Monday, August 30, 2010

The Twisted Sister? Part II

After that preamble, let's dive straight into the Holmes and Traister op-ed. I cannot guarantee a thorough review of it, for reasons I discussed in Part I, but I can probably come up with a few pearls or whatever.

Holmes and Traister's main argument is this:

The left should be outraged and exasperated by all this — but at their own failings as much as Ms. Palin's ascension. Since the 2008 election, progressive leaders have done little to address the obvious national appetite for female leadership. And despite (or because of) their continuing obsession with Ms. Palin, they have done nothing to stop an anti-choice, pro-abstinence, socialist-bashing Tea Party enthusiast from becoming the 21st century symbol of American women in politics.

Everything else in the piece is icing on the cake. Some yummy, all worth tasting, but just icing. This is the cake.

Is it a delicious and nutritious one? I cannot answer that question, because 'the left' remains undefined, and so do 'progressive leaders.' Do these terms refer to political institutions, the progressive media or the commentators on blogs such as Daily Kos, Eschaton and the Democratic Underground*? Is the question here about not grooming enough progressive female politicians or is the question about the support which is given or not given to those women who rise above the general herd of politicians?

Or is it really something more active: The Palin-bashing, done so carelessly by some progressives that it sometimes merges into general women-bashing? Do the Republicans bash the women in their movement as eagerly as some on the left bashed Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Primaries?

Gah. I hate writing so many question marks. They are justified when tackling this topic, however, because they might open up the thinking a bit. I hope.

The above is the most important part of the op-ed and it is about the most important questions. But almost equally fascinating is the idea of Sarah Palin as some type of a proto-feminist:

Ms. Palin, in turn, has been making a greedy grab at claiming feminism as her own. She recently marked the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment by expressing her gratitude "to those brave feminist foremothers who struggled and sacrificed, endured imprisonment and ridicule ... to grant future generations of American women a voice." On the same day, she sent out this Twitter message: "Who hijacked the term 'feminist'? A cackle of rads who want 2 crucify other women w/ whom they disagree on a singular issue."

The hijacking accusation goes both ways. Ms. Palin's infuriating ability to put a new twist on feminism — after decades of the word's being besmirched by the right and the left — allows her to both distance herself from and accentuate the movement's maligned reputation. Her new spin, of course, is that she does not support policies that move women forward.

As I mentioned in Part I, nobody seems to define feminism anymore, and that allows one to determine that it's whatever one wishes, pretty much. The definition is up for grabs, my sweeties! Mama Grizzlies seems to be one of Palin's definition:

Ms. Palin has spent much of 2010 burnishing her political bona fides and extending her influence by way of the Mama Grizzlies, a gang of Sarah- approved, maverick-y female politicians looking to "take back" America with "common-sense" solutions.

Sure, the Grizzlies sound somewhat progressive on paper. But from their opposition to reproductive rights to their work against health care reform and labor policies that would empower American women, their ideas are just antiquated clich├ęs dressed up in designer suits. Like Ms. Palin herself, their talk about being "mama bears" and "tough as an ox ... wearing lipstick" simply reduces female candidates' political prospects to maternal worth and sex appeal.

If women are tough as an ox and still wear lipstick they don't need any societal changes whatsoever! They can manage bringing home the bacon, cooking it and then having fertile sex with the Papa Grizzlies, while also fixing everything with common-sense solutions, lullabying several children in their lap while doing all this. That leaves the societal sexisms intact, and assures the fundies that these women would still do their bidding at home.

Holmes and Traister are completely right on Sarah Palin's policies. They are not helpful to women in general. At the same time, the symbolism Palin attaches to herself should not be ignored. Whatever her policies, she gives lip-service to feminism of the past (while trying to stop feminism of the present). That lip-service is important and we see too little of it from 'the left', however defined.

*It is what I read on the comments threads of many liberal blogs during the Democratic Primaries which made me feel as if someone had tried to assist me in a harakiri, and those emotions cannot stay away when I write about this topic, by the way. But 'the left' here is unlikely to consist of anonymous liberal misogynists of whatever gender.