mean girl feminism

I’ve been thinking about whether Sarah Palin is a feminist, and what that means, for a while now, at least since it came up in the comments a while back. This commentary at Slate is good, and the comparison to Ann Coulter had occurred to me as well, before I read that piece. And Ann Coulter seems to be 100% behind Palin, whereas she questioned Harriet Miers as a pick for the Supreme Court. Which at the time I took as evidence that when it came down to the line these people would back off from clearly questionable picks. But maybe the problem was just that Harriet Miers wasn’t fiesty enough. She wasn’t going to get out there and throw a zinger at you; she wasn’t going to smirk and toss her hair and skin a moose and show ’em who’s boss. She was just an ordinary crony of the most ordinary sort. Palin knows how to play the sexy lady while being seriously bitchy (by her own analogy) about the other side. Is she qualified for VP? No one even knows what it is anymore. They just want hot + badass.

So is this feminist? Is Ann Coulter feminist? These are people who have certainly gained a lot from feminists, but who either don’t appreciate what was done, or think it no longer matters. Regarding abortion, they believe that women cannot be trusted with that decision on their own. The government must make it a law that every woman who becomes pregnant must carry to term every pregnancy from the moment of conception. It doesn’t matter what your personal beliefs or religion tell you: if you believe life begins at the quickening or later in the pregnancy, as a matter of faith, too bad; if you believe human consciousness isn’t formed until birth and viability is the important turning point, too bad. The government dictates faith. I can’t see how this can be read as feminist…

But Feminists for Life is doing a good job of trying to reframe the argument as not about the will of the woman, but about how realistic the choices really are – if you’re going to stay in college, can you really have a baby without day care, changing tables, and all the rest? So should colleges be changed to handle couples ready to reproduce? Or if you’re anti-abortion here, should you just be pro-birth control / pro-abstinence, and try not to start families at a point when it just isn’t yet a good situation. Most dorm rooms don’t even allow pets! Still, the literature does set up a good selling point that goes with the general brand, that this kind of feminism allows for women to still be women, whereas the other kind of feminism, the kind with abortions and pantsuits and life-partners, is forcing women to try to become men.

Of course, pro-choice feminists would say it’s all about having choices, and not having to conform to roles predetermined – being a mother isn’t automatically what defines you, although you can embrace it if and when it works for you. But going to college as a mother isn’t a choice a lot of people make because going to college as a parent isn’t a choice a lot of people make. That isn’t due to gender roles, but the place of parenthood in modern society. So perhaps we are fighting for the zeitgeist a little bit.

Still, calling this feminism is weird, as Ann Coulter herself even stated that women shouldn’t have the vote… So it is sort of hard to think of her as any sort of feminist. Palin couldn’t be outwardly misogynistic with a vote to win, but she hits some of the same notes, and it’s clear Coulter’s readers love her… I don’t want to just equate her with someone as crazy and fucked up as Ann Coulter just because of a general …attitude… but I have to admit once I thought of it, my heart sank and I felt like I recognized the problem. So she can sound reasonable on Charlie Rose, but that is not what she is doing for the base, that is not what she was brought in to do, that is not what McCain wants from her. She was brought in to be a sexy bitchy crazy anti-feminist.

Ann Coulter makes Republican men hard because she is a doable blonde who says women shouldn’t vote and liberal fags are wrong on everything and jesus is the answer, and if you agree with all this, then you can vote, but basically, only for the republican christian men. (Or something like that; when it’s hypocritical it doesn’t matter because she doesn’t really believe any of it anyway). So Palin is sort of trying to be a kinder gentler version of this, also appropriating anything that worked for democrats, but all in all, trying to reframe feminism as being a hot chick who can do what she wants because the boys think she’s cute and the girls think she’s bitchy. It is no longer about getting outside of gender roles, about honor, integrity, ideas, intelligent exchanges, solutions, proposals, about being taken seriously no matter what your sex. Instead, it becomes about snippy exchanges and phrases about lipstick

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3 Responses to “mean girl feminism”

  1. rushmc Says:

    A nice thoughtful piece. But I just don’t see what your problem is with simply concluding “she’s not a feminist.” Re-read what you wrote—you lay out the argument but pull back from the conclusion. Is it so anathema to you to label a woman a not-feminist? Even if it’s not a label that she would want or appreciate herself?

    If one is going to allow others to “to reframe feminism as being a hot chick who can do what she wants because the boys think she’s cute and the girls think she’s bitchy,” then surely that is to let them render the term meaningless, because you’ve just described the eternal type of female that feminism was surely a reaction against!

  2. drinkme Says:

    yeah, i didn’t mean to imply she is; I was more trying to make a comparison that Palin calls herself a feminist, but on some level is more like Ann Coulter, who I don’t think anyone thinks is a feminist, so in the end we’re left with what I called “mean girl feminism” which I meant as a kind of ironic / paradoxical self-negating term.

    Yes, basically, these are people trying to reframe anti-feminism in modern terms, to make it hip to be anti-feminist, by being sexy and fierce and so forth. What’s confusing is how in a modern world these people find themselves in positions of real power thanks to the feminists before them… I have seen Palin referred to as a “post-feminist” because she was just born at a time when it was assumed women could go to college etc. But I’m younger than Palin and still find feminism and feminist philosophy more meaningful than fashion magazines and ann coulter. (I’m no women’s studies major, but I find some of it worth thinking about here and there, whereas women’s magazines just piss me off and ann coulter makes me pretty much lose hope that anything good can come of the world.)

    um. i think i lost track of the topic. so maybe you’re right, it’s fair to say she isn’t a feminist, although to be truly fair about it I’d want to interview her or at least hear an interview, as so far everything is kind of ‘rumors and innuendo’ -esque. But it’s not that I’m uncomfortable saying a woman can’t be a feminist. I think it was just the charlie rose: http://www.charlierose.com/guests/sarah-palin – not that it made her look particularly good so much as that it makes her look more serious about being a governor. it’s not just about speeches…

  3. rushmc Says:

    >>What’s confusing is how in a modern world these people find themselves in positions of real power thanks to the feminists before them

    But really that’s an inevitable outcome of any achievements of gender equality progress (I prefer to use that phrase than to say “feminism,” since feminism contributed to but doesn’t directly correlate with the former), isn’t it? A rising tide raises all boats, and so on. Feminism doesn’t make all women feminists, but by changing the playing field it improves the opportunities for ALL women, including those who are anything but feminists. It’s a bit ironic, but I wouldn’t say that it’s surprising or confusing.

    >>Yes, basically, these are people trying to reframe anti-feminism in modern terms, to make it hip to be anti-feminist

    Yeah, often the same people making it hip to be irrational, ignorant, irresponsible, aggressive, and intolerant. Who in a reasonable world would be virtually ignored but are instead being given an increasingly dominant position across all moderated (i.e., owned) media (one big reason the fight to keep the internet free is so vital).

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