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September 23, 2008

Sarah Palin: Not a Feminist

I've seen and participated in some conversations over the last few days, both online and in person, about whether Sarah Palin could ever be considered a feminist. I've been surprised to see quite a few people arguing that she can be, and I have to disagree. For every article or blog we can find sharing our opinion, there's another (usually written by someone who has no idea what feminism actually is) praising Sarah Palin's for being a feminist".

Being female, does not automatically make you a feminist. Benefiting from feminist, does not automatically make you a feminist. Feminists advocate equality for women. Sarah Palin... does not. Feminists are concerned with women's rights. Sarah Palin... is not. Feminists stand up for human rights and civil liberties. Sarah Palin... does not.

So I'd just like to do a quick review of my reasons why Palin is not a feminist.

~She has an extreme anti-choice position. She opposes the right to choose, even in cases of rape or incest. She also opposes the use of public funding for abortion. She has praised her daughter Bristol for choosing life, however she would like to deny every other woman in America the right to make that choice. I don't think we need to elaborate on this one, because it's pretty clear why this is an issue.

~She supports abstinence-only sex education. She has been quoted as being in favor of public schools teaching abstinence-only sex education. When asked if she would "support funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?", Palin said that explicit sex-ed programs "will not find my support." She later 'clarified' (um, backpedaled) that she is "not anti-contraception" but I'm not completely convinced. I don't know what she means by explicit sex-ed, but it's not as though high schools are showing children pornography. Generally, use of the term "explicit" (which is a highly subjective term) when applied to sexual education classes, means "comprehensive", medically accurate, age-appropriate information. It's sort of hard to be pro-contraception if you're against funding programs that would teach students how to use said contraception.

Let's just look at the high school in Wasilla, Alaska (the tiny city where Palin was Mayor and where her daughter Bristol attended classes)... They have an abstinence-based sexual education curriculum and are barred from distributing contraception.

~She is on the ticket with a man who "certainly does not want to discuss" the issue of Viagra/BC/insurance. I don't see how a feminist (who's also allegedly "pro-contraception") could support this:
Question: "Earlier this week Carly Fiorina was meeting with a bunch of reporters and talked about it being unfair that insurance companies cover Viagra but not birth control. And- "

McCain: I certainly do not want to discuss that issue".

Question: "But apparently you’ve voted against-"

McCain: "I don’t know what I voted-"

This is an important issue for women both in terms of equality and fairness and women's health, but it's also an economic issue, since that birth control costs money. And obviously there's been a lot of debate around this issue, but how fair is it to women for a candidate to say they can't even be bothered to discuss it? We have discussed this issue ad nauseum here, here, and here.

~She is on the ticket with a man who opposed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. John McCain opposed the Act, the purpose of which was to protect women and racial minorities from pay discrimination by making it easier for them to pursue pay discrimination claims. He actually went so far as to claim that the Act would not do anything to help the rights of women. (Except, you know, getting them fair wages and all that silliness).

~She is on the ticket with a man who has repeatedly voted against legislature that would benefit children and/or working mothers. McCain was rated by the Children's Defense Fund Action Council as "America's worst senator for children".
When President Bush vetoed legislation that would expand SCHIP (the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides health insurance to families with children that were unable to afford insurance, but technically don't qualify for Medicaid), McCain said it was the "right call".

In 1993, he attempted to weaken the FMLA (the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows an employee to take unpaid leave due to a serious health condition or to care for a family member).
While John McCain supported tax cuts for the wealthy, he opposed many programs that would benefit working families and also opposed programs that would've benefited children's schools.

~She is on the ticket with a man who voted against the Violence Against Women Act. John McCain twice voted against VAWA, which provides federal funding for sexual assault and domestic violence prevention and treatment programs. (He also employed a staff member, arrested more than once for domestic violence. Not that that really matters to his campaign, but it's still an interesting tidbit of trivia).

~She cut funding for sexual assault victims and made them pay for their own evidence testing.
Alaska has the highest rape rate per capita (more than 2.5 times the national average) and the highest rate per capita of men murdering women. It's unclear if Governor Palin has done anything to address this issue, other than cutting the funding of its victims. While Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin supported a police chief's decision to charge victims of rape for their own rape kits because he didn't want to "burden" taxpayers. We don't bill other crime victims for the costs of gathering evidence (such as fingerprinting the crime scene), so why should rape victims be any different just because the evidence may be found on their bodies? The kits can cost between $300 and $1,200, but without them it can be much harder to make an arrest or conviction. Currently most of the funding Alaska receives for sexual assault and violence against women programs come from the federal government and under VAWA, states that receive funding are barred from charging rape victims for their own sexual assault tests (so it wouldn't have actually been as much of a "burden" as they claimed).

