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Sarah Palin Is a Feminist

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Who is a feminist?

sarah palin

Heather Robinson and Jennifer Ginsberg: We've been asking that question since reading "Going Rogue," Sarah Palin's autobiography, and after reading columns by prominent feminists deriding the idea that the former Governor of Alaska is a feminist.

Many of these columnists do not clearly explain why they believe Palin is not a feminist. But they suggest that her bid for vice president was a slap in the face to women. Their writing is filled with personal digs, referring to Palin, for example, as a "moose-killing former governor and mother of five," and "Caribou Barbie."

When we posed this question to a friend, the reaction was scorn. "Palin is a pathological liar!" she exclaimed with disgust.

"Based on what?" There was no response. We can only assume this was a conclusion drawn from a left-wing media source.

Another friend responded, "She's absolutely not a feminist. She used her sexuality to get to the top."

"Why?" we asked. "Because she's beautiful? Because she entered a beauty pageant when she was 19 to pay for her college tuition?" No response again.

Women don't come out and say they don't consider Palin a feminist because she's pro-life, because she made the brave choice to give birth to a baby with special challenges, or because she's religious. But we believe those things (perhaps along with her beauty, and the fact that she hunts, and she's managed to have both a successful career and a family) are what's eating them.

As pro-choice, politically independent, vegetarian women, our views are not perfectly aligned with former Governor Palin's, but we read "Going Rogue" with an open mind -- and much pleasure.

In the book, Palin writes about how she grew up hunting and fishing alongside men. She also explains that for many Alaskans, including Native Americans, hunting is primarily a source of sustenance, not sport, and they use every part of the animals they kill. These organic and free-range animals have lived natural, healthy lives before they died -- more than can be said of the hormone-fattened and tortured creatures that wind up on most city-dwellers' plates!

She describes being a lifelong athlete, starting in high school, when as a varsity basketball player she was a beneficiary of Title IX -- federal legislation that ensured girls the same educational and athletic opportunities as boys.

Ironically, her stint in a beauty pageant (which self-proclaimed feminists mocked her relentlessly for) was merely a blip in her life. She decided to enter the pageant as a last resort because the prize was money towards college tuition. Coming from a middle-class home, she didn't have the luxury of her parents footing the bill, thus she worked her way through college.

In "Going Rogue," she describes how strange the whole beauty pageant experience was, especially since she was a tomboy and an athlete. But she managed to succeed despite her discomfort, hence she received the college scholarship. Another reason to hate her, we suppose!

After her first child, Track, was born, she worked part-time as a sports reporter at local TV stations in Anchorage and -- because she and her husband needed the income -- spent some weekend days working as a commercial fisherwoman on Bristol Bay.

Not long after the birth of her second child, Bristol, she went on to serve on the city council of her town, Wasilla, Alaska. She did not hesitate to irritate the mostly male members of the council and local politicians, whether it was voting her conscience on not raising property taxes or nursing 1-year-old Willow while at an all-male business meeting. If that example of Palin balancing motherhood and career does not encapsulate the spirit of feminism, we don't know what does!

As Mayor of Wasilla (after six years on the city council), her accomplishments included getting the city's main roads (which had been dirt!) paved, and attracting national chain stores to open in the town.

Her most important achievement as governor was taking on the entrenched interests of Alaskan politicians and energy execs. She was considered by many to be the most popular governor in America, with an approval rating above 90 percent.

Suffice it to say, she ended up exposing the corruption of many "good old boys" who were lining each others' pockets at the expense of the taxpayers. Ultimately, she opened the bidding process for a huge natural gas pipeline, saving the taxpayers billions.

All her life, this woman competed with men on an equal playing field, and in terms of concrete achievement, has done far more than many feminists who stick within their own homogenous enclaves and, frankly, spend a lot of time complaining.

It's true Mrs. Palin is pro-life (although in Going Rogue she writes about her long-time membership in Feminists for Life, "a group of pro-life feminists who do not oppose contraception").

Like many other feminists, we don't completely agree with her on this issue. But nor do we agree with the position of some feminists that abortion should be not only safe and legal, but available into the third trimester at taxpayers' expense. Feminists do a disservice by discouraging women's sense of responsibility and glossing over the painful complexities of the issue, even to the point of dehumanizing the unborn child. However, we wouldn't discount these women as feminists, despite our differing views.

