Palin’s all-white “Mama Grizzlies”

If you haven’t seen Sarah Palin’s latest shrewd attempt to reach out to women…well, here it is.

Transcript available at Shakesville.
The language is taken from a recent speech Palin gave at the Susan B. Anthony List – an anti-choice organization – where she tried (unsuccessfully) to paint herself as the “true” feminist. This ad is just another cynical move to appropriate feminism and feminist rhetoric; somehow Palin believes by shouting “yay women!” over and over again no one will notice that her policies are as anti-woman as they come.
The other telling part of this ad is that there only seems to be one kind of “mama grizzly” Palin is interested in wooing. Check out this letter to The Washington Post.

…In watching Ms. Palin hugging her supporters and handing out flowers, I saw something else. I noticed only one slightly off-white face among the many people she was reaching out to. And Ms. Palin pointedly says that conservative women are “mama grizzlies,” more formidable than “pit bulls.”
Of the deeply feminine women I know, none of them exclude people of color from her personal embrace.

Shocking, I know.
Related posts: Supporters of Sarah Palin’s “feminism” getting desperate
Jessica in WaPo on Sarah Palin’s fake feminism

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17 Comments

  1. konkonsn
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Mama Grizzly is the Mama Bear trope, and I think that site does a good job of explaining why I hate it so much. I think including mothering/mothers and such into feminism and activism is great. I think it’s rotten the way it gets portrayed under the Mama Bear trope.

  2. femmefatale09
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    The thing that gets me about this, even more than the blatant lack of diversity, is that somehow feminism is defined as being fully devoted to being a mother. The entire commercial identifies a strong woman simply as a woman who is a strong mother. Read as: “woman” is synonymous with “mother”. It says nothing of single, independent women who are looking out for society in general. In fact, even the ‘feminist’ mother examples given here have the women concerned about only their own families, not a benefit for all people.
    I don’t think motherhood has anything to do with feminism, beyond the fact that women have the right to embrace that option or decide not to have children. It’s incredible that Palin’s interpretation of feminsim is putting women in a box as mothers, exactly what feminism tries to speak against: while we do have the blessing of having kids, we also are capable of many other roles.
    It’s like I, as a young, single, childless female don’t matter, or can’t be a strong woman because I’m no ‘mama bear’. Since when were the only women who mattered mothers? Especially only mothers of one race?

  3. konkonsn
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Motherhood has everything to do with feminism! Women are the large majority of mothers, and those who are non-traditional mothers need our help even more. Motherhood covers everything from birth control to the rate of maternal deaths, gay adoption, mothers in prisons, what’s a “good” mother, baby products (in relation to gender and the environment)…I can’t list all the issues.
    Children’s rights are a huge feminist issue as well. My mind is blown right now.

  4. Megs
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Whenever I hear that “Mama Bear” saying now, I just think back to an NCIS episode where the Mossad Agent Ziva David doesn’t understand the idiom, when asked, “You know what they say about mama bears?” She responds with, “Yes, they eat their young when they run out of food.” Just an interesting connection if Palin really wants to use that “mama bear” image…

  5. femmefatale09
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    First of all, I’m sure to some extent I am less focused on the motherhood aspect because it does not pertain to me. Still, beyond birth control and maternal deaths, the rest may be issues many feminists happen to also support, but are not, in my mind, directly under the umbrella of feminism.
    Point by point: gay adoption. Feminism is the rights of women and redefining their sociocultural role; while many feminists tend to accept that sexual orientation, much like gender, should not affect rights, the two are companions, not synonymous.
    Mothers in prison. Feminism would be concerned with the rights of any woman in prison-and the idea of her being a mother shouldn’t change that. The only extra aspect would be her rights of visitation from her children, which would vary case to case and not be a generic issue.
    A “good” mother. Why would women’s rights movements be concerned about that? I can see feminism combating the concept of a “good” mother being a traditional idea of a stay at home mom. But, again, that’s about a general role of women struggling to be seen as more than a care giver. Any other concepts of rearing a child could fall under child rights, which, as we’ll get to, is not women’s rights.
    Baby products. Again, this could be due to my lack of personal experience of raising a child, but I’m not sure how gender discriminatory baby products can be. As to the environment, again, while many feminists may be activists for the environment, it is not an issue of feminism.
    Children’s rights. Feminism is women’s rights. Why would you lump children’s rights in with that unless women are seen as synonymous with children? Isn’t feminism all about identifying women as more than baby makers? Children’s rights is its own issue.
    While I don’t disagree that gay rights, the environment, and children’s rights are all very important issues, none of them pertain directly to feminism.
    And this brings me back to my issue with this commercial. If you’re going to lobby as a feminist, stick to the heart of the cause.

