Sarah Palin: Feminist or foe?

By Nicole Siena

The woman doesn’t even need an introduction. The minute someone mentions her name, minds start spinning.

Palin is most known for her failed run at the White House and as the second women in American’s history  to run for  vice president as a representative of a major political party. Before her, Democratic nominee Geraldine Ferraro was running mate for Walter Mondale’s in 1984.

Palin made history on December 4, 2006 when she was sworn-in as the first woman and youngest governor of Alaska. It was in 2008 that presidential candidate John McCain picked Palin to be his running mate for the United States elections against current president Barack Obama and his vice president Joe Biden.

Along with Palin’s successful political career, she is the mother of  a family of five at home in Alaska.

Since her first appearance as a running mate, many people have wondered whether she is, or can be considered a feminist. The main issue arise on the basis of these two opinions: a) just because she is a women does not make her a feminist or that, b) Palin’s feminism falls under a “newer feminism”, whereas according to Andrea Tantaros, a writer for FoxNews.com defined as being about “choice”, and how it’s “defined by each and every single woman.”

Palin is a non-denominational Protestant, is anti-abortion and is in support of contraception. Her personal beliefs became evident in her policies, where they, among others, were under intense scrutiny. In an interview with Katie Couric, Palin proclaimed herself as a, “feminist who believes in equal rights,” and, “believe[’s] that women… today have every opportunity that a man has to succeed…”

The question stands, is Sarah Palin pro-women?

I don’t think this question can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”  There are many things to consider, and there are many ways of looking at the question.

After finding the definition of Feminism to be “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men,” I started my own quest for the answer by doing a simple google search.

I typed in : “Sarah Palin and feminism.” What came up was a cluster of mixed messages. Some of the results I found included: Sarah Palin is not a feminist, Sarah Palin: Redefining feminism, Why feminists hate Sarah Palin, and Sarah Palin: feminist triumph?, among many others.

According to feminist Gloria Steinem, Palin was chosen to be McCain’s running mate because she agrees with everything he says. Steinem has also said that feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman, but it’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. In her article Palin: Wrong Woman, Wrong Message, she writes that Palin “believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but disbelieves global warming”, she, “opposes gun control but supports government control of women’s wombs; she opposes stem cell research but approves “abstinence-only” programs”.

All of these statements are relevant to the argument. They certainly make you stop and wonder whether one issue deserves higher priority than another and whether feminist opinions should parallel from one issue to the next.  Although not all of her opinions reflect feminist values, I can’t help but think of the “new wave” of feminism that Andrea Tantaros said can be “defined by each and every single woman.”

Is it possible for Palin to still be a feminist but have strict beliefs on particular issues?

According to Rachel Campos-Duffy, Palin is the perfect example of the oxymoron of the feminist stereotype.  Campos-Duffy, a writer for The Americano, stated in her article entitled Sarah Palin: Redefining Feminism, that Palin’s biography is the proof of what many women have already accomplished in their own lives, “That success and female empowerment are not necessarily incompatible with early marriage, unplanned pregnancies, stay-at-home motherhood, or a large family.”

And Ann C. McGinley in Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Obama: Performing Gender, Race, and Class on the Campaign Trail, says that “Sarah Palin fully embraced her gender, and broke from the ‘second wave’ feminist approach of downplaying gender.”

Ultimately, I think that if Sarah Palin demonstrates feminist ideals is dependent on personal opinion and how you look at the question.

She is now known as one of the only women who has ever run for a vice presidential seat and much like Obama has done for the African-American community, I think that Palin has shown women that they don’t  have to choose between a family and a career.

The definition of feminism can apply to any woman on one level or another and the new feminism wave leaves the grounds of the definition  open to be interpreted as each women feels appropriate.

Regardless if Palin was or wasn’t qualified for the job and regardless of if she holds some or all of the feminist views, consideration must be noted that there are many types of feminists with many different beliefs and that some hold certain values closer than others.

It reminds me of how I was taught to write an essay in high school. Make your point, find proof and explain it.

There is no right answer to this question because there are plenty of arguments for both sides. There are many good points, legitimate proofs, and through explanations that must be noted.

Only she can define herself as a feminist, but anyone can make the decision as to whether she upholds feminist ideals.


26 thoughts on “Sarah Palin: Feminist or foe?

  1. This is an interesting piece but there’s a flaw – has Palin herself even identified as a feminist? You address this slightly at your conclusion but isn’t it a bit presumptuous to debate whether or not she is a feminist if she herself doesn’t go by that title?

    Also, If you’re going to make a statement like this:

    “The definition of feminism can apply to any woman on one level or another and the new feminism wave leaves the grounds of the definition open to be interpreted as each women feels appropriate.”

    You need to develop your argument more and give concrete examples this seems very vague. How would you define the “new wave” of feminism? Are we even in a new wave?

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