Ok, this series is almost two months old now, but I still think it's worth considering:
@Slate on feminism
I posted the link on my FB page and the following discussion ensued with a college classmate:
A: "I was having just this debate yesterday at lunch. What do you think?"
Me: "About Sarah Palin & others adopting the label? On that I am conflicted. I do believe that it's a big enough tent that feminists don't have to all believe the same thing. On the other hand, it is different to acknowledge that you have benefi...ted from feminism and to think that there is still work to be done. I know that SP benefited from feminism, but I'm not sure she thinks there is still work to be done to dismantle patriarchy, promote equality for all, build a society where a range of choices are celebrated and available/acceptable for both women and men. (At least that's not what I hear coming out of her mouth.) My feminism is so tied to social justice issues (cycle of poverty, educational inequality, reproductive rights/choices, health care, social services, gay rights, marriage equality, etc. and the responsibility we all hold for one another) that it's hard for me to consider SP a feminist, since we clearly do not agree on these issues. I don't think I can consider SP a feminist until the work is done, society has been changed, until the things I believe in are not considered cutting edge/progressive. Then we can be slower about change. (Though I sense that by that time, if that ever happens, feminism will have found some new drums to beat.) If she wants to adopt the label, that's fine, but I don't have to agree with that adoption."
A: "My friend was arguing that, especially to women who are in communities where it isn't even yet acceptable to be a working mother, Sarah Palin complicates the traditional idea of womanhood to such an extent that she can be understood as a fe...minist. But I can't make that move. Like you, I think you have to not simply be an example of equality but actually promote a system that is just and non-patriarchal in order to "count" as a feminist. And while I don't believe there is any sort of litmus test (as you said, the tent can be quite large), I don't think that you can actively campaign against programs and policies that would make the world a better place for women and get to call yourself a feminist. And the fact that she bases her participation on her status as a mother is also problematic to me. I mean, that's the whole idea of republican motherhood (in the classical sense, not the contemporary idea of republican v. democrat): you get to participate in politics through raising children. While Palin's version goes a bit beyond Rousseau's because she thinks that women can directly participate in politics, it is still on the basis of being a mother. Isn't part of the point of feminism that women are not ONLY mothers? I was at a talk with Gloria Steinem on Friday and she said, when confronted with a question about Palin: "it's a testament to the success of the feminist movement that our enemies feel they have to dress up like us in order to succeed" (or something to that effect). I can appreciate that to a certain sector of society, Sarah Palin has made the idea of a powerful woman somehow palatable, but I think she's watered down feminism to such an extent that it has little or no meaning left if we can use it to apply to her and her grizzlies. Maybe you're right: if we had already accomplished all of the goals of the women's movement, we could talk about considering Palin a feminist, but I think she actually turns back the clock on many of the very programs that benefitted her. There are definitely Republican women who would count as feminists (and good role models) for me, but Palin just isn't one of them."
Me: "I like what Gloria said, that's clever. And I totally hear you on the connection to republican motherhood, a concept so heavily emphasized with my AP US History students. I also struggle, quite frankly, with Palin's stand on abortion. Again..., there are and can be feminists who are pro-life, but I am bothered by the fact that she has stated in public that she struggled with whether to continue her pregnancy when she found out her son would have Downs Syndrome. I don't have a problem with the struggle or with her decision. I have a problem with the fact that she apparently feels that her outcome should be everyone's outcome. Palin thought about it and decided what is best for her and her family. Why should I not have the same right? The abortion debate also always seems to be at odds with the Republican platform in general: 'Less government regulation! (Unless it has to do with queers or abortion. Then, more is better.)'"
A: "Do you think you can be completely pro-life and a feminist? I can see being a feminist and being against abortion for yourself or thinking it is wrong, or thinking that in a perfect world there would be no need for abortion, etc. But as so...on as you make that choice for someone else, I don't see how you can still see yourself as a feminist. So maybe I do think there is a litmus test! Anyway, it's a tough discussion because I really do see the need for diverse role models, and conservative women should have every right to see their views represented. And more women in power has to be a good thing. But why then try to co-opt the label of feminist? Just admit you're not one and leave those of us who are to fight our own fight."
I think "they" adopt the label with the hope of co-opting the term and thereby making it mean nothing. Great convo.