief in “a woman’s right to control her body.” A libertarian approach!
    That’s still a bit vague, and that’s not one of the more classic definitions of feminism, but at least it’s -a- definition. It’s something that can be worked with, and you did – you applied it to her politics and said, “She does not fit this definition.”
    Do you see my point? Most people on this thread have not articulated a definition of feminism, other than very vague statements.

  • Lisa

    I never addressed what feminist politics/beliefs were. I focused on reproductive rights since that is what your post seemed to focus on. Feminism deals with more than just women’s reproductive rights, though I would argue that is one of the bigger issues feminist focus on. However, as I stated in my comment, you cannot be a feminist and be against women’s reproductive rights/freedoms.
    I would argue that most people in this thread already know what feminism is and didn’t see the need of addressing what it was. Jessica did not address what it means to be a feminist. She stuck with generic terms of “women’s rights.” If you are on feministing, there is a good chance you already know what feminism is. Feministing seems to focus on the dictionary definition which is “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.” With that being said, every post in this thread points to how Sarah Palin is not a feminist based off of that definition.
    I see what you are getting at but disagree since I think a lot of people on here already know what feminism is so they did not see the need of defining it.