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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
Linda Trippe January 17, 2010, 7:05 PM

Rachel - Actually, I didn’t say anything about working mothers. I think it is totally possible to be a stay-at-home mother and a feminist (or a strong feminine role model). My point was, if we are going to say Sara Palin is a feminist because she is a working mother, than we must assess her success as both a worker and a mother. I take the position that she is not a role model for either. Equally, while I do believe a stay at home mother can be a strong female role model and a feminist, if she is, in fact, a poor mother, than I would argue she is not a feminist.

M January 18, 2010, 12:13 PM

While I think you make some valid points in that you can’t pick and choose arguments about what bothers you about her, my problem with Ms. Palin being a feminist stems from her choice to make women pay for their own rape kits. I’ve worked at Women’s Health support centers for abused and raped women, and it’s heartbreaking that as a major city official, Palin continued to stand by that, even when her own police department was against it.

Also, Palin choosing to keep her child is a wonderful and brave choice, but it’s her choice. For someone who wants government to stay out of everything, then she should realize that that means staying out of what other women decide about their bodies. I do not think she hates women or anything and feminist is a very broad term that encompass many different people, but I do think that she is a poor choice for a president based on her political experience level, and her general “rogue” demeanor. BTW…my husband is from Alaska, born and bred, and I’ve basically lived there myself, and her cute stories about how Alaska has shaped her, are not representative of Alaska at all, if anything, just the touristy gift shops there. All politicians tell stories to make them more interesting and relatable, but her Alaska story raises a major red flag for me in its embellishments.

PunditMom/JoanneBamberger January 22, 2010, 7:14 AM

I agree she is a feminist, but isn’t she the one who has shunned the word and after saying she was a feminist tried to back away from it?

billy tk March 9, 2010, 11:11 AM

What an awesome woman. No wonder the feminists is scared of her. You can sell glass (feminism) to the useful idiots (population), but when a real diamond (feminine woman like Sarah) shows up it is easy to spot the fake (liberal feminists).

No wonder they are in such a hysteria with all the name calling and tantrums.

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