I have taken a slight interest in Alaskan Governor and now Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin for a while. Now, I am a full blown fan. Everything I read about her makes me like her more. Like so many others online I am shocked and appalled at the vitriol being thrown in her face since her nomination was mentioned. Nothing is more flabbergasting than seeing “liberal” women start to wander down the “shouldn’t she be home taking care of that baby?” track. I spent a good deal of time wondering yesterday just what is driving this frenzy about Palin. I came up with my answer last night.
Palin had committed the unpardonable crime of betraying the old dames of feminism. Somewhere along the line old school feminist, the ones who are the elder politicians and university department heads today decided that in order for woman to truly be equal to men they had to more or less unsex themselves. They had to be able to have sex on demand – like men (pro-birth control, free-sex) and be able to walk away from parenthood – like men (pro-abortion on demand). That would get them so far, but to be fully equal they also had to emasculate the men around them – lord forbid a man comment on a woman’s appearance or open a door for her. They also had to “gender normalize” the physical requirements for military, police or firefighters… and even neuter what was left of gender specific usage in the English language. Some of this has been good, but it also has created a set of beliefs, a creed if you will, that defines “feminist”. Which is one reason why so many woman don’t just reject the term, but vilify it. Some older feminist woman are surprised that younger woman aren’t more grateful to them for the barriers they broke down which allow younger woman more opportunity, but to quote Michelle Bernard, “…feminists fought for them to enjoy a certain amount of rights, and they [younger women] do that, and then they hear from another generation, ‘well how dare you opt out and stay home to raise your kids? You’re a traitor to the feminist movement.’ Well if somebody’s going to tell you that, why would you want to take that badge on?” This theme has been discussed for the past few years and more pointedly this election cycle where young woman supporting Obama were seen as not exactly showing sisterly solidarity to Hillary.
The overt sexism from other women just saddens me. I remember well twenty years ago where being a young woman on campus and pro-life meant you were persona non grata at the woman’s’ student union (that hurt btw “sisters”). If you didn’t walk lock step with the pro-abortion dogma you were a trader to your gender no ifs, ands or buts. I also remember the snide words of a former manager while I was walking out the door of my corporate career to stay home and take care of my new born while my husband, who had been doing the stay at home dad thing, went back to work. She told me I was “shooting my career in the foot to stay home and take care of a baby” (that hurt too, but it sure made it easier to say goodbye). Woman who have opted to take the feminist path have no problem vilifying those ungrateful girls who become apostate.
There are woman who actually and honestly believe that woman can’t be equal if they can’t destroy the products of their own fertility, woman can not be successful if they are burdened with children, especially not unexpected babies, not ones conceived when over 40 and certainly not any child ever with a disability. Young woman must be able to have sex on demand, and use birth control, and if that “fails” then they need to have mommy quietly whisk them down to Planned Parenthood (a misnamed institution if there ever was one) and “take care of the problem” so the young woman’s life isn’t “ruined” by that horrific punishment called a baby.
To the liberal feminist of my mother’s generation conservatives were viewed as vile kill-joys. Conservatives are the people who brand woman harlots, who don’t want you to have fun. They are the ones who want to starve the poor, abandon the sick, kill the criminals and start wars for the sole purpose of having young men die on far away shores. One reason liberals so strongly object to parental consent laws. In theory a conservative parent wants to keep their children away from birth control and then beat them senseless and kick them out of the house if they end up pregnant — but they don’t want them to get an abortion.
Men were the enemy. “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” If you got married it had better be an equal partnership where all chores where spilt evenly and he can’t hold you back from your education or career. Best if he isn’t too “manly”, certainly not into the military, guns, sports… maybe a nice poet.
Palin takes all this thinking by the ears and shakes it loose. She, by her life, shows that a woman can be powerful, beautiful and fertile. A baby, even unexpected with special needs can be welcomed and loved and perfect. That conservative parents would stand by their daughter when she become yet another statistic of teenage pregnancy just pulls the rug out from the ugly stereotype of the ruthless self-righteous parent motif. What about her husband? He is a man’s man who helps raise the kids. She needs him there and he supports her. They are a partnership of aid to one another, not a couple of folks living together with a “no compete” clause in affect. This frightens and appalls the old ladies of the bra burning brigade. If they are not correct in the idea that a successful woman can only exist within the bounds of their dogma, their dogma just might be wrong all together. How will they convince young woman to follow in their shriveled, barren footsteps when lovely, fertile Sarah Palin is out there? Palin is dangerous to that mindset.
But the women I know look at Palin and say “rock on sister.” She becomes almost archetype the more the media and liberal idiots online attack. Sure, throw mud at her kid: She is Boudicca. Criticize her mothering: She is Devorah. Question her relationship with her husband: She is Gorgo. Question her experience or the fact she was a beauty queen: She is Ester. Women have long been proud and noble creatures. We are Victoria and Hannah, Zenobia and Cleopatra, Isabella, Antigone, Catherine and a nameless host of mothers, wives, sisters and friends who have carried babies, carried burdens and made history sometimes by leading armies or nations, sometimes in learning and rhetoric and often by rocking the cradle. We don’t want to have to become shells void of femininity in order to be considered valuable in society.
So, I adore Palin. I love the idea of a pioneer mother as Maggie Gallagher puts it. This is an older and more noble (at least to me) feminism, one that doesn’t have to unsex woman or chew them up and spit them out for the benefit of the corporate world. It looks past the women of the 60s and 70s who seemed to not really like being feminine and see women who are simultaneously strong and powerfully and authentically and naturally feminine. Anyone woman with five kids, who nurses a baby in the governor’s office, hunts, fishes and looks great in heals and a skirted suit has my respect and when she is pro-life my vote as well. Up until now I was feeling nothing so much ennui over the upcoming election, now I am thrilled. Palin has engaged me, lured me in and charmed me. Just call me “fan girl” and pass the McCain/Palin yard signs and bumper stickers my way.