Is Sarah Palin really a feminist?

She may be talking women's rights, but it's worth asking whether she actually deserves the F-word

Topics: Feminism, Broadsheet, Sarah Palin, Love and Sex,

Is Sarah Palin really a feminist?FILE - In this May 1, 2010 file photo, former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin addresses the 2nd biannual Michigan Defending the American Dream Summit in Clarkston, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, file)(Credit: AP)

Lately, Sarah Palin has not only been ramping up the “mama grizzly” rhetoric, but she’s also started tossing around the F-word. Not the four-letter one, but the one that makes Rush Limbaugh quake in his boots. “Feminism” isn’t exactly an expected buzzword for Palin, but today the Los Angeles Times’ Meghan Daum rightly asks: Why shouldn’t the conservative Alaskan have a right to it?

“I feel a duty (a feminist duty, in fact) to say this about Palin’s [feminist] declaration: If she has the guts to call herself a feminist, then she’s entitled to be accepted as one.” After all, Daum argues, people “who believe in gender equality” too often “avoid the word, souring its reputation and undermining principles they actually hold quite dear.” So, in short, why should Palin be denied the label when so many who have more traditional feminist beliefs ultimately fall into the trap of “I’m a feminist, but…”? “Think hard,” she urges, “about who or what is to blame for increasingly narrow definitions of feminism, definitions that often have more to do with armpits and their discontents than with policy, pay rates and other matters of substance.” These are excellent points, but, for me, at least, they don’t convincingly answer the question of whether Palin is a legitimate feminist.

When she dropped the F-bomb during a speech last week at a Susan B. Anthony List fundraiser, she was talking about “the pioneering spirit of our foremothers, who went in wagon trains across the wilderness, and they settled in homesteads.” These are the ”tough, independent pioneering mothers, whose work was as valuable as any man’s on the frontier.” Translation: Women’s work is just as important as men’s work. When Palin talks about gender equality, she’s really talking about the equal importance of men’s and women’s traditional gender roles. The emphasis isn’t on personal freedoms, but how mothers are just as important as fathers. Palin’s feminism is a bad Hallmark card. 



Taylor Marsh recently argued on the Huffington Post: “You simply can’t be a feminist if you don’t support a woman’s individual rights. Announcing a ‘new conservative feminist movement’ without acknowledging the individual freedoms of women won’t cut it.”  By “individual freedoms,” of course, Marsh means individual reproductive freedoms. Palin has made it clear that she opposes abortion in all cases except when a woman’s life is in danger and believes the issue should be decided on the state level. She sees pro-choice activism as denying women’s capacity to have it all and fancies herself as a supporter of women’s rights — to a family and a career — by shunning abortion. 

In many ways, the debate over Palin’s feminist cred boils down to whether an anti-choice feminist is an oxymoron. It certainly is in my mind, but the label doesn’t belong to me any more than it does to Palin. Besides, I’m less concerned with labels than I am with actual arguments about what is truly best and just for all women. I say, let Palin hide behind her favorite new buzzword; we all well know she’s better with catch phrases than actual policy.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>