The XX Factor

Sarah Palin Declares War on Liberal Feminists in “America by Heart”

In the section about Sarah Palin in Rebecca Traister’s book about women during the 2008 election, Big Girls Don’t Cry , Traister quotes consultant Elaine Lafferty, who claims that Palin adored Gloria Steinem and her feminist sisters and couldn’t understand why they didn’t warm to her . According to Lafferty, Palin said of Steinem, she “was my hero! Why do they hate me? I’m a feminist.”

If Gloria Steinem really was once Palin’s idol, she sure ain’t anymore. Palin uses an entire chapter of her new book, America By Heart , to diss liberal feminists, past and present. She insults Betty Friedan twice; she says that in 1992 Hillary Clinton seemed “frozen in an attitude of 1960s-era bra-burning militancy”; she calls her allegedly beloved Steinem out for saying that “no woman who believes abortion is wrong can call herself a feminist”; and finally, she claims that fewer women call themselves feminists these days because “somewhere along the line feminism went from being pro-woman to effectively anti-woman.” All the while she trots out, and then repeats, some fun old stereotypes of liberal feminists: They emphasize women as victims because they’re obsessed with rape and domestic violence, they are disdainful of “the joys and fulfillment we find in motherhood.”

What’s especially entertaining is the part where she spends several pages going off on Murphy Brown- a fictional character from the early ‘90s . By Palin’s twisted logic, Murphy Brown is a terrible role model for having a child as a single woman, but her daughter, Bristol, is a great role model for making the same decision. Why? Because Brown’s creator Diane English trumpeted Brown’s decision as an empowering lifestyle choice, while Bristol has the good sense to go out and “tell other young girls, ‘Don’t do what I did.’”

We had a big discussion on Slate earlier this year, with lots of feminist writers participating from both ends of the political spectrum, about who gets to be a feminist. In this new book, Sarah Palin has made it clear that she doesn’t care what any of us thinks about who gets to be one: She’s redefining the term to suit her needs like she always does, and proclaiming herself a ” new feminist” (italics hers). Here’s her definition:

The new feminism is telling women they are capable and strong. And if keeping a child isn’t possible, adoption is a beautiful choice. It’s about empowering women to make real choices , not forcing them to accept false ones. It’s about compassion and letting these scared young women know that there will be some help there for them to raise their children in those less-than-ideal circumstances.

Any objections?