Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sarah Palin as feminist? and how the Democrats should respond

This provocative and thoughtful op-ed by Anna Holmes and Rebecca Traister in today's New York Times caught my attention. It points out that--two years after Sarah Palin hit the national stage as John McCain's running mate--the left should be outraged not only at Palin's popularity, but at their own inaction and failure to promote and celebrate women leaders and candidates.

Holmes and Traister discuss the left's exasperation as Palin "enthrall[s] pundits and journalists who devote countless television hours and column inches to her every Twitter message and Facebook update."

What makes this all the more frustrating, of course, is that progressives helped to give Ms. Palin her start; her political career was a natural outgrowth of feminist successes. As a teen, she played basketball thanks to Title IX; as an adult, she enjoyed a professional life made possible by the involvement of her load-bearing husband Todd, entering Alaska’s governor’s mansion at 42 with four children in tow and giving birth to a fifth while there.

* * *

We progressives discount [Palin's] references to the women’s movement — not to mention her validity as a candidate — by looking down on her as a dim, opportunistic, mean-girl prom queen, all spunk and no policy muscle.
But Holmes and Traister say that the Democrats are partly to blame. They have failed to give Hilary Clinton her due, and they treat her best when she "plays well with others in the Senate or State Department." Thus Clinton, like Nancy Pelosi, is "about as eager to mount a Palin-style girl-powered campaign as ... to wear a miniskirt on the House floor." Proudly touting their "feminist credentials" or otherwise taking risks, Holmes and Traister assert, has become "taboo" for these second-wave feminist politicians. Holmes and Traister thus call for a "smart, unrelenting female, who, unlike Ms. Palin, wants to tear down, not reinforce, traditional ways of looking at women." But, they acknowledge that this will require a party "eager to discover, groom, promote and then cheer on such a progressive Palin."

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Sarah Palin was plucked out of the political wilderness and thrown head first into a presidential campaign where she upstaged the headliner. She drew bigger crowds and “going rogue” ignoring her handlers, made her more popular with conservatives.
I admit that I cringed during her Katie Couric interview. I admit that I thought my dog Butterscotch had more foreign policy experience. After all, her dog food came from China.
But although I may disagree with most of her policy positions, I must say she has developed rather astute “branding” skills in the 2 years post election. She did not slink away after McCain’s loss. She went back to Alaska and began designing a new and stronger political identity for herself and it began when she resigned as Governor! She has enough strategic sensibility to have single handedly become the most influential female political figure in America and she is doing it while not being an elected politician.
I have had the great privilege to serve as an elected representative. I speak from experience when I say that strong, progressive female candidates are out there. But until the Democratic Party puts muscle and money behind them, like they do the good- ole boys, they won’t have their voices heard. In the absence of these progressive women’s voices, Sarah Palin is going to continue to
suck up all the oxygen and airtime.

Rebecca Cohn
J.D.Candidate 2011
UCDavis School of Law