but not by the likes of us. No, it’s Sarah Palin and Co. And there are interesting issues, both political and philosophical here. In order to convincingly deny that Sarah Palin’s a feminist, one might suppose we need a clear definition of what ‘feminist’ means, or at least some agreed-upon necessary condition that she doesn’t meet. Does our lack of such things show that we should call Palin a feminist? Kate Harding suggests not:
So, can’t I just agree to disagree with Sarah Palin – or at least to ignore her use of the term and continue to go about my business? Well, evidently not, or I wouldn’t be writing this. The problem is, words mean things. I could start calling myself a red meat conservative, or campaign for those of us who are against the death penalty to “reclaim” the term “pro-life,” but at some point, the relationship between your beliefs and your choice of words either passes the sniff test or it doesn’t. And someone who actively seeks to restrict women’s freedom calling herself a feminist is, not to put too fine a point on it, a liar. There’s a difference between a big tent and no boundaries whatsoever; if Palin’s “entitled to be accepted” as a feminist just because she says she’s one, then the word is completely meaningless — as opposed to merely vague and controversial. And I might just start calling myself a “right-winger” because I’m right-handed, or a “fundamentalist” because I believe everyone deserves a solid primary education, or a “birther” because I once hosted a baby shower.
But Harding also makes some important points on the opposite side:
So why is the idea of “Sarah Palin, feminist,” any worse than the umpteen bona fide prominent feminists who have promoted racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism and the ongoing dominance of only a certain type of women’s voices over the years? Arguably, it’s not. Arguably, it’s the logical endpoint of a movement long shaped by women who are but one –ism away from the top of the heap in the first place, and perhaps more interested in taking that one step up than in ending oppression all the way down. If the feminist movement primarily serves women who are already tantalizingly close to full kyriarchal approval, we probably shouldn’t be surprised when a group of women who are even closer – basically just like the old feminists, except they don’t expect the government to help anyone and aren’t fussed about bodily autonomy! – decide they’re yet more qualified to run it.
And if you find that thought as horrifying as I do, a good, long look in the mirror is probably in order.
What do you think?