Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On Smiting Sarah (For The Good Of Womyn Everywhere)

There was a wonderful moment in "Sex And The City" (yes, I watched "Sex and The City." And I loved it. Move on), when the ever-perky and optimistic Charlotte falls in with a group of lesbians, who mistakenly believe that she shares their orientation. She is enthralled by the strength and smarts and self-actualization of these women, and makes no effort to refute their belief about her. When she is finally "outed" as straight, she gives a lovely, touching, frankly stirring oration about how she may not share the sexual orientation of the group, but she does share something far more fundamental: a deep belief in the solidarity and shared strength of women who chart their own courses through life and nourish each others strengths and dreams. She makes an impassioned plea to be accepted into their group on the strength of these bedrock affinities...only to be heart-breakingly (as only Kristin Davis' big doe eyes can communicate) cut down by a hilariously coarse reduction of what it "really" takes to hang with the Sapphic Crowd...

It was this marvelous moment from the series (I still haven't seen the movie) which leapt to my mind when I read this article on Sarah Palin, by the former editor of Ms. Magazine (!). In it (h/t to Hot Air for the link), Elaine Lafferty commits the mortal sin of declaring Sarah Palin "smart."

Now by “smart,” I don't refer to a person who is wily or calculating or nimble in the way of certain talented athletes who we admire but suspect don't really have serious brains in their skulls. I mean, instead, a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernable (sic) pattern of associative thinking and insight. Palin asks questions, and probes linkages and logic that bring to mind a quirky law professor I once had. Palin is more than a “quick study”; I'd heard rumors around the campaign of her photographic memory and, frankly, I watched it in action. She sees. She processes. She questions, and only then, she acts. What is often called her “confidence” is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is.

If you have a strong stomach for blistering vitriol, just have a look at the comments on the article.

Ms. Lafferty is no fan of Palin's stance on abortion, as she makes plain on several occasions in the article. However, she is just as dismayed by the condescending, exclusionary, and remarkably misogynistic criticism leveled at Governor Palin by those who hold themselves up as the defenders of Feminism:

Last month a prominent feminist blogger, echoing that sensibility, declared that the media was wrongly buying into the false idea that Palin was a feminist. Why? Well, just because she said she was a feminist, because she supported women's rights and opportunities, equal pay, Title IV—that was just “empty rhetoric,” they said. At least the blogger didn't go as far as NOW's Kim Gandy and declare that Palin was not a woman. Bottom line: you are not a feminist until we say you are. And there you have the formula for diminishing what was once a great and important mass social change movement to an exclusionary club that rejects women who sincerely want to join and, God forbid, grow to lead.
So much for a big tent.

Sarah Palin has legitimate policy differences with much of the Feminist establishment, to be sure. She is not a secular, Progressive, Pro-Choice foot-soldier of the Gloria Steinem mold. What she is, is an intelligent, accomplished, by all appearances happy and fulfilled woman who has risen by her merits (and, of course, by serendipitous positioning within electoral calculations...but in that world, who isn't ?!) to the very gate to the path up to the door-step of the highest position in the Land. You'd think that this would earn her at least the grudging respect of women everywhere who seek to expand their horizons of efficacy in the world. You'd think they would find in her a model of how strong, determined women of all ideological persuasions could play in the biggest of the big leagues.

Apparently, you'd be wrong.

Oh, well, I guess if you don't rage against the rapacious, phallocentric Patriarchy and its Gynophobic God, then you can't really be a feminist.

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