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Taylor Marsh

Taylor Marsh

Posted: June 14, 2010 09:20 AM

The Substance Behind Sarah-mania

What's Your Reaction:

America, meet the 21st century Jerry Falwell - Phyllis Schlafley and the heroine of the religious right, America's anti-feminist "Queen Esther."

To white evangelical women, Sarah Palin is a modern-day prophet, preaching God, flag, and family--while remaking the religious right in her own image. [...] Palin shows them a path through this thicket of contradictions. "Within these circles, there is very much an ideal Christian woman model," explains Griffith. "It's an image that blends this kind of submissive, pretty, aw-shucks demeanor with a fiery power, a spiritual warfare." Palin may say she's a pugnacious jock primed to take on the big boys, but her family, beauty-queen figure, and glossy hair are her calling cards. - Saint Sarah
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...and so it begins. The legitimization of anti-feminism.

I have not been one of Palin's "leftist critics" who "shred" Palin's views or disrespect her power and influence. I doubt there is another politician who could attract 10,000 people to Searchlight, NV, which I wrote about when it happened. I have also agreed with her (ack, the horror!) on a few occasions, come to her defense at other times (taking hits for it when I do), while often disagreeing with her on policy on the merits and proving the case. And her "mama grizzly" cry is fantastic marketing. It's just not a feminist cry. Anti-feminism, yes.

As the second decade of the 21st century dawns, as with all things Jon Meacham, Newsweek remains moored in the 20th century, which is one reason they're on the block. The article by Lisa Miller, though well written, also doesn't address "what Sarah Palin's appeal to conservative Christian women says about feminism." I guess it's a deduce for yourself exercise.

But as is Newsweek's usual angle with Palin, it's always about the money Sarah brings in. There's a moral in there somewhere and a warning for Democrats.

Palin knows it, so she crafted the perfect back story narrative to make her an every woman, who when faced with bad news turns human, blowing away the divide between left and right, except for the perennial political haters.

Palin has already overshared: nothing makes a person, let alone a politician, appear more vulnerable, more ordinary, and more unambiguously female than a scene in a bathroom where she pees on a stick. But then she defies a generation of pro-life activists who preached that the life of the fetus is sacred, no matter what an individual woman wants. For a split second, Palin--already at the limits of her time and energy--stops to consider the chaos another baby will create in her life. These are really less than ideal circumstances, she thinks. And then the inconceivable. I'm out of town. No one knows I'm pregnant. No one would ever have to know. Any woman who has faced a pregnancy test with hope or with dread can picture the governor sitting there, alone with her dilemma, certain that her future will change. We know, of course, how the story ends. Trig, diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome, was born just months before his mother's vice presidential run.

Sister, I've been there.

What I don't quite get is why the right would want to make the case for feminism given their views.

The women who follow Palin will fight against Roe--and support adoption and prenatal health clinics--but they aren't generally focused on birth control, sex education, or gender discrimination. They shrug at the agonies of the overeducated moms who feel forced to choose between work and family (no one had to do that on the farm), and they refute the idea that to succeed in the world a woman must look and act like a man. ("That Supreme Court nominee--I can't relate to her at all," Ruthie McIntosh, one of those who jumped to her feet at the Palin breakfast in Washington last month, told me.) These Christians seek a power that allows them to formally acquiesce to male authority and conservative theology, even as they assume increasingly visible roles in their families, their churches, their communities, and the world.

A point of order here. I have never witnessed or read anything about Sarah Palin formerly or otherwise acquiescing to Todd Palin in any respect, including financially. Ladies, you have a disconnect.

Nikki, Carly, Meg and Sharon don't seem to need feminism, even after Sarah went to the Susan B. Anthony list breakfast to proclaim "a new conservative feminism," which is laughable on its face. They could make a case for anti-feminism on the merits of their philosophy. That feminism hasn't made women happy; that women define for themselves what it means; that motherhood is a reality when you make the choice to have sex outside wedlock; and when in wedlock it's part of a woman's biological fate, which all women should embrace, because giving birth is a gift from God and a woman's duty.

Now, I don't agree with much of what's espoused there, but for a woman of the right why isn't anti-feminism the field on which they want to play?

But there is something akin to pulling your punches when the right tries to make a case that conservative views can ever align with feminism. They won't simply come out and say that the right supports the anti-feminist model for women, because they cannot adhere to the bottom line tenet of feminism on which there can be no compromise: full individual rights and freedoms for women. The one thing the right still hasn't done is take on feminism directly, because they obviously want to soften the edges of what they are advocating, which is to "formally acquiesce to male authority" and less than full individual rights for women, which in the 21st century is a non-starter in the long run.

Now, I could join with the conservative right IF they were willing to respect women's individual rights and also come onto the playing field of the reproductive health care battle so that we could finally join together to stop abortions through sexual education, including at the federal and state levels, advocating condom use, but also RU468 and the Morning After pill, as well as abstinence. I'll join any conservative on that field, but all options for stopping unwanted pregnancies must be on the table. Sarah Palin would truly prove herself a leader if she could walk on to the stage and join hands with people like me on this platform. Fat chance.

As for Newsweek's language, Newsmax might as well buy them, because their language is similar.

"Pro-woman rallying cry"?

Only if you're someone who believes full individual rights don't belong to women.

"Pro-life" is once again being used instead of understanding the pro selective life foundation of the anti-feminist conservative movement. Though neutral territory is even better, pitting abortion rights advocate v. abortion rights opponent, as NPR and others have finally started to do.

Feminism is many things, as I've been writing for almost 17 years, but it starts with one unconditional tenet. Do you believe that women should have the very same individual rights and full freedoms as men? If you do not you cannot be a feminist.

As for "Saint Sarah," I've seen the pedestal and it's nothing to covet.

Taylor Marsh is a political analyst out of Washington, D.C.

 

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