  6. sparky17
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Palin apparently thinks that all women are mothers. Why aren’t there any ads about how men are only interested in politics because they are concerned fathers defined only by their ability to make babies? I really like how only women are characterized by their parenthood and nothing else. Does she know that babies are made by a girl AND a boy?

  7. Lisa
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    1. Just because you do not focus on motherhood in your activism, doesn’t mean motherhood is not a feminist issue. Being a mother, choosing motherhood or not, being able to spend time with your kids, child care, etc. are ALL feminist issues.
    2. Feminism is a political movement for gender equality. Lesbians can and do adopt children. Gay men also adopt children. Adoption, no matter who the adoptive parents are, is a feminist issue. It is part of the pro-choice movement, which is a feminist movement/issue. Allowing gay couples to adopt is tied up to women’s rights because women adopt children and women give up children for adoption. A birth mother could want her child to go to a gay couple but if gay adoption is not permitted in the state she is in, the child cannot go to the gay couple. I could go on about how gay adoption is a feminist issues but I’ll leave it at that.
    3. Womens rights in prison is a feminist issue, which will include mothers rights. Whether it is a pregnant women who has to give birth in jail. Jessica (I think) just posted the NPR article on pregnant women in prison today. Visitation rights is one small aspect of mothers rights in prisons. Pregnancy rights in prison are a huge issue.
    4. Feminism is concerned about “good” mothering to change societies notion of what it means to be a good mother. Whether the women is a working mother (which most women are) or stay at home mother. Feminism is concerned about allowing women to spend more time with their children, childcare, etc. Which is all involved in changing the notion of what is a “good” mother. I would argue anyone who has children should be concerned about being a good parent. Being a good parent (mother or father) is a feminist issue. Helping people be good parents is a feminist issue.
    5. Baby products are geared towards women. They are made for mothers, not parents. Sociological Images, just did a good blog post on Safeways new baby products. That are geared towards mothers. The brand is called “mom to mom” since it assumes men do not take care of children. http://contexts.org/socimages/2010/07/17/the-invisible-father-safeways-mom-to-mom-brand/ I could go on about this topic as well. I know a lot of parents of infants and this topic comes up a lot.
    6. Girls will grow up to be women… Children rights are tied up with feminism, just like LGBT rights, civil rights, and every other social movement. Gender socialization, which starts in childhood, is a feminist issue. Allow boys and girls to grow up into the people they want to be is a feminist issue. Not making children stuck in gender roles is a feminist issue. Child abuse is a feminist issue, especially since it is tied up in domestic abuse. If a parent is being abused, their child is also most likely being abused. I am sure parents could give more reasons why child rights are feminist issues.
    7. Gay rights, environmental rights, child rights, etc are all feminist issues. They may not be the top issues that the main stream organizations (NOW, Feminist Majority Foundation, etc) focus on but they are all feminist issues. Feministing and other blogs focus on all of these issues. All of these issues effect women, which makes them feminist issues.

  8. konkonsn
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    I subscribe to the idea that you cannot solve oppression of one group until you solve oppression overall. If you don’t take your feminism with rights for BLGTQI, People of Color, people with disabilities, the environment, and so on, you’re only fixing the symptoms of an oppressive system. Now, I do believe that one person cannot solve all these things, so it’s best to stick with a theme or section of the monster as individuals (I’m particularly avid about Queer and Women’s rights at the moment). But if we don’t look at how these issues intersect, if we say we won’t include a piece of information because it doesn’t have anything to do with feminism, we really hurt ourselves by not fully understanding the situation.
    For instance, Children’s Rights is completely a feminist issue because you have female children, and there’s very specific and terrible things that happen only to girls simply because they are girls. As mothers are often the primary caregivers of children in our society (and throughout most of the world), helping children will help their mothers.
    I’d like to know what you think is the “heart” of the cause, because I really don’t get how you cannot see this issue as feminist.

  9. scootersmom
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree that “women are the large majority of mothers.” In fact, I think all mothers would be women.
    But that doesn’t make all women mothers. And it doesn’t make all feminists mothers.
    There are plenty of child free women that consider ourselves to be feminists.

  10. ChibiK629
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    What would you say is the heart of the cause? I don’t tend to prioritize the umbrella of causes that feminism covers. I also tend to see the issues of motherhood as something which affects many people, if even indirectly. For example, with affordable and accessible healthcare and birth control, paid parental leave, and affordable childcare, not only do mothers benefit but their children and partners benefit as well, as in less sick children and partners who are encouraged to share the parenting responsibilities, thus making it less assumed as woman’s role.
    When women have the help in taking care of children, they can do better in the workplace and that helps all women be seen as important members of the workforce rather than liabilities. I don’t think this makes motherhood a more important issue than any other in feminism but I do think it is a part that cannot be excluded from the whole.

