a kind of feminism
The day after my Bachmann/Palin post, Amanda Marcotte at Double X reminded me of another thing about Sarah Palin that used to boil my blood: she calls herself a feminist while rejecting feminist goals and organizations. Michele Bachmann has thus far refused to call herself feminist (using “empowered American” instead), and like Marcotte, I am relieved:
I personally can think of much better ways to spend my time than coming up with a new word for “feminist” that means “actually a feminist instead of just a rich lady who holds office but is opposed to ordinary ladies having the rights that allow them to approach equality with men.”
But Marcotte hit on something here that’s trickier than both she and I first thought. Feminism as a word has many different meanings. And by one of them, Palin is actually a feminist. Card carrying, practically. Cultural feminism, a term coined by Alice Echols to describe the movement that grew out of radical feminism, valorizes women for being biologically female and for activities related to that biology; they see their bodies, birth and raising children as welcome destiny. These feminists also see Woman as distinctly closer to Nature than Man, who denigrates Nature by contact with it.
In the theater, Eve Ensler is typical of this mold. The Vagina Monologues celebrates the female anatomy, supposing that in doing so it is saving women from violence. (Obviously women talking about vaginas has not ended rape, but Ensler persists in her view that the body is the woman in The Good Body.)
I’m not saying Palin would fit in at the vagina workshop conducted in the Monologues, but her views of herself, her children, and the men in her life all conform to the tenets of cultural feminism. She argues that she is qualified for office by virtue of the fact that she is a mother, she sees men (Trooper Wooten, Levi Johnston, David Letterman, Joe McGinnis) as perverts preying on her, her sister, and her daughters, and – connected with nature – Sarah Palin’s Alaska anyone?
I too am relieved that Bachmann does not call herself a feminist, but Palin? By a certain definition of the word, she really is one. Either that, or Eve Ensler isn’t.