If feminism's overall goals are advancing women's freedom and empowerment, and promoting equality with men, we should have a great big inclusive tent that welcomes different religious and personal philosophies. We can recognize there is room for significant disagreement in our ranks, but that we share some core values.

In years to come, technology may radically alter the way we view issues like abortion. It's tragic that the real definition of feminism, a doctrine that advocates equal rights for women, has become blurred over this single issue.

While one may disagree with Palin's views, it is unfair to hate or belittle one of our country's only female governors, someone who inspires huge numbers of people, including American women.

Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, we recommend reading "Going Rogue" with an open mind. It's the story of a woman who went from pulling her toddlers in a sled as she campaigned door to door for a seat on the city council of Wasilla, Alaska, to changing her baby's diaper moments before giving her convention speech as the Republican nominee for vice president of the United States.

If that's not a story of a strong, multitasking woman and feminist, then who qualifies?

sarah palin

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64 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley January 12, 2010, 4:34 AM

wow. very good article!! I totally agree. Seems to me she embodies what feminism is all about. She should be looked at as a role model for women, not disrespected so much. I just don’t understand why people down her so much. We should all be so tough and determined.

Rachel January 12, 2010, 6:05 AM

The cornerstone of the feminist movement, or the way I see it, is that women have the choice to believe, act, and do as they see fit. When it doesn’t fit in the mold of the views a traditional feminist espouses, they throw out the “antifeminist” label. At the end of the day, and despite some of her views, Palin has created a high profile life, something that likely wouldn’t have happened 100 years ago. If that’s not pro-feminism, I don’t know what is. The feminist movment gave us the freedom to have our own thoughts and dreams - not for feminists to make them for us.

michelle January 12, 2010, 9:19 AM

Um…one thing. The evidence for her being a pathological liar is not from “a left wing media source.” Steve Schmidt, McCain’s own campaign manager, was just on 60 Minutes describing concrete instances of bald-faced lies (to her running mate McCain and to the American people). Case in point: a report came out stating that she violated state ethics rules, and she told the media that it categorically proved she hadn’t done anything wrong. Major lie. Also, “thanks but no thanks to the bridge to nowhere” was a lie. So yes, she may be a feminist, but she does not tell the truth. By that standard, I considered her unqualified to be vice president. Note that I did not “hate” her as you claim all liberal feminists did. I liked many things about her. But she was ethically challenged. If we can’t judge women by that kind of objective standard, if we have to apply a double standard to make a woman seem acceptable for high office, then we can’t claim to be feminists.

Tracy January 12, 2010, 9:56 AM

Let’s also bare in mind that a city council and for matter a Mayoral position in a town of 5459 people is a part-time job at best. I don’t think that a lot of our hard working feminist would consider that “balancing motherhood and career”. After all nobody considers a part-time job a career. And she was Governor for a full 18 months and considering the amount of traveling that she did for the VP candidacy that really was a part-time job as well. So when you consider that, she’s an at home mom that decided to get a little more involved in government. Hardly what most people would consider a feminist. Oh and by the way her being a tomboy doesn’t make her a feminist either. I know a lot of tomboys who are die hard anti-feminist and they have more impressive resumes that Sarah does. Sarah is an opportunist not a feminist. Someone noticed her and decided based on bad information that she would be the right person for the job. Unfortunately it exponentially increased the size of her ego and now we’re stuck with her.

Rachel January 12, 2010, 10:19 AM

“So when you consider that, she’s an at home mom that decided to get a little more involved in government. Hardly what most people would consider a feminist.” (Tracy’s comment above)

So, if you stay at home with your kids, and perhaps decide to have a part time job or get involved in government, that doesn’t qualify you as a feminist? Really? Just what is *your* definition of a feminist, Tracy? One doesn’t have to be a ball busting bra burner to be a feminist. That’s a pretty narrow minded definition of feminism that you’re endorsing…

Tracy January 12, 2010, 10:37 AM

No your right you don’t but I don’t think that we should be blowing this woman’s credentials out of proportion either. And frankly having lived in a community of predominately at home mom types I can say from experience that they aren’t exactly feminist. And neither is Sarah Palin. Now that being said she may consider herself one but none the less she isn’t really doing anything that one would consider “feminist” such advancing woman’s rights, or improving the situations often find themselves in such as low wages or lack of any kind of support from the community. About all that she has managed to do is whip up a fringe group into a froth based on lies (and yes they have been proven to be lies) and innuendos (i.e. Death Panels that didn’t exist).