  11. Surfin3rdWave
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    I am amazed by how short-sighted your vision of feminism is. As a woman who is trying to conceive, I’m troubled by your idea that motherhood is somehow unrelated to feminism.
    Motherhood have a LOT to do with feminism. Parents shape their children’s ideas about gender roles and sexuality. Parents choose what color a girl will wear, whether a boy can play with dolls, and how to react to children’s questions about sex.
    Breastfeeding and lactivism are closely linked to feminism. Conventional society tells us that boobs belong to men and shouldn’t be displayed in any context besides a sexual context.
    Poverty is significantly more difficult for women with children. While feminism aims to financially support both childless women and those with children, it’s important to note that the cost of living is much higher for single moms.
    Mothers in prison ARE a more significant issue than non-mothers who are incarcerated. Consider shackling during labor, etc. Mothers who are incarcerated shortly after giving birth lose the most important window of time for bonding. Since mothers are usually a child’s primary caregivers, they are much more likely to experience severe emotional distress when separated from them.
    Maternity leave is also feminist issue. In Sweden, new mothers can take off work for 1.5 years and receive full pay while taking care of their children. There is no mandatory paid maternity leave in the US, and many women don’t receive it at all.
    Postpartum depression is a major epidemic that almost exclusively affects women. And it’s nearly unheard of in non-patiarchal cultures.
    I could go on all day. A person can be a feminist witout being a mother and vice versa, but I’m troubled by the fact that you can’t see the connection.

  12. LaraStar
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    Ummm did she just call women “Pink Elephants”?

  13. grignoter
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    I almost find it weirdly sweet (in a hacked off kind of way) that she doesn’t seem to realise that women have been coming together and rising up for really quite a while now… And some of them weren’t even moms, how about that?!

  14. konkonsn
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Not all mothers are women. I guess if I were FtM trans and I had a baby, I would prefer the child to call me its father. That’s not to say that the definition of motherhood isn’t flexible, or that some male-bodied individuals don’t prefer the term.
    I never said all women are mothers or even tried to claim that non-mothers were feminists, so I’m confused as to why you’re emphasizing this point.

  15. konkonsn
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    *non-mothers “weren’t” feminists. Sorry…-_-

  16. femmefatale09
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    The heart of feminism is the definition of it: equal rights for women. Not ‘equal rights for mothers’, which is how this commercial read.
    As to solving equality for all, this is entirely true, but that doesn’t mean you can suddenly say that a main cause of feminists is gay rights. As I stated, it is a relatable issue, but not the issue. Lobbying for the rights of gay couples is not feminists lobbying for a feminist issue-it’s seeing a benefit for the greater good of all and feminists working alongside gay rights activists for a mutually beneficial goal. Yes, it’s clear that feminists can often see the need for all people to have rights, but that does not change the definition of feminism. Women’s rights is women’s rights.
    A lot of the issues discussed in the responding posts bother me because it seems to insinuate that many of those issues that childless women would deal with (imprisonment, shaping minds of youth, poverty, etc) seem to be more of an issue if a woman has a child. To me, these issues are equally important regardless if a woman has a child or not. Saying that the fact that she has a child makes these more pressing or more important defines a woman by her child.
    A woman should define herself. While having a child can change behaviors and responsibilities, so can tons of other things. Relationships for instance. Having a significant other in your life changes behaviors and responsibilities, but does your partner define you?
    What is more, a few of these things apply to parents, not mothers. A single father would have more financial issues. A single father would be faced with issues of defining his child’s thoughts. Leaving out the idea of a male dealing with many of these issues again saddles the idea of parenting being a woman’s job.
    However, reading over some of these things I do believe motherhood has a heavier role than I originally believed. For instance, the ideas of lactation and emotional distress were aspects I was yet to give time considering as far as their role in feminism, so I thank those who pointed that out.
    In the end, my general opinion remains that Palin’s commercial defines women as being driven solely by their own children, which does not sit well with me.

    • Posted July 22, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      I sort of bristled when you said motherhood having nothing to do with feminism and not being directly under the umbrella of feminism because as long as women are mothers, I cannot see how motherhood is not tied into women’s rights. I would never suggest that they are more important than any other issue covered in the wide spectrum of feminist issues, including those of childless women. My comment was only a suggestion about considering how the issues of parents and children affect society as a whole and are indirectly linked to all those in the society.

      I am in agreement with what you originally took issue with, which was Sarah Palin’s useless pandering to white mothers. I wholly believe that mothers don’t need any of Palin’s drivel- she opposes everything that would actually help women who are mothers in this country and yet seeks to shamefully posit herself as some kind of champion for women’s rights. You are right about how actually sexist Sarah Palin is in the way that she views women and motherhood and though I think it is related to feminism, it’s certainly not in the way that Palin is trying to portray it.

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