The Power of Palin
|My Huff Post post this morning:
The Power of Palin
Sarah Palin became mayor of her town, governor of her state, and has now secured the Vice Presidential nomination for the Republican Party of her country. She accomplished this using the basic doctrine of feminism: female empowerment.
Many feminists are now trying to distance themselves from the result of their own work by launching scathing critiques of Sarah Palin, conservative women, and anyone else with the audacity to point out the connection between Palin’s rise and the last forty years of feminist ideology.
This is upsetting for some to realize, but the fact is, this hacking away at unwanted results is nothing new.
Fifteen years ago I wrote To Be Real and have since written and lectured on the necessity of inter-generational power sharing within feminist institutions, the full integration of men into organizations working for gender parity, and the necessity of finding commonality with women who don’t hold progressive views.
In response, I’ve been attacked, undermined, and politically abused by some of the very women I sought to serve.
I’m not the only one. Many have fallen out of the graces of the feminist establishment because of their critique of it. But in Sarah Palin, this habitual distancing of women who don’t serve the progressive feminist agenda has reached its apex.
To date, feminist think-tanks, powerful feminist icons, and the leadership of major, national women's organizations have done the dirty business of policing feminism. A couple of years ago, for example, I was asked to deliver the keynote address at the National Women's Studies Association.
At the address, I told a room full of a thousand representatives of Women’s Studies programs across the country that we, as a community, were going to have to be more open, more tolerant, and more inclusive of women and men who do not share a progressive agenda. I specifically discussed the need to reaffirm our commitment to biological family, a trope successfully manipulated by conservatives, including Palin, but dismissed by the left.
A shouting match ensued, during which many of the leadership present reeled at what they perceived to be the inappropriateness of my comments. The organization then followed up with a nationwide mailing of their newsletter, which included an article suggesting that I must have been on drugs to raise these issues. They were so unconcerned about undermining my credibility among women's studies programs, I had to threaten a lawsuit to get them to write a simple retraction. The message was, "Don't book Rebecca Walker for any paid speaking engagements in women's studies programs nationwide."
The audacity of this vindictive silencing and other examples of political exclusion, has created the very vulnerabilities now being exploited by Palin Power. Sarah Palin looking like a progressive, thinking like a conservative, and hiding from public scrutiny, is nothing more than conservatives exploiting the breach created by feminist leadership. This shrewd politic, crafted by right-wing think-tanks, individuals, and organizations is a turn-about of a page taken directly from the feminist playbook. Sarah Palin is being presented as the new and improved, moosehunting Gloria Steinem.
No matter who wins the election, feminism is going to come out of it with a bloody nose, and women will be at odds with each other at a level we have never seen in the history of our country. One thing is for sure though, if McCain wins, the proponents of Palin Power will feel confident that they exploited feminist vulnerabilities using feminist tactics, and won.
The writing of the inevitability of Palin Power has been on the wall for many years. The feminist leadership's attempts to silence the messengers have left entire generations of women vulnerable. At some point I hope that those who credit themselves with the advancement of female empowerment will take responsibility now as they have in the past for what is going on in the national discourse about women in this election.
I believe the outcome of all of this will be the true catharsis, not the one labeled “for progressive women only.”