Lately I’ve seen a rash of articles about feminism that have me feeling itchy.
Even more maddening, I haven’t been able to name my response. I just know that it is visceral.
I think it started with this op-ed about the conservative women candidates who celebrated victories in the June primaries. But as I got deeper into the Great Schism of feminist ideology, bloggers like Taylor Marsh coming down on one side and Kathleen Parker from The Post on the other, I felt my ire rise both at the coverage of Sarah Palin and at my inarticulateness in the face of that coverage.
Sarah Palin makes me cringe. She speaks almost exclusively in cliches and colloquialisms. She has the gall to mock things like “hope” and “change” in a country where 50% of the population has felt dissatisfied or outraged for (at least) the last decade. I think she is akin to one of those wind-socks at a car dealership, blowing furiously for attention, bending this way and that way but lacking actual substance.
But if we’re to believe her latest campaign commercial, not everyone feels that way. She was Governor of Alaska and a candidate for Vice-President of the United States so she must have something going for her besides her aw-shucks, Annie Oakley-style rootin’ and tootin’. Right? I mean, right?
With all due respect to Ms. Steinem who categorically denounces Palin as unfeminist by reason of her anti-choice stance, I think she missed the point.
This isn’t about linguistic copyright infringement. Saying Palin can’t join our club doesn’t carry any weight because she has her own clubhouse and doesn’t care about our “rules.” This is about leadership and mobilization and public relations. She is getting extraordinary media coverage and promoting the idea that she leads a movement of like-minded women. And we’re complaining that she misused our secret handshake.
There is a beautiful line delivered in the West Wing series by the character Ainsley Hayes where she says, “I don’t think whatever sexuality I have diminishes my power. I think it enhances it.” “And what kind of feminism do you call that?” Celia asks. “My kind.”
There is no doubt that women in politics can be mean girls who deliver catty comments. There are plenty of arguments for how Feminist Blogs are guilty of the same strong-arm, mind-melting that Women’s Magazines use like in this one from Slate.com. Feminism shouldn’t pit women against other women. (It shouldn’t pit women against men, either.)
But Palin is undoubtedly speaking to and for a segment not aligned with Ms. Steinem’s views. She’s charismatic, and passionate, and of-the people. She’s the female version of George Bush with the same bumbling statements and embarassing, you-should-know-better public gaffes.
I’m of the opinion that the Head of State should be a Statesman (or woman). A dignified, learned leader and orator who inspires confidence and exemplifies moderation and exercises diplomacy. I think we have that now. But about half the country thinks we’re going to hell in a handbasket.
So wouldn’t that tell us that we have slightly more important things to debate than whether or not Palin is allowed to use the word ‘feminist’ to describe herself? I mean, you can’t exactly put the toothpaste back in the tube.
So let’s get over the F-word.
Reproductive rights are critically important for women to participate fully in society, full stop. But what of that society? Is it even worth participating in?
Or maybe we need another F-word… like F-ocus. Shine the Feminist spotlight on women’s issues like the war, no, the other war, the economic crisis, unemployment, the obesity epidemic, the oil spill in the Gulf, the energy crisis, the breakdown of our education system, our dwindling competitive advantage in a free-market economy, our crumbling infrastructures, our international relations, our civil unrest, or the growing divide between rich and poor in this country.
F, yes those are women’s issues.
We are F-amily. I got all my sisters with me.