Palin fired the former police chief because she didn't have his "full support" (which I suppose, includes counting the cost of rape kits in his budget requests). And although it's been speculated that she fired the former Public Safety Commission over a dispute about her ex-brother-in-law (in what is now known as Troopergate), Palin maintains that he was fired over "budget disagreements". New reports are suggesting that these budget disagreements may have also been related to rape; it may have had a lot to do with his unapproved request for federal money from Washington to fund a specialized sexual assault department (sorta like Law & Order SVU, Alaska-style). Sure we understand that he didn't have permission, but um, is she that much of a control freak that she'd actually have a problem with some federal funding to help investigate and prosecute one of Alaska's most prevalent crimes? If it means the state would have to pay for rape exams and if those exams included "Plan B" emergency contraception (which isn't technically an abortifacient, but that's not stopping the Bush administration from saying it is), maybe she would.

It's also interesting to note, that the commissioner she originally appointed to replace him, resigned after his prior sexual harassment claim went public.

~She slashed funding for a home for teen mothers. During her tenure as Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin vetoed funding for a state program for Covenant House Alaska, a mix of programs and shelters for trouble youths, and reduced their funding more than 20 percent. Included in the programs, was Passage House, which describes itself as a transitional home for teenage mothers that helps them "gain the necessary skills and resources" to "become productive, successful, independent adults". Guess the only pregnant teenager who deserves a chance is Bristol Palin.

~She is on the ticket with a man who opposed allowing women to serve in combat roles in the military. In 1991, during a debate over women pilots, John McCain said that the purpose of the military is to "defend the nation's vital security interests" before ensuring equality, which basically is a big slap in the fact to all the capable female soldiers who he feels aren't able to "defend the nation" well enough. He also said "some of the people that might capture them can be pretty mean" (because they'd be super nice to the men they captured) and "at no time in the history of our nation have women been in combat roles". Of course, a lot of things in the history of our nation have been pretty messed up. Our history includes slavery, segregation, denying blacks and women the right to vote... Just because it's in our history, doesn't make it right. What if when women were fighting for suffrage, we decided against it because at no time in the history of our nation have women had the right to vote? McCain is old fashioned and out of touch, but Sarah Palin doesn't seem to have a problem deferring to him.

~She is on the ticket with a man who has a history of sexist comments. John McCain has joked about rape, called a teenage Chelsea Clinton ugly, laughed when Hillary Clinton was called a bitch, called his own wife a cunt, and so much more. McCain has made so many sexist, offensive, and politically incorrect jokes and other inappropriate comments in his long lifetime. And while I'd never consider "lipstick on a pig" to be a sexist phrase, since McCain/Palin's campaign keeps insisting that it is, then I suppose McCain was being sexist too when he said it to refer to Hillary Clinton's health care plan.

~She only calls out sexism when it benefits her. She stood by and laughed while another woman was called a "cancer" and a fat jealous bitch. She said that Hillary shouldn't even mention the sexism that she faced because of the "perceived whine" and that Hillary should just work twice as hard to prove herself. Now that she's the one in the spotlight, it's suddenly okay not only to mention sexism, but to claim that any and all questioning and criticizing of your background is just sexist.

I don't agree with all of the stuff that's been said about her - for example, the rumor that she had an affair - but it's not really much worse than what they've said about male candidates in the past. (I mean, what politician hasn't been accused of an affair?) Of course, the sexism about how she is so hot isn't that great, but she doesn't seem to mind that so much. And the sexism about how she's awesome because she's just a hockey mom of five... She's guilty of that one herself. But questioning her actual qualifications? Not okay according to the Republicans.

It's interesting to note that many feminists have defended Sarah Palin against the actual sexism she's faced, despite disagreeing with her on most issues.

~Actual feminists strongly oppose her and her policies. Gloria Steinem, founder of Ms. magazine and one of the most famous feminist icons ever, called her the "wrong woman". Eve Ensler, playwright best known for the Vagina Monologues, referred to Palin's beliefs and practices as "antithetical to Feminism". Jessica Valenti, author of Full Frontal Feminism and executive editor of Feministing, wrote that Palin is "disastrous for women's rights" and "as anti-feminst as they come". Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, called her personal positions on women’s issues "extremely negative". A press release from the National Organization of Women proclaimed that Palin "opposes women's rights".

