The XX Factor

How To Be an Anti-Feminist Feminist

Aside from all the swell Alaska trivia (salmonberries, moose eyeballs, baleen etchings), Sarah Palin’s new memoir has enlightened me about one important thing. For at least a decade, I have puzzled over this new type that showed up on the political scene in the mid-’90s-the Republican “mom” politician. Here was a creature who could work fiendishly, have many children, and still smugly call herself traditional and anti-feminist. Honestly, it makes no sense. It’s like when my kid says he didn’t eat the Oreos but the crumbs are right there on his face. In Palin’s book, Going Rogue , this worldview still makes no sense but it does appear to, thanks to these few tricks:

-Mention Title IX in a confusing way. Sarah Palin likes Title IX because it allowed her to play basketball, which is something elite Northeastern women apparently don’t do. She writes that she is “proud” of the legislation and a “product” of it. But then one paragraph later, she quotes an obscure book ranting against the National Organization for Women and other “so-called ‘women’s groups’” that got it passed. She does not attempt to reconcile these two views.

-Talk about “Neanderthals” and “good ole’ boys.” Palin uses these words often. This might seem very 1970s cooperative of her, as if she wants to say, see, Maureen Dowd , see Dayo , I am just like you! I can spot the oppressor! But that’s not what she means. She’s using the phrases more like Dolly Parton or Thelma and Louise might use them: These are patriotic, God-fearing Neanderthals, and they are our husbands and sons.

-Don’t EVER say ambitious. This rule comes from my favorite passage in the book. Palin is rocking Piper on one of those glider rockers and snuggling her, and thinking maybe she should be a stay-at-home mom after all. But then no, a little voice inside her is telling her she has to run for governor: “Was this ambition? I didn’t think so. Ambition drives; purpose beckons. Purpose calls .” An ambitious woman running for governor. Yuck. But a purposeful woman? That’s godly . That’s hot .

-Praise God. You can get away with almost anything if you’re called to do it, and you have the appropriate Biblical passage at hand to back you up. In Palin’s case, the push to run for office came from Jeremiah 29:11-13: “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans for peace and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.’ ” Anybody out there want to interpret that? I myself have heard Christians use that particular one to justify dozens of possibilities, from cafeteria worker to parole officer. Seems to me “mom” would fit just as well.

-Take your kids on the campaign trail. This is a key one. A feminist leaves her kids at home for a couple of days with relatives or a babysitter while she campaigns. An anti-feminist drags her kids on 12-hour car rides across Alaska so she can attend a meet-and-greet, because they all “love” campaigning with mom.

-Never admit you’re wrong. One of the key victories of feminism was giving women new choices. Palin has improved on the model by never making the wrong one. A weaker woman might admit that maybe she should have prepared a little more for the fatal Katie Couric interview, or paid more attention to Bristol, but Palin is beyond that. She is the new, improved model-confident, liberated, and chosen by God.