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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
madamab January 12, 2010, 8:29 PM

Oh for Pete’s sake.

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.

Except for people like Sarah Palin, who want to tell me, based on her own religious beliefs, what I can do with my body.

A first-class citizen of this country (i.e., a man) gets to decide whether or not he has a baby. If it were up to Sarah Palin, no woman in this country would have that same choice, and we would become second-class citizens.

There is no way that a person like that is a feminist. If she were John Palin, espousing these very same views (no abortion even in the case of incest and rape), you wouldn’t call him a feminist, would you?

Linda Trippe January 13, 2010, 4:53 AM

Having a teenager that becomes pregnant does not, on its own, mean that you are a bad mother, but it IS a failure in your role in a mother (as it is a failure for the father). My point was that merely claiming to be a working mother is not enough to benefit women or the feminist movement, you actually have to do both successfully, or AT LEAST with legitimate, honest effort. Palin has shown no evidence that she had attempted either motherhood or governance with any sense of respect for the quality of her effort.

Tracy January 13, 2010, 5:14 AM


Rachel January 13, 2010, 5:19 AM

@Linda Trippe, so you are also espousing that the only way for women to be a feminist is to be a successful (or making a good effort), working mother? Once again, you leave out stay-at-home moms, mothers like myself, who have made the choice to leave successful careers to stay home with our children. It seems feminists are only into “choice” if it involves their reproductive parts. Keeping my body at home with my children instead of in the office away from them is a choice, too. Right…

Tracy January 13, 2010, 6:14 AM

Webster Dictionary
Main Entry: fem·i·nism
Pronunciation: \ˈfe-mə-ˌni-zəm\
Function: noun
Date: 1895

1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2 : organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

One could say that you can be an at-home-mom and be a feminist. Of course that wouldn’t require changing what feminism means but what being an at-home-mom means.

Tiffany January 13, 2010, 7:16 AM

What I think is so funny is that people can call her a pathological liar but during the campaign the worst they could get on her was a pregnant daughter and $150k in clothes that she didn’t even buy.

The biggest thing I admire about Palin is that she took every blow they hit her with and she is still standing strong. Most of us would have been in a crying heap on the floor! For those that don’t agree with her, don’t watch her, don’t vote for her if she runs again, but why hate her that is just a waste of time for you personally.

Rachel January 13, 2010, 7:40 AM

And that could be twisted to mean anything, and is open to anyone’s interpretation. Most women don’t stay home because they *have* to due to social, political, and/or economic pressure. It’s a choice.

Tiffany January 13, 2010, 7:51 AM

When it comes to the abortion issue I believe both sides use this as a fighting point and fund raising tool. The fact of the matter is that a president does not have it within their power to overturn Roe v. Wade. The only way they can have power is to appoint justices (and it would have to be a big conservative majority) that would overturn it. Even if they got a few in I just don’t ever believe this is going away ever! I believe the only difference that a president has is to use taxpayer dollars for abortion, like Obama repealed what W. had in place so now we have taxpayer dollars going to foreign countries to fund abortions. So, why is this even an issue when it comes to electing a president???

grow up people January 13, 2010, 8:53 AM

I can’t believe the hate that people feel toward this woman. So she doesn’t believe in abortions…that makes her a bad person? And to say that she’s a liar is crazy. Tell me who we have in our government that doesn’t lie? Right now we are being fed so many lies from our government from Obama on down that it’s hard to keep track of them. I don’t even think they can keep track of them. Everyday we heard conflicting reports…the recession is over, the recession will take years to recovery, people are working again, unemployment is highest since the 70’s at over 10%, health care won’t cover abortions or illegals and we won’t raise any taxes to cover 30 million more, without counting illegals there are only approx 10 million without health coverage so who are they counting for the other 20 million? And reports came out yesterday that Obama says that they will have to raise taxes. People need to stop wasting their energy on a person who isn’t even in a political office and start to really pay attention to the people who are and what they are doing. Whining about Sarah Palin is just childish. And no I’m not a supportive of her and wouldn’t vote for her but truth be told, she is the least of my concerns about our country.

Tracy January 13, 2010, 12:23 PM

No she doesn’t believe in abortion and that’s fine. The problem is that she wants the government to mandate her beliefs. That’s what the problem is. And she’s a liar along with all the other politicians, but to says that doesn’t matter is really lowering the bar on Washington. The problem is she like so many other politicians out there is persuading people to vote for things that are against their best interest. And that’s why she needs to be discredited. Although she may not run for office and perhaps couldn’t win if she did she can move people towards the polls to vote for candidates that are even more dishonest than her.

Anonymous January 13, 2010, 12:38 PM

I have never heard Sarah Palin say that if she was president she would revoke roe vs wade. Has anyone actually heard her say that?

