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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Is Sarah Palin a "feminist"?

Here's the last few paragraphs of a terrific WaPo piece sent to me by my friend Stessa:

Of course, deciding who gets to call themselves feminists is a tricky business. Even some people who seem to generally disagree with Palin have found it difficult to bar her from the feminist ranks. Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz wrote that she won't "quibble with her" over the label, and Meghan Daum said in the Los Angeles Times that if Palin "has the guts to call herself a feminist, then she's entitled to be accepted as one."
Now, there's no grand arbiter of the label, and the tremendous range of thought in the movement means there isn't a singular platform one can look to as a reference point. And the sad reality is that there are plenty of self-identified liberal feminists who exhibit not-so-egalitarian ideals, such as racism or homophobia. So is it possible to exclude women such as Palin from feminism if we don't have a conclusive definition?

Absolutely. If anyone -- even someone who actively fights against women's rights -- can call herself a feminist, the word and the movement lose all meaning. And while part of the power of feminism is its intellectual diversity, certain things are inarguable. Feminism is a social justice movement with values and goals that benefit women. It's a structural analysis of a world that oppresses women, an ideology based on the notion that patriarchy exists and that it needs to end.

What Palin is peddling isn't feminism -- it's a manipulated buzzword being used to garner support for a party that time and time again votes against women's rights. Palin isn't trying to further a movement for justice or equality; she's shilling for women's votes -- a "stampede of pink elephants," she says -- for the midterm elections.

And it's working. The conservative "sisterhood" responded passionately to Palin's call. Blogger Lori Ziganto swooned over Palin and the other "true feminist" candidates she's supporting. "They are the new faces of feminism," she wrote. And Kathryn Jean Lopez at the National Review criticized those who would doubt Palin's feminist credentials.

But feminists -- or anyone who cares about women's progress -- need to stop Palin from turning feminism into yet another empty slogan. Because "sisterhood" and meaningless rallying cries aside, American women need real feminism in their lives, not just the f-bomb.



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