Can you be a supporter of Sarah Palin and still be a feminist? Well, I guess you could call yourself a feminist -- that is, if you think that, as a woman, you still have rights equal to those of a man when:
* You do not have the right of self-determination over your own body
* Even if impregnated through rape or incest you are forced to bear a child
* You're told you're entitled to equal pay, but forbidden to sue for it under most circumstances
* Information on how to prevent your own pregnancy is withheld from you in sex education classes
* If you're a spiritually powerful or otherwise unusual woman, your harassment can justified as protection from "witchcraft"
In that case, I guess it could be said that Elaine Lafferty, a former Ms. magazine editor proudly stumping for Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, is a feminist. Otherwise, it just doesn't add up.
In an apparent diversion from answering the question of how a feminist could possibly support an anti-choice ticket that also opposes legislation that would lengthen the statute of limitations in pay discrimination suits, Elaine Lafferty, in an essay appearing on The Daily Beast, admonished as sexist other feminists who challenged Palin's intelligence. This she conflated with actual sexism directed at Palin by male commentators. Nice try. But just because men (including right-wing men) have made sexist comments about Palin, and a few feminists, for good reason (given the media record), have mistaken Palin for being less intelligent than she is doesn't mean that Palin's a feminist. It just means she's a woman (a.k.a, sexism target) who can't name her least favorite Supreme Court cases, or tell us what magazines she reads.
I don't take lightly this challenging of Lafferty's feminist credentials; I've been on the receiving end of such criticism myself, from time to time, and I know the sting. But I've never supported an opponent of women't rights, and as a former Ms. staffer myself (before Lafferty's time), I feel betrayed by her support of a candidate who, taking advantage of an opening won by the efforts of feminists, would set back the cause of women's rights by decades.
I can't imagine how, as a feminist, one can support a candidate who couldn't bring herself to describe, in her interview by NBC's Brian Williams, an abortion clinic bomber as a "terrorist." Bill Ayers, she said, was a terrorist, but "others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or facilities that uh, it would be unacceptable. I don't know if you're going to use the word terrorist there."
Does Palin doubt that Claudia Gilmore, paralyzed from the chest down by the shotgun of an anti-choice fanatic, is a victim of terrorism? Perhaps during the long plane rides she describes in her Daily Beast essay, Lafferty could put that question to Palin, since she's the only feminist writer with any access to the candidate. (Would that Kathy G. or Ann Friedman could put a few questions to her.)
With no real refutation, Lafferty dismisses as hogwash any association of Palin with the far right. So, we are to make nothing of Palin's recent video shout-out to the annual convention of the Alaska Independence Party -- itself a secessionist movement and the state affiliate of the Constitution Party, whose platform calls for a return to the biblical law of the Old Testament. "The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations..." reads the platform preamble, which also claims the United States as a nation founded by Christians. First Dude Todd Palin belonged to the Alaska Independence Party for seven years -- until around the time his wife embarked on an unsuccessful run for the office of lieutenant governor in 2002.
I'm wondering if, on those long plane rides, Lafferty has asked Palin about the Wasilla City Council photo of her with a copy of the John Birch Society's magazine, The New American, sitting on the desk before her. The Birch Society, an anti-communist organization, also stands in opposition to most equal-rights movements, including the women's movement, according to the Web site of Political Research Associates, which researches right-wing organizations.
And while the blessing Palin received from one Rev. Thomas Muthee (famously preserved on video) asking for protection from "all forms of witchcraft" may seem pretty comical, it's really not when one considers that Muthee has a record of harassing women as "witches," having even driven one woman out of her hometown for allegedly causing accidents. It's a misogynist ruse as old as the Inquisition, and not one to be taken lightly as a part of Palin's belief system.
As far as I can tell, the biggest difference between Sarah Palin and Phyllis Schlafly is that Palin has expressed support for Title IX, the law that opened up educational opportunities, especially in athletic competition, to women. But other than that, she's pretty dern Schlaflyesque.
Like Sarah Palin, Phyllis Schlafly has long been the target of sexism in her own party. One of the conservative movement's foremost intellects, Schlafly is rarely celebrated as such, and instead finds herself relegated to the G.O.P.'s ladies' auxiliary. So, if I, as a feminist, decided to support Phyllis Schlafly in a bid for a job that offers a direct line of ascendency to the presidency -- would I still be a feminist? After all, I'd just be defending a target of sexism from people -- feminists -- who say mean stuff about her. And isn't that what feminism's all about -- empowering a female opponent of women's empowerment because she's victim of sexism? And to think that, all these years, I've gotten it wrong.
Hat-tip to Frank Gilligan of Beltway Sewer for the Blue Hampshire link.