~She has garnered the support of notoriously anti-feminist people. Ann Coulter - who once said that "it would be a much better country if women did not vote" - thinks that Sarah Palin "finally gave Republicans a reason" to vote for McCain. Phyllis Schlafly, one of the leading opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment, has reportedly praised Sarah Palin as being "right on every issue". (However, it is interesting to note that she doesn't consider Palin a feminist either - although perhaps, for different reasons than ours - she said that she "doesn't have any of those attributes of feminists"). Even Mike Huckabee likes her! He claimed she "got more votes running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, than Joe Biden got running for president of the United States." (Of course, that's completely untrue: Palin got 616 votes in 1996 and 909 in 1999, while Biden got over 70,000 votes in 23 states before dropping out of the race after the Iowa caucus. Apparently Huckabee is as bad at math as he is at science. One thing we know he has no clue about is feminism).

We recently blogged about how much more of a feminist Joe Biden is. I think his record shows an interesting contrast to the record of Sarah Palin.
I think the criteria for what it takes to be a "genuinely pro-woman politician", as laid out on The Feminist Underground makes this point very well:
  • A pro-woman politician must actively defend women's equality.
  • A pro-woman politician must defend the rights of diverse types of women.
  • A pro-woman politician works to ensure that women are protected from violence, assault, and hate crimes.
And I agree with the author that Palin doesn't fit the pro-woman criteria. The question was asked "is supporting a woman candidate an inherently feminist act?" No. In this case, it's pretty clear that the most pro-woman candidate really is a man this time.


ceirdwenfc said...

First, I want to say: I've never agreed with a group of people more.

Second, I know that with Viagra, many claim that the diagnosis is erectile dysfunction, and that it's not used for sexual activity all of the time. Do they provide birth control when it is specifically used for a non-sexual diagnosis as is often the case?

I agree that both should be available. If you offer one, you should offer the other. I'm just asking for a clarification in general (I know that different companies would have different procedures). Thank you.

ihatestupid said...

How much does she & McCain make me want to retch... let me count the ways! Ok... really only one because you covered the rest, but I had to add it.

~she's on the ticket with a person who voted Voted YES on defining an unborn child as eligible for SCHIP. (Mar 2008) - screw those little bastards that have already been born... we MUST protect the fetus!


tom luffman said...

Oddly, the pro-lifers believe life begins at conception so her radical view of no exceptions for abortion is actually more consistent than the other pro-lifers. Because if you believe abortion is murder than how can you believe it is ok to murder a baby for something the child had nothing to do with namely rape and incest.

Of course I am pro-choice and would never want restrictions on abortion- especially to women who conceive in those dire circumstances, but the logic she uses in arriving at her conclusion has more integrity than the compromised position of the rest of the party.

tom luffman said...

This entry is packed with too much detail to limit myself to one comment...

How in the fuck can anyone of any gender agree with making rape victims pay for their rape kits? That is the height of abuse. How anyone can have that kind of hardness of heart toward someone utterly vulnerable is beyond words. She/they must be stopped. The decision to make rape victims pay for rape kits is the essence of what is most vile and rank in American politics.

ihatestupid said...

Birth Control is prescribed for many reasons. It can help keep your menstrual cycle regular and reduce cramping (usually used for women with really heavy periods). Some pills offer some protection against pelvic inflammatory disease, which often leads to infertility when left untreated.

The combination pill offers many other benefits, including some protection against

breast growths that are not cancer
ectopic pregnancy
endometrial and ovarian cancers. Protection increases with each year of use.
iron deficiency anemia
ovarian cysts
premenstrual symptoms, including headaches and depression
vaginal dryness and painful intercourse related to menopause

Information found on the Planned Parenthood website...

ihatestupid said...

And as for the doctors who claim the "diagnosis" is erectile dysfunction so it should be paid for...

Other then take a piss - which they can do even if they have erectile dysfuntion - what else is the penis for? Does it have some magic power we were unaware of & THAT's the real reason for Viagra?

Am I missing something or isn't that the only function for ED drugs... to return the ability to get wood? And once wood is returned they're going to want to do something sexual with it. It's not like they'll just stare at it... like TADA! Look what I can do.

Habladora said...

Great post - you really break down exactly why Sarah Palin isn't the type of candidate that feminists will support. Oh, and thanks for linking to us - what a great introduction to a kick-ass blog.

Anonymous said...

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