My interview on this topic, on Greta Van Sustern’s show On the Record on Fox News, can be seen here.
For more on the topic see my articles in The Wall Street Journal, “Why Feminists Hate Sarah Palin” (like Ann Althouse, I think the title is too generalizing, but I didn’t write it, and I have to concede it’s eye-catching) and in The Boston Globe, “A Great Moment for Women” (not too happy about that title either).
My position on Palin’s candidacy, in a nuthsell (from the Globe column):
Is Palin – whose image as a tough woman has evoked comparisons to historical and fictional female fighters like Joan of Arc and Xena, Warrior Princess – a feminist hero?
To some feminists, the answer is a clear no. Novelist Jane Smiley brands her “a woman who reinforces patriarchal power rather than challenges it.”
But the charge is unfair. Unlike right-wing columnist Ann Coulter, to whom Smiley compares her, Palin is not known for attacking the women’s movement; she credits it with breaking down gender barriers and creating the opportunities she has enjoyed. While antiabortion, she belongs to a group called Feminists for Life.
As a social issues liberal with strong concerns about religion-based public policy, I have some serious disagreements with Palin, though it’s often hard to separate the reality of her views from the caricatures painting her as a zealot. But I also believe that her candidacy is a great moment for American women.
First, more representation for feminism across the spectrum of political beliefs is a good thing. Women, like men, should be able to disagree on gun ownership, environmental policies, taxes, even abortion while agreeing on gender equity.
Second, the biggest feminist issue in America today is the career-family balance. Despite remaining discrimination, motherhood is at the core of the “glass ceiling” holding back female achievement. How inspirational, then, to see that the “mommy track” can be a road to the White House. Palin is a mother of five who resumed an intensive work schedule days after giving birth, and whose husband seems to be a full partner.
Palin’s candidacy may also be a watershed moment in conservative politics. The right has long been ambivalent about working mothers; a number of conservative politicians and pundits have been given to chiding “selfish” women who pursue career ambitions after having children. Now, a mother with a high-powered career is a conservative hero, and full-time motherhood may be forever gone from the roster of “family values.”
Meanwhile, Neo-neocon has an interest post on the “Palin Derangement Syndrome” that has gripped some, I repeat some feminists.
And here’s a good example of this syndrome, from the Jezebel.com blog. This one actually attempts self-examination, conceding that many left-wing feminists fly into irrational fits of hatred at the mere mention of Palin and citing some rather hair-raising and stomach-turning examples of such fits (the readers obligingly provide many more in the comments section).
And the question now is why? Why does this particular pitbull in lipstick infuriate — and scare us — so viscerally? Why does her very existence make us feel — and act — so ugly? New York Times columnist Judith Warner calls Palin’s nomination a “thoroughgoing humiliation for America’s women,” because “Palin’s not intimidating, and makes it clear that she’s subordinate to a great man.” Palin, who obviously is incredibly ambitious, masks that ambition behind her PTA placard and “folksy” talk.
… [F]or a certain kind of feminist, Palin is a symbol for everything we hoped was not true in the world anymore. We hoped that we didn’t have to hide our ambition or pretend that our goals were effortlessly achieved … We hoped that we could be mothers without having our motherhood be our defining characteristic, as it seems to be for Palin. We hoped that we did not have to be perfect beauty queens to get to where we wanted to be in life, that our looks, good or bad, wouldn’t matter.
The blogger adds that for many feminists, Palin embodies the stereotype of the “homecoming queen” from high school: “pretty and popular … catering to the whims of boys and cheering on their hockey games.” And so the idea of being bested by the “homecoming queen” in the area of achievement induces “white hot anger.”
As I said on Fox, I find this description (from both Warner and the Jezebel.com blogger, Jessica) baffling. Who is this Sarah Palin they are talking about? Where does Palin “make it clear” that she is subordinate to her husband? How does she downplay her ambition or suggest that she has effortlessly achieve her goals? How is the woman who calls herself a pitbull in lipstick and talks about taking on the “old boys’ network” trying to be non-threatening and non-intimidating? The real-life Sarah Palin was not a homecoming queen or a cheerleader in high school — she was a basketball star who still proudly wears her “Sarah Barracuda” nickname from those days.
My hunch is that the real reason for PDS is the opposite, in a way, of the one given by Warner and Jezebel.com. Sarah Palin does not fit the left-wing feminist stereotypes of the conservative woman. She’s very obviously not a “Stepford Wife,” as the execrable Cintra Wilson calls her on Salon.com. She’s not a man-pleasing cheerleader. She’s not a self-effacing, non-intimidating hausfrau.
Try as they might, they simply can’t fit Sarah Palin into that box. And that drives them nuts. Almost literally, in some cases.
And more PDS here: a Shakesville post asserting that Palin is a patriarchalist who cares about her sons more than her daughters.
This is not to say that conservatives don’t have their own Sarah Palin-related hypocrisies. More on which later.