After making anti-women policies a hallmark of her short political career, Sarah Palin really wants to be a feminist.
Sarah Palin is making the rounds of the campaign scene, and trying to invent a “conservative feminism” along the way. While many real feminists are outraged at her audacity, few are willing to take a stand against allowing someone like Palin into our ranks. After all, isn’t feminism “supposed” to be about tolerance of all perspectives and all types of women?
Such a stance will only serve to create a world of feminist relativism, where the word means nothing.
There are certain actions that are simply fundamentally anti-feminist, that is, they threaten the freedom, equality, dignity, or rights of a various group of people. Certainly being “tolerant” and promoting “diversity” among our ranks cannot be more important than promoting standards of true equality and progressive social change.
Just being a woman does not make you a feminist, particularly if your policies and positions are blatantly anti-woman. For those who see Sarah Palin calling herself a feminist and are confused about what feminism really means in 2010, I not only argue, but insist, that Sarah Palin is no feminist. And to prevent further confusion I have come up with four sure-fire ways to know if you or someone you love is NOT a feminist:
1) You want to take away a woman’s right to choose.
The reason here is simple, and fundamental to feminism: anti-abortion policies are at their core misogynistic. Sarah Palin’s views on abortion are so extreme that she has said she does not believe in giving women the right to choose, “With the exception of a doctor’s determination that the mother’s life would end if the pregnancy continued.”
Where is the room for someone in the feminist community with such extreme anti-abortion views that she opposes legal abortion even in cases of rape and incest?
Feminist activists such as myself who have spent years fighting to ensure that reproductive rights remain intact should naturally be offended to hear Sarah Palin, an alleged fellow feminist, mocking our efforts. Palin has recently stated that “liberal feminists” “were wrong to tell women with unwanted pregnancies that they are ‘not strong enough’ and ‘not capable.’” She has also accused “liberal feminists” of “selling women short.” “Its very hypocritical” she says of our efforts. (Oh no she didn’t…)
It is our very belief in the self-actualization of women that we fight for their right to make their own decisions about their body and life.
Sarah Palin seems to only celebrate and respect her own decisions, and quite openly at that.
2) You oppose gay marriage (even if you have gay friends).
While Sarah Palin is clear about the fact that she has gay friends (I, for one, am very impressed), she strongly opposes gay marriage. During the Vice Presidential debates Palin stated: “I will tell Americans straight up that I don’t support defining marriage as anything but between one man and one woman.”
The belief in gay rights is fundamental to feminism because the right to choose a spouse is an integral civil right. How can a person, female or male, achieve full independence and empowerment (meaning the self-actualization to make fully-informed decision about things that directly impact your life) if not given the right to choose a partner?
For centuries the powers that be have tried to control women’s sexuality. Gay rights are a fundamental feminist issue because at its core, it is a fight for sexual freedom, and equality for all.
3) You support the recent immigration reform in Arizona.
The recent reforms in Arizona have created outrage because the laws attempt to strip minorities of their dignity, something that real feminists cannot and must not tolerate. It is however, something that Sarah Palin celebrates.
The first women to call themselves feminists began organizing for the purpose of changing power structures in our society, the power structures that keep one group of people subservient to another. The Arizona reforms serve to not only reinforce oppressive power structures, but also spur their growth. At its core the reforms disrespect the dignity of individuals who are seen by elite white communities as “different.”
Besides being reforms that generally discriminate against minorities, the anti-immigration bills in Arizona have a very specific and very dangerous impact on minority women. Advocates fear, with good reason, that the new reforms will prevent victims of domestic violence from contacting authorities when needed. Instead of creating an environment that is less accepting of abusers and safer for women, these unjust immigration reforms are serving to create a society that is even more hostile to women.
Feminists must not support the emergence of the police state!
4) You don’t believe women should be fully ordained and fully recognized spiritual and religious leaders.
Although this criterion does not have to do with anything I have heard Sarah Palin say, it is a fundamental cornerstone of feminist ideology. Spirituality is an essential part of human life and the most intimate. Excluding women from full participation in spiritual and religious activity is oppressive to women because it instills in women from a young age that they are not capable or worthy of being fully spiritual beings. Being exposed to only male spiritual and religious leaders teaches girls and women that men are natural leaders and that the natural place as women is as followers.
Religious institutions that do not tolerate women at the highest realms of leadership merely reinforce the same types of power structures that we as feminists should be seeking to change.
While some women who belong to and supporting misogynistic religious institutions claim to be feminists, it is my contention that they cannot be. There is no other place that should embrace the full participation of women more than in spiritual and religious institutions and communities.
Well there you have it, four sure-fire ways to know for sure if you or someone you love is NOT a feminist. To answer the question of what a true feminist IS, I encourage you to continue to read the words of the feminists who write for this blog and are dedicating themselves to protect and promote the rights, dignity, and equality of all.
Janice is a Virtual Assistant, aspiring doula, and long-time feminist activist with a passion for women's history, nonfiction, nature, and wearing flowers in her hair. She is the Founder of The Feminist's Guide, a women's history travel website, which can be found at www.thefeministguide.com.