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Is Sarah Palin a Feminist?

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Is Sarah Palin a "feminist"? Would she stand up for women's issues? Going Rogue provides us with useful clues. And, how can Sarah use her life experiences, as revealed in Going Rogue, to win over women voters?

First a confession. Yes, I am the president and co-founder of a new national women's organization, but I am not a "feminist". My epiphany came earlier this year. A neighbor had volunteered to send out thank you notes for my organization. One day, she apologetically announced: "I have a confession. I'm not a feminist." My immediate, unfiltered response: "Neither am I."

Frankly, the women in my generation -- the PTA and soccer moms -- generally do not consider themselves to be feminists. I was hardly surprised when a Daily Beast poll found that 80% of women don't associate with the word (and yes Tina, we are looking for a replacement term).

It's not that women of my generation do not care about women's issues. We care immensely. The major issues impacting my generation are born from the successes of the women's rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. While we gained the freedom to enter the workforce, women of my generation struggle with the guilt of working or the guilt of giving up a career. If we work, we face discrimination in some subtle, and some not so subtle ways. We are also faced with a crisis decades after women gained sexual freedoms: the sexualization of our teenage daughters and the escalating rates of teen dating violence.

In Going Rogue, Sarah Palin reveals her own experience with the issues of our generation. So I wonder - could a woman like Sarah, who has shared many of our struggles, help to advance women?

We need to give this question serious consideration, and here is why: women's health -- be it mammograms, pap smears or abortion availability -- is under assault. Not by the Republicans. The assault comes from a Democratic administration and a Democrat controlled House and Senate. Only women, from both parties, are speaking out for us. Even though women delivered President Obama the election, voting largely around the issue of choice - the reward: a major setback to Roe. Perhaps it is time for women to re-examine some of our preconceived notions of who best represents our interests.

Would Sarah Palin fight for us? First, let's clear up a few factual inaccuracies: Sarah does not oppose contraception (p. 238); did not ban library books (p.237); the rape kit story is false (p.237); and Tina Fey's words are Tina's, not Sarah's (p.309).

Here's Sarah in her own words:

1. Work/Life Balance (p. 103)
It irked me that too often women are made to feel guilty for seeking the next open door, no matter what career choices we make.
Quote by Track in 2004 (p. 341)
"I don't want you to run for U.S. Senate, Mom. Who would be our hockey manager?"

2. Surrounding Herself with Women in her Campaigns (p. 70)
I ran a very grassroots campaign, mostly with the help of my girlfriends. We painted pink-and-green signs....
[Two closest aids throughout her political career: Meghan Stapleton, Kris Perry.]

3. Attacks on Her Children (p. 351-2)
Letterman's "joke" about Willow
No, I guess I can't take a joke that suggests it's funny to humiliate a young girl...to the detriment of young women, who are already too often made to feel like sex objects...

4. Sexism
Quote by man in Wasilla (p. 71)
...he said. "But you're not going to win because you have three strikes against you....Track, Bristol, and Willow."
During VP run (p. 318)
Schmidt told Randy he thought I might be suffering from postpartum depression.

5. Women's Issues (p.151)
(while cutting the budget as governor)
We...beefed up funding for public safety officers to handle alcohol abuse and domestic violence...

6. Womens Representation (p. 200)
Quote by Alaska House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula (Democrat)
"I finally get to go to the restroom and talk business with the governor. The guys have been doing this for centuries."

7. Personal Tragedy (first miscarriage)
(p. 56-7)
The miscarriage carved a new depth in my heart. I became a little less Pollyanna-ish, a little less naive about being invincible and in control.

8. Title IX and Equal Opportunity (p. 29)
My parents gave us equal opportunity and expectation...I'm a product of Title IX...I was a direct beneficiary of the equal rights...Later, my own daughters would benefit, participating in sports like hockey, wrestling, and football, which had been closed to girls for decades.

But even if Sarah Pain could be an advocate for women issues, will women vote for her? Here's the challenge for Governor Palin: if you want to win the White House, you'll need women voters. Your recent favorability rating among women is 37%, significantly lower than with men.

If you want women's votes, you must speak up on women's issues -- just like you did in Going Rogue. And, since many women vote around the issue of abortion (that's how the DNC corralled a victory for Obama in 2008), you need to be brave and take a stand.

Few reading here likely know that you stood up to your own party on gay rights (p.143). That while you were governor, conservatives passed a bill that would prohibit state benefits to same-sex couples and you vetoed it:

...I would be bound by judiciary's ruling...Therefore, even though legislators passed a law that reflected my personal views, I vetoed it. It wasn't about me; it was - and is - about respecting the Constitution and the separation of powers.

Governor Palin -- you can't get to 1600 Pennsylvania without taking that same stance on another judiciary decision: Roe v. Wade. But if you do, you might just yet break that highest ceiling.

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