Can Feminists Learn From Sarah Palin?

Ahh, Sarah Palin. Plenty of us feminists just want the soon-to-be-former Alaskan governor to just go away, far enough so her silliness and inarticulateness is out of earshot. (Russia, perhaps.) But writing in the liberal The American Prospect, Courtney E. Martin suggests ol’ Sara Barracuda might have a thing or two to teach us feminists about powerful women.

  • Lesson #1: Women across the country are hungry for their strength to be acknowledged, without sacrificing their femininity. “Sarah Palin appeals to a broad need among contemporary American women who want to be leaders and demonstrate their intellectual strength, but also maintain their allegiance to traditional notions of femininity. Both her RNC address and her resignation speech were filled with this subtle duality and bold permission for women everywhere to flex their muscles while painting their fingernails.”

    Femininity is a tricky minefield for a female politician, as Hillary Clinton could probably tell you. But while people obsessed over what kind of woman Clinton is based on ridiculous signifiers like her pantsuits and her hair, Palin straight up told everybody she’s a moose hunter who also gets her hair did and wears Naughty Monkey heels.

    Martin’s got a point that some people are turned off by feminism because they think it means they can’t like clothes, shopping and boys. Even though it pains me to imagine telling female politicians they need to seem more “feminine,” it’s true that, as Martin points out, Palin’s characterization as a “pitbull in lipstick” erased any doubts about whether or not she had a girly-girl within her. Nor was there ever any doubt she’d rip you a new one of you looked at her the wrong way.