JC Gorman January 14, 2010, 8:04 AM

Seems many here are really reaching to prove this article wrong. Obama enhances his image with “campaign” talk (we will see it on C-Span, out with lobbyists) but that is okay. Bridge to nowhere “No thanks” is pathological lying. Ask yourself why it is necessary to deconstruct everything about Palin but give a pass to the rest of the political world. Maybe if she is successful it exposes the elite feminists and their view of themselves and life as frauds and out of touch with most of the society; smug elites who dislike the average woman — or maybe not.

Sonya January 14, 2010, 1:07 PM

Hmm, you paint a very pretty feminist picture of Palin but ommit many things that cause Palin to be so unfeminist in the minds of real feminists. One glaring ommission is forcing rape victims to pay for their own rape kits and THEN NOT BOTHERING TO TEST THEM SO THE RAPIST CAN BE FOUND AND PROSECUTED. Call me nutty but this could raise some hackles. Let’s not forget her opposition to birth control. Then there’s the whole abstinence until marriage BS - umm, look what happened to her daughter but rather than educate her children, she just keep spouting the same old abstinence BS. Don’t even get me started on her wacko fanatical fundie views!

laura January 14, 2010, 6:02 PM

What is a feminist? If a feminist is a woman that women can look up to, Sarah Palin can be looked up to by women who admire her achievements. Although, it’s a little rich to say that anyone who doesn’t consider her a feminist hates her for being “pro-life.” Some women (myself included) who have watched her in interviews believe that she was one of the most poorly qualified and least knowledgeable persons of either gender to run for commander-in-chief of this nation. For her hubris in running for an office that she had not adequately prepared for, we don’t look up to her.

So for us, she is not a feminist. It has nothing to do with her stance on a woman’s right to choose. We’re happy that she chose life, and hope that she would allow other women to choose life (instead of having it forced on them) as well.

Just sayin’.

Michelle January 14, 2010, 9:59 PM

I look forward to the day when I can criticize another woman on her merits or lack thereof. We are not there yet as I am constantly told that I hate Sarah Palin because she is a pro-life Republican. I have read Palin’s statments on various issuses and have found her incoherent and uniformed.
I do not like her positions on evolution, sex ed, abortion or global warming. She has also called those who learn about the rest of the world and to think for themselves ‘elitist’. But if I bring any of this up I am accused of hating other women for not being just like me.

downhomesadie January 15, 2010, 9:26 AM

I think you miss the point. A feminist, as you correctly state in your article, is someone who advocates for equal rights for women. It is not necessarily a woman who simply benefits from that. Saying Palin was able to play sports because of Title IX or that she was able to be elected to the governorship does not make her a feminist, it makes her a beneficiary of feminism. Many of us are, whether or not we choose to be feminists ourselves. If you could point to examples of Palin advocated for equal pay for women, or instituting programs to help women and girls advance, or even going on record as saying she believes women are the equal of men and our nation’s laws should reflect that, then we could say she is a feminist. Being an admirable woman does not make you a feminist. Being someone who advocates for other women does.

sgrove January 15, 2010, 12:17 PM

Sarah Palin IS NOT a feminist!!!

Sarah palin is not a feminist because she does NOT really balance life as a mother of 5 children and a career. She tells us then since she has a career and children then all people can do it and if you don’t or can’t then your not really a woman, thats WHY she’s not a feminist! Its the implications that she puts out there that makes her NOT a feminist. Its impossible to really do your job well, that means, read articles, study and do research on topics, go to meetings, travel as a Governor and do laundry, bake, cook, help your kids with your homeowrk and make healthy lunches….. she DOES NOT do those things and she pretends she does, OR she doesn’t say she doesn’t say she doesn’t do them. Thats why she’s not a feminist… it also may have a little to do with her politics… she instituted women having to pay for their own rape kits at hospitals… she legislated it so that women get raped twice, once by the rapist and the second time by the government!! By legislating women to pay for their own rape kits ensures that a huge portion of women will not go to the hospital after being raped, therefore, not reporting it and ensuring that the rapist gets away with it….. Sarah Palin is no fan of women…. and you a disservice to women by promoting this idea!!!!

altagirl January 15, 2010, 12:29 PM

Good grief! Sarah Palin is as much a feminist as you two are researchers, which is to say not at all. do some homework, find out what feminism is before you write about it. it is a lot more than just having a job!

stop bogus attacks January 15, 2010, 12:43 PM

Darn right! She inspires and gives life to feminists. This recent attack on her 15 yr old daughter is the worst yet. I know a mutual friend, K Charles, and they will back up the Palins and clear up that bogus smear if need be. More Moms and feminists need to speak out. This has gone too far. It is time for a law suit. Next they will blame a Palin for what happened to Cyd Duffin, principal of Colony High School. The students eventually did the right thing and made things right. Now if the tabloids can learn from that.

Roket January 17, 2010, 10:49 AM

Prominent feminists are nothing but political hacks for the Democrats. They should be examining how women are treated by muslims, Asian sex traders and the chinese. They don’t go on the world stage because they would are not taken seriously, because they are nothing but political hacks!

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