I grew up in the wake of the feminist revolution during the 1970s. More and more middle-class