The XX Factor

Bristol Palin Is Not a Feminist

Emily , thanks for backing me up on my criticism of Susan Faludi’s article in Harper’s .  While I still stand by everything I wrote, I did get a taste of the grumpies with modern feminism that made me more sympathetic toward the potshots Faludi took at spending time on high heels and Lady Gaga instead of more serious work.  And that’s when I saw this blog post defending Bristol Palin against not just snickering jokes about teen pregnancy, but the slings and arrows of the straw feminists of Palin’s mind, and I hit an emotional wall.  If we spent half as much time advocating for policies that actually move the ball down the field of equality as we do dutifully playing defense against perceived slights against our ideological enemies who happen to be female, we would be pouring the Gatorade of true equality over Gloria Steinem’s head right now.

Or maybe not.   I’m not against the occasional use of sniggering sexism against a conservative leader to make the point that sexism is a slam against all women, not just the original target.  But still, you can call foul on sexist jokes against Bristol Palin without painting her as some sort of hero, as Caroline at Ms. Blog does.  She lauds Palin as a symbol of the struggle of teen mothers against the system, suggests that it’s a feminist statement to vote for Palin on Dancing With the Stars and then even (gasp!) tries to drum up sympathy for the young tabloid sensation by reporting that Palin suspects that many feminists don’t like her.

Well, I don’t like Bristol Palin, so she’s right about that.  Regardless of whether Palin is “struggling” in her wealthy family with her hefty stipends for speaking and going on TV, the reality is that she’s an advocate for policies that roll back the progress of human rights, especially those of women and children.  I doubt her supposed job at a medical office (gosh, they sure are understanding of the fact that she never has time to actually, you know, work) is what’s paying the bills in her household.  I suspect that she’s really making way more bank going around the country playing the abstinence-only sidekick to her anti-choice mother.  If you’re worried about the plight of teenage mothers, the Palin family are not your friends, not only because they advocate policies that create more unwilling teenage mothers, but they also promote conservative policies that take the safety net away from those teenage mothers who aren’t lucky enough to get a fat check for going on Dancing With the Stars .

If you’re worried about sexism against Bristol Palin, check yourself before scolding others.  Personally, I can’t think of anything more sexist than treating a grown woman who makes her living as a well-paid activist like she’s a child who can’t be held accountable for her actual actions and beliefs.  Sure, it’s tempting to suggest that Palin would break out on her own and become a feminist superstar if it wasn’t for her scary mother breathing down her neck.  But we don’t know that.  All we know is what Palin does when she goes out to impact the world, and what she does is rationalize abstinence-only ideology that is used to attack the basic rights and health of women and girls.

Of course, all this nonsense went on over at Ms. magazine, a venerable second-wave institution.  So Faludi’s still wrong to chalk this up to a generational divide.

Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas on “Dancing with the Stars the Results Show,” courtesy of © ABC.