Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sarah Palin, Victim Feminist

Sarah Palin's latest quest to find something to stand for has led her to call herself a feminist and talk about "mama grizzlies." Why feminists don't simply laugh their asses off is beyond me. Oh, I know why--it's because somehow Palin's new schtick has earned her a Newsweek cover story, which means that Very Serious Media People are supposed to take it seriously. Jezebel, at least, is having fun Photoshopping said Newsweek cover.

Let's leave aside the part about Palin making Wasilla's rape victims pay for their rape kits. And her stand on abortion. (Here, I should emphasize that I believe it's possible to be a feminist and oppose abortion. It would be really cool, however, if Feminists for Life and their ilk would push contraception, work to make adoption easier, and promote responsible, realistic sex education. It would also be helpful if they'd admit that the days of botched abortions are not an era any woman would want to revisit. But I digress.)

The truth is that if--IF!--you accept that Palin is a feminist, you have to admit that she's exactly the kind of feminist that her fellow conservatives have always claimed to loathe: a victim feminist.

Starting in the 1990s, some would-be pundits--feminist and otherwise--starting dividing feminists into "good" and "bad" camps. And the so-called victim feminists were in the "bad" camp. Women weren't supposed to whine. Women weren't supposed to complain about the patriarchy. Women weren't supposed to discuss sexual assault or similar crimes or misogyny in general, because, uh...that was too victim-y. Or something like that. It was the newest schtick for right-wing feminist-haters: simply howl, "Stop whining!"

So who do they embrace as a new conservative Republican feminist role model? A professional victim who hides behind a "maverick" facade. She lied about threats to her daughters. She whined about Family Guy. She blamed other people for the epic fail that was the Katie Couric interview. She's against everyone. Everyone's out to get her. She is hopelessly thin-skinned. She is, well, victim-y.

Such a figure might find kindred spirits among other right-wingers with delusions of victimhood. However, conservatives are, once again, trying to have it both ways.

And, come to think of it, Palin's victim schtick is kind of strange and pathetic when you consider all the hatred, vitriol, and misogyny faced by Hillary Clinton for decades. Even an anti-Hillary group called Citizens United Not Timid (note the acronym). Marie Cocco breaks down the woman-hating garbage flung at Clinton on the presidential trail. Much, much nastier stuff than a botched TV interview.

There are smart, hard-working, respectable Republican women. Some have, unlike Palin, actively supported women's rights. Case in point: Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Back in the 1970s, when she was a Texas state representative, she and Sarah Weddington (the attorney in Roe v. Wade) worked to prevent the publication of rape victims' names. Or Maureen Reagan and Betty Ford, who were both outspokenly pro-ERA and pro-choice.

In the meantime, Palin remains utterly devoid of intellectual curiosity. It's cool that she claims to be a feminist. Perhaps now conservatives will stop being afraid of the word. However, Palin should also explain her idea of what feminism is. And if she gets tangled in her words, hopefully she won't blame the interviewer.

Correction: It was Vanity Fair that gave Precious Princess Palin's Newsweek cover the Photoshop treatment, not Jezebel.


淑慧 said...
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Steve Bates said...

What kind of feminist is Palin? A feminist of expediency. Having tried on virtually every other role in her quest for public attention, she's trying feminism as an act, not as a life philosophy.

I'm sorry; I have known many real-life feminists of a variety of types, often with vastly different politics... and Sarah simply doesn't qualify as any of them. Newsweek/VF/etc. covers or not, Palin is rightly the target of real feminists' ridicule. LYAO, Truffle!