nutmac January 12, 2010, 12:17 PM

I am a Republican and Sarah Palin may be a feminist by some stretch of definition. But she’s also a loony. She can’t even call Joe Biden by his last name (keep pronouncing it “O’Biden”), believes in all these weird conspiracies (i.e., Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attack), and often cites rumors as facts.

my2cents January 12, 2010, 12:56 PM

I can’t believe how mean some people are concerning this woman. As women and mothers, we should all support woman who are willing to service our country in some way. I wonder who many of you would like to have your life seen under a microscope. How many of you out there are serving your neighborhoods, your town, your state or your country. How many of you sit back a judge how this country is being run but would get off your butt to go out and do something about it? How many of you live in your little bubble of a so-called life and judge all those around you? Each of us should sit back and ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to make our country and our world a better place. If you can’t think of anything that you personally have done that makes a difference in someone life other than your own, then stfu.

Tracy January 12, 2010, 1:05 PM

natmac - amen! The problem with Sarah is that she is so vocal in her insanity and her crowd (also vocal) is so ignorant in their support of her that it makes our party look really bad. Not to mention equally insane.

my2cents - on the one hand I agree with you there are to many of us armchair cowboys out there. But this woman isn’t doing anything for the progress of her country or her gender. What she is doing is strictly for her ego and her checking account. That’s why people are so mean to her.

Remember, just because someone tells you what you want to hear doesn’t mean that they’re telling you the truth.

Linda Trippe January 12, 2010, 1:17 PM

Wow. This article was terrible. First of all, all of your references to Palin’s accomplishments are sourced from her own autobiography. That is journalistic laziness. Further, your claim that the assertions that Palin is a liar are false is absurd. Her book has been relentlessly fact-checked by CBS, ABC, Media Matters and the Huffington Post (in which Ms. Robinson posted a similar ridiculous article on Palin) and has been shown to be rife with inaccuracies and overstatements. Finally, you set the bar for feminism pretty low. A woman is a feminist if she has a job and a child? We give no consideration to how well (or honestly or LEGALLY) she does that job I suppose. If the goal of the feminist movement is to advance the rights of women, create equal opportunity and demonstrate equality, I would argue that Palin failed that test quiet soundly. She was neither a good mother (Bristol Palin pregnant at 17), a good Governor (the subject of countless ethics investigations), or a good Vice Presidential candidate (who hardly put forth any effort to learn policy and advocated willful disregard for the truth). Her pathetic, disingenuous effort at all three has in fact lowered the glass ceiling and blazed a trail for no one. She is a joke, and in being one, has harmed all women that she (and lazy journalists who eschew thoughtful work in favor of sassy leads) claimed to represent.

Pamala January 12, 2010, 2:03 PM

Feminism is just crap anyhow. There’s nothing wrong with her being in politics or choosing to stay home with her children or being in a beauty pageant. Those are not reasons to say she is or isn’t a feminist although I think it’s just crap in general and feminism causes more fighting between women than should ever be done.

She’s still wrong for this country. She lies or rather exaggerates for her benefit, has no problem spreading rumors that are so beyond the truth that it’s not even funny, she holds certain beliefs that apparently don’t apply within her own household, but more so she’s just not qualified at this moment in time to take on a major role within our government. She probably could be ready sometime, but there is no way that anytime soon she’ll be ready to be president and anyone who thought she could do it was setting her up for failure. I can’t blame her for the crap that happened, the McCain camp was a bit stupid and the poor woman had no chance.

Anonymous January 12, 2010, 2:11 PM

Wow Linda, thank you for calling every mother out there who has a child that got pregant as a teenager a bad mother! I think you are a joke. It most be wonderful to live in your “I’m so perfect” world. For the record, many of good parents raise kids who end up having a mind of their own and doing what they want instead of what their parents wanted for them. But I’m sure you wouldn’t understand that because I’m sure you have a perfect marriage w/a perfect husband and perfect children and live in a perfect house in a perfect community and life is perfect.

