Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What kind of feminist is THAT?!

Normally politics is not my thing. But the Palin nomination, and the response to it, has been so interesting, and so revealing as to attitudes about women, children, families, etc. I just can't help but write about it.

A lot of ultra-conservatives are extremely uncomfortable with Governor Palin. It's bad enough that she is a woman governor. Some of them could almost bring themselves to overlook that. But her real crime is that she is a member of Feminists for Life. Feminists. Yet, it's hard to savage and vilify her for that because...well...she puts to lie their favorite whipping-girl stereotype of feminist.

I'm reminded of the t-shirt, "This is what a feminist looks like".

The angry anti-feminists would rather not admit that a feminist can look like Governor Palin. She's not a man-hating lesbian with short hair stridently shouting about abortion rights. Instead, she is, as one reporter noticed, "pro-baby, pro-guns, and pro-Jesus". She is married. She has five children. She has been widely photographed going about her business with her baby in a sling. She is not shrill or angry. She actually has a sense of humor. And she's feminine, to the point that a popular bumper slogan in her state says "Alaska. Coldest State. Hottest Governor".

Other than working outside the home, she is that fantasy ideal wife for many of the ultra-conservative men. If she were a housewife at a homeschooling convention with Trig in her sling, men would be falling over themselves to hold her up as an example for their wives, and they would be commenting with envy, "Man, her husband is one lucky dude. She's not only pretty and feminine and having babies in her 40's, but she even goes moose hunting. She's the perfect wife."

Those same men simply don't want to admit that this sort of woman could possibly be a feminist. It makes it harder when a feminist looks so much the way you wished your wife did. It makes it harder to scream that all feminists are angry, bitter, ugly women that men would never want anyway, and who now hate all men and want to murder all babies.

"Real women" can be feminists too. I'm reminded of a woman I read about, a self-proclaimed feminist. She may have also been a member of Feminists for Life; I'm not sure, but I do know she was involved in pro-life ministry. She was also pretty and feminine with a fairly large family. In addition, she was a stay-at-home homeschooling mom who loved to cook, sew, and involve herself in stereotypically feminine pursuits. Men liked to argue with her and tell her that she was not a feminist, that she didn't understand what it meant to be a feminist, etc. She had her degree in Feminist Studies and could, of course, argue circles around these men, since she had actually studied feminist literature and was not relying on some pastor's ill-informed anti-feminist rhetoric or on silly stereotypes. She tended to baffle these men.

But it's not just the ultra-conservative men who don't know what to do with someone like Governor Palin. It's the ultra-left as well.

You see, Governor Palin is committing the crime of "doing it all". Worse yet, she's doing it all while wearning Trig in a sling. She's not insisting on the necessity of abortions and child care. She's simply doing what mothers without a socialistic agenda have always done --- working at one's calling while tending one's babies.

No one --- at least not the ultra-conservatives or the ultra-left --- want to admit that this is possible. It makes them angry. It puts to lie their hostile rhetoric. Mothers must stay home! Children get in the way of a woman's career! Babies have no place in the working world! Babies should be rarely seen and certainly not heard! Having a baby with an extra chromosone is a tragedy that will ruin your life or, at the very least, make it impossible for you to do anything else but spend 24 exhausting hours a day completely consumed by your special-needs child! Real women don't work! Real women don't go moose hunting! Real women don't have babies in their 40's! Real women are pro-abortion! Real women don't seek to rule over men! Real women need child care in order to live their lives! Real women never need any household help! Real women...!

Very few want to admit that, yes, Governor Palin is what a feminist looks like. And it's ridiculous to try to claim that she's not a real woman.

Many are much more comfortable with the idea that Hillary Clinton is what a feminist looks like.

The truth of the matter is that feminists are sort of like Baptists in that when you get two together, you have at least three opinions. Unlike Baptists, feminist embrace a much wider variety of beliefs and practices.

So...she may not be the sort of feminist you like to throw darts at. She may not be the sort of feminist that fits your stereotype. She may not be the sort of feminist you are. But she's a feminist. In fact, there are more just like her. Get used to it. Maybe every feminist is not your enemy...or not just like you. Or maybe some are more like you than you're comfortable all depends on your perspective.

Time to face the truth, uncomfortable though it may be. Time to let go of the argue ideas rather than straw women!

Updated to add:

This picture, taken --- to the best of my knowledge --- right before Governor Palin's speech accepting the vice presidential nomination, has been circulating on the internet, sometimes with the caption, "This is what a feminist looks like".

And why are so many uncomfortable with this picture? What does it tell us about what we really think about feminists and, more importantly, what we really think about women, especially mothers?

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1 comment:

  1. Immediately after posting this, I read thatmom's excellent post at:

    I highly recommend it.