Sorry I’ve been missing for a while now—the last week of school + finals have taken up my time. But now, summer, and I’m back!
Over the past week I’ve been reading various pieces about how you define feminism, specifically in the political sphere. But my thinking all comes back to this opinion piece by Jessica Valenti in the Washington Post about Sarah Palin and her “fake feminism.” She argues that Palin portrays herself as a feminist simply because she knows that doing so is a way to win the support of many women: she talks about how Palin continually alludes to the women’s suffrage movement, and uses the idea that those women were antiabortion to support herself being antiabortion. Palin advocates decisions that would, rather than empower women, negatively affect their lives: taking away their right to choose whether or not they want an abortion, as well as cutting funding for the Violence Against Women Act. Palin hopes for, in her own words, “empowering women by offering them a real choice,” with no more detail than that.
One line from the article really struck me: “If anyone — even someone who actively fights against women’s rights — can call herself a feminist, the word and the movement lose all meaning.” A lot of people who know I have this blog have been asking me for a while what I think about Palin painting herself as a feminist, and for a while, I said that she could call herself whatever she wants because there is no strict definition of feminism. But then I read this line, and I realized that there has to be some kind of line. Just because someone is a woman does not make him or her a feminist—someone who actively advocates for decisions that take away women’s freedoms cannot be, in my book, a feminist.
But the thing about identity politics is that people will believe you when you tell them you belong to a certain group: Palin is convincing people that she is a feminist. And not only that, but she is getting extra attention about it because it is coming from such a surprising place. Maybe this is a good omen for feminism, a sign that women from all across the spectrum can be feminists and disagree on issues. But personally, I see this as more of a problem. While it is great to have women, both liberal and conservative, in power, it is important that people, and other women in particular, know who is there to take care of their needs and who is not. Palin calling herself a feminist is swell, but being a feminist is what matters—not just saying the words, but advocating the policies and sending the right messages to people across America. Until she can walk the walk, I believe that we must all be frank about the fact that Palin is not a feminist, and that calling her one will only serve to get more support for policies that hurt, rather than help, women.