Sarah Palin has been talking a lot about feminism lately, which is ironic as she is about as far away from feminism as one can get. Why? Well, for one, she’s anti-Choice. I’ve heard it said that you really can’t consider yourself a feminist and be against abortion at the same time, and I’d agree with that. One can see abortion as an unfortunate occurrence, sure, but if one wants to deny a woman her basic right to choose, then one clearly doesn’t want women to be completely free. Instead, Palin and her ilk portray their anti-choice stance as being “feminist.” They argue that taking away a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body will merely make women stronger. It’s empowering for women to make the hard decision and become mothers (or give birth and hand the child over to someone else), so we might as well just take away their choice altogether. Faux-empowerment by force, one might call it.
Secondly, Palin seems to have an issue with the unequal wages of men and women in the workplace, and by “issue,” I mean that she doesn’t take what I consider to be the clear feminist standpoint on the topic. Instead, she supports a party and candidates (like John McCain) who flat-out oppose any legislation that would guarantee equal wages for women. They don’t want to force businesses to pay extra if they don’t have to (always for the big businesses, those guys are). Their opinions are nothing short of antique. As Jessica Valenti writes in her recent column in the Washington Post, “The fake feminism of Sarah Palin,” “When members of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum argue against efforts to address pay inequity, they say the salary gap is a result of women’s informed choices — motherhood, for example — and that claims of discrimination turn women into victims.” If all claims of discrimination turned women into victims, then we wouldn’t be wearing pants, voting, attending college, or working outside of the home. “Oh, don’t campaign for the right to vote. That just makes you look like a victim. You’ll look weak.” What a ridiculous notion. Another ridiculous notion is that all women make informed choices such as motherhood (and, remember, if Palin had her way, motherhood wouldn’t be much of a choice). Not all women choose that path, and if they do, who says that they should always be the one taking off time to raise a kid, and putting their careers on hold? Men do that sometimes – in Britain, they recently fought to earn paternity leave from work – and this idea refuses to reflect that. Clearly some time would have to be taken off to actually have the child, but no more than would be needed for major surgery, a situation that a person of either sex could find themselves in.
Let’s put this into a hypothetical situation. Let’s say Sarah Palin’s faux-feminism took hold, and she and the Conservatives had their way. Now, let’s say you’re in a low-paying field of work – social work, education, maybe even journalism. Yeah, you have a degree, but you hardly make enough, and you have college loans to pay off on top of that. In the cubicle across from you sits your friend, a guy. In fact, you both attended the local college together, had some of the same classes, and graduated at the same time with the same degree. You both hired into this company around the same time, and yet, for every $1.00 he makes, you make about $0.73. Now, let’s say that you get knocked up. It happens – the condom broke, and you didn’t have access to Plan B (I’m assuming that in Palin’s Conservative WonderWorld that we’re imagining, there would be no Plan B). You can’t afford to take time off to have a kid, you’re not in a relationship, you don’t want a kid, and you really don’t think you could provide for it that well.
So just have it and give it up for adoption, right? Okay, but you still have to take time off work, which you can’t afford, even if you are getting maternity pay. That sucks, but it’s not like you can get an abortion. So you do it. Give the kid up. Now, you’re one of the lucky birth mothers who don’t end up having some serious psychological issues that come with giving up a child, so you can avoid expensive psychiatric care. You return to work, in a bit of debt from the time you took off to have a baby you didn’t want, and you still make $0.73 for every $1.00 that your male co-workers make, except now your employers have a reason to justify this unequal pay: you took time off to have a kid.
Let’s say you choose to keep the kid and not give it up for adoption. You have it and return to work not long after because you can’t afford to take more time off. You have to pay for childcare, and you also have to adjust to buying for a family of two instead of one. You could sure use some more money, right? Well, you’re not going to get it. You took time off to have a kid, your male co-worker didn’t, so he deserves more pay than you. Where else could a person get money? Government aid, perhaps? No, we got rid of all that in Conservative WonderWorld, so you can forget about it. Besides, being on welfare or food stamps makes you look weak and un-American, and you don’t want that, do you?
I think this is almost a best-case scenario for a single woman living in the world Sarah Palin dreams of. How is any of this empowering to a woman? Is it so mind-boggling to these people that what’s really empowering for a woman is for them to be equal to their male co-workers, and to have the option to do what they choose with their bodies? I suppose it is. All we can really do is hope that this odd brand of “feminism” doesn’t really take off.
(As an addendum to our hypothetical situation, let’s say your kid attends public school, where she or he is taught abstinence only sex-education, insuring that the cycle of unwanted pregnancies will continue. How ridiculously delusional.)
Picture source 2 (On the same page, you’ll find an article from the Red State Feminists that basically supports Palin as a feminist figure, if you’re interested)