Tracy January 12, 2010, 4:30 PM

Anonymous-In Linda’s defense Bristol became pregnant because as is Sarah’s calling card she refused to see reality. Even Bristol said that abstinence education didn’t work for her. And hell by Sarah’s own confession it didn’t work for her either. She got pregnant and poor Todd got suckered into a very hasty marriage. And considering how loose Sarah is with the truth I’m sure there was a bit of a doubt in the back of his mind about whether or not it was his. I know I would wonder.

Erik B. January 12, 2010, 4:30 PM

Congratulations to Robinson and Ginsberg and on another thought provoking article on the ever controversial Sarah Palin.

Good question: must women parrot the positions of N.O.W. and Gloria Steinem and carry copies of The Beauty Myth to be consider good feminists?

Running for Vice president while being a mother certainly makes her pro-woman rights and a “feminist” in this regard.

However, the feminists are right on calling her out for her extreme views on abortion. Palin seeks to have (male dominated) government bar other women from making their own decisions whether they wish to carry a pregnancy to term even in the cases of rape or incest characterizing herself as “as pro-life as any candidate can be.” Feminists advocate leaving this important decision to women, not the government as Palin advocates.

Being able to decision when one gives birth has always been a central feature of feminists, a choice which Palin opposes.

Tracy January 12, 2010, 4:30 PM

Anonymous-In Linda’s defense Bristol became pregnant because as is Sarah’s calling card she refused to see reality. Even Bristol said that abstinence education didn’t work for her. And hell by Sarah’s own confession it didn’t work for her either. She got pregnant and poor Todd got suckered into a very hasty marriage. And considering how loose Sarah is with the truth I’m sure there was a bit of a doubt in the back of his mind about whether or not it was his. I know I would wonder.

my2cents January 12, 2010, 4:49 PM

Tracy, Obama mother got pregant at 18 and at 3 months pregant suckered I mean married his father. I guess that makes his mother a bad mother too! And really Tracy, does your kids do everything you tell them to do. There is nothing that you can do as a parent to stop your teenager from having sex if they want to except maybe lock them in their rooms and even then they can always sneak out. I hope your “better than you” attitude comes back and bites you in the butt oneday.

Kendra January 12, 2010, 4:59 PM

I think the author of the article is mistaking being a feminist for benefiting from the feminist movement. She has lots of kids as well as a successful career; good for her, and she has the second wave feminist movement to thank for the lifestyle she is able to have. Unfortunately she actively works against women’s rights, and therefore is not an ally to feminists and women in general.
Also I love how this article mentions Palin’s “brave choice” to have her special needs baby, while Palin actively works AGAINST providing the SAME CHOICE to other women.
Palin does get lots of unfair and sexist criticism- those who call her a bad mother, those who insinuate she’s promiscuous, and those who constantly praise and/or criticize her looks are out of line, especially considering all of her legitimate, non gendered problems.

Kendra January 12, 2010, 5:08 PM

Whoa, I just got to this sentence: “Feminists do a disservice by discouraging women’s sense of responsibility and glossing over the painful complexities of the issue, even to the point of dehumanizing the unborn child.”

I would say that anti-choicers do much more to “gloss over” the real complexities of abortion in their vicious opposition to it than any reasonable pro-choicer. Feminists believe that women should be trusted to make their own decisions about their own bodies. It’s anti-choicers who discount women’s thoughts and feelings and situations and decisions and believe that, when a woman is pregnant, her uterus is a ward of the state.
Also, I’ve never encountered a feminist (or anyone else) who agrees that abortions should be “available into the third trimester at taxpayers’ expense.”

Tracy January 12, 2010, 6:16 PM

my2cent - i love how here everyone else is discussing Sarah and you are totally focused on me. But okay fine have it your way. Yes as a matter of fact I do think that Obama’s mother was a bad parent that’s why she dumped Barak in her mother’s lap and took off on him.

Tracy January 12, 2010, 6:49 PM

And just one more note. No teenagers don’t always do what you want them to but if you take the time to have a good relationship with them and have frank and open conversations with them about boys and sex you are far less likely to have one that sneaks out of the house and gets herself pregnant. Out of all of the pregnant teenagers that I’ve known in my lifetime( and I’ve known far more than I would like to have) most of them come from emotionally absent controlling parents. And thus far my “better than you” attitude hasn’t bitten me in the butt but boy it got “poor Sarah” or should I say Bistol in a big way. That poor girl has had to grow up fast because of the loony toon of a mother that she got stuck with.

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