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Sarah Palin Calls Herself A Feminist, Promptly Renounces Feminism

I know nothing will put some warm, fuzzy Christmas cheer in your heart like listening to Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Palin discuss feminism. So let’s dive right in and hear what Mama Grizzly has to say, shall we?The video on TV Squad has been edited, so this transcript is not the full conversation but just what was posted online. I put ellipses (…) where it appears the video was edited:

Bill O’Reilly: “You say you are a feminist, but you resent the fact that label has been co-opted by the left.”

Sarah Palin: “I think there’s a lot of hypocrisy with women’s rights groups and those who proclaim to be the only ones who can wear that mantle of ‘feminist’ and they do not empower women. In fact, they make women feel weak and incapable of taking care of themselves and their families. … I believe it’s all about a person’s character and their work ethic and how they choose to take care of themselves and their families. … Too many feminists today have decided that women need someone to take care of them. That’s the most hypocritical (makes air quotes with her fingers) ‘feminist mantra’ that there can be.”

O’Reilly: “Why do you say you’re a feminist?”

Palin: “Because I am self-reliant and quite independent and I’m lucky to have been brought up in a family where, really, gender hasn’t been an issue and brought up in a community and a state where you’re expected to work — the women are — as hard as the men are and even engage in the same type of of jobs that they are. It’s really about your work ethic and your character.”

O’Reilly: “Yeah, you made it on your own.”

There is a lot to unpack from any conversation about Sarah Palin and feminism and we’ve likely done it on posts like this one and that one. I just have a couple thoughts I want to make about this one little exchange:

  1. My personal definition of feminism comes from my friend (and Frisky contributor) Courtney E. Martin, who I once heard say “feminism is what’s good for most of the women most of the time.” I would amend that statement to say “feminism is what’s good for everyone most of the time.”
  2. Some people — me, for instance — would say Sarah Palin and the Mama Grizzlies have co-opted the term “feminist” from liberals, not the other way around.
  3. Granted, we don’t know what’s on the unedited video, but it seems that Sarah Palin thinks a feminist ideology only benefits women. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Easing traditional gender norms, accepting all sexual expressions, and being overall anti-oppressive (however you might define that) could have so much of a positive impact on men. The other side of the coin that tells women they should always be nice and not have too much sex is one that tells men they always have to be strong, cannot cry in public, and have to want sex all the time. But Sarah Palin has said stuff about how men are supposed to act that isn’t feminist at all, like saying President Obama doesn’t have the balls to deal with illegal immigration.
  4. I actually don’t disagree with her that there is a lot of hypocrisy amongst women’s groups about who gets to call themselves a feminist. The “feminist litmus test” is extremely frustrating.
  5. This Mama Grizzly idea that mainstream feminism assumes women are weak and need to be helped or rescued by the government/men is an old canard. First of all, refer to point three that feminism is about helping all genders. Second of all, when a group has literally been treated like second-class citizens (examples: women were not allowed to vote until 1920; it was legal to rape one’s wife well into the latter half of the 20th century; gays and lesbians cannot legally marry in the overwhelming majority of states in this country) one does need the government to intercede. That doesn’t mean that group is weak; it means it is oppressed.
  6. I’m assuming Sarah Palin’s comment about feminism assuming women are “incapable of taking care of themselves and their families” is her referring to the anti-abortion argument that Planned Parenthood/people who support abortion rights assume women need to end pregnancies because they can’t handle it all. Remember, Palin is staunchly pro-life and her daughter, Bristol, who was a teen mom, is a public speaker promoting abstinence. I don’t doubt a small percentage women actually are guilt-tripped into having abortions they don’t want. Yet Palin is assuming all women, given the opportunity, have the capacity within them to rise to the occasion of nine months of pregnancy (plus a possible 18+ years of parenthood) and aren’t making the choice to have an abortion because it’s what they actually want.
  7. I’m also assuming her comment about “character” and “work ethic” is her implication that oppression wouldn’t exist (racism, sexism, etc.) if the oppressed group just worked hard enough to make the dominant group accept them. I think women who can remember a time when want ads said “Work Wanted: Female” and “Work Wanted: Male” would take umbrage to that.
  8. That part Palin said about “[I'm a feminist] because I am self-reliant and quite independent and I’m lucky to have been brought up in a family where, really, gender hasn’t been an issue and brought up in a community and a state you’re expected to work — the women are — as hard as the men are and even engage in the same type of of jobs that they are”? You know what? That’s great. That’s really awesome. I mean that sincerely. But she’s assuming a lot about men and women’s actual work experiences. Lower-class and some middle-class women have always worked and they’ve always worked as hard as the men have. And wouldn’t it be great if not only women were made welcome in traditionally male professions (construction work, if that’s your bag) but men were made welcome in traditionally female professions (pre-school, if that’s your bag)? Again, gender equality is for everybody.

OK, I ended up getting way too into this short little clip. But when Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Palin team up to talk feminism, how could I not?

[TV Squad]

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