Sarah Palin regards herself a feminist, no doubt about it. At a May 14, 2010, meeting of the Susan B. Anthony List, she declared herself a “feminist.” And in America by Heart, the former vice-presidential candidate announced: “It surprises some people to hear that I consider myself a feminist.”
So exactly how does Mrs. Palin view this gender-liberation creed?
To some, feminism means men and women should have equal opportunities — and responsibilities — at school, in the workplace, and in society. Presumably, equality should benefit men and women alike. This is what some call “equality feminism.”
This squares with the constitutional notion of equal treatment under the law, and most conservatives, I believe, are comfortable with that.
To others, feminism has a radically different design — it means women should equal (or surpass) men, even if it entails government-imposed quotas, set-asides, and other social-engineering schemes. These “gender feminists” do not fret if these programs end up shortchanging men. Girls rule!, the preening rad-fems exclaim.
Which school of feminist thought does Sarah Palin belong to?
At first, it would appear that she belongs to the equality feminism school. Writing in America by Heart, she explains,
The original feminists were interested in securing equal rights and opportunity for women in a man’s world. But at some point feminism began to be about emphasizing women as victims. … In short, the message of feminism became, “No, we can’t — at least not unless government helps” (141).
Most conservatives would applaud that pronouncement.
But a mere two pages removed from these words comes forth the voice of a different Sarah Palin, a woman whose athletic aspirations can only be satisfied by, yes — a government-backed quota system. In her words, “I also consider myself a grateful beneficiary of the movement for female equality, particularly Title IX, the federal law that mandates equal opportunity for women in high school and college sports.”
This was not Palin’s brain addled by an aurora borealis during a long Alaska night. The former governor espouses similar views in her Going Rogue book.
Palin goes on to cite Tilting the Playing Field, a riveting chronicle about the transmogrification of Title IX by Bill Clinton’s Education Department. Quoting from Jessica Gavora’s exposé, Palin rhapsodizes about the “liberating effect of Title IX on women’s sports.”
But that misrepresents Gavora’s thesis. Maybe Title IX did serve to liberate women’s sports — but the feat was accomplished at the expense of males. In Gavora’s words:
The gender-quota logic […] begins with the presumption that men and women, boys and girls are identical in their athletic interests, equally eager to kick a soccer ball or wield an oar. And if interests are equal, then “equity” between men and women dictates that actual participation must also be equal […]. Anything less is prima facie proof that someone is being discriminated against.
How is it possible that a shotgun-toting, abortion-shunning, federalism-embracing Hockey Mom would end up touting a monstrous brainchild of the former Clinton administration?
Here’s why: because Mrs. Palin ardently believes “women’s talents and capabilities are equal to men’s” (America by Heart 140). So let’s think this one through:
Since women have “equal” capabilities as men, Palin reasons, and since the number of male athletes has greatly exceeded the number of female athletes, something is very wrong. Obviously, the government needs to step in.
Here’s more evidence of Palin’s fixation with gender “equality.”
In America by Heart, Palin heralds the American military man as “working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk […] can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark […] digs foxholes and latrines and […]. He’ll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.”
Amazingly, Palin takes this gritty tribute and then turns it into a sales-pitch for gender feminism, insisting this encomium applies “to both sexes equally.”
As a person who served in the U.S. Army and observed women firsthand in the armed forces, I will simply note that Mrs. Palin, who never wore a military uniform, appears to be operating in a different reality.
So it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Mrs. Palin is a gender feminist who welcomes feminist-inspired government policies that have excised equal opportunities for men in the name of guaranteeing equal outcomes for women.
But the very idea of a conservative icon working to advance a gender-feminist agenda is oxymoronic. It’s mind-boggling, really.
So email me, phone me, twitter me. As one who supports your mission, Sarah, please explain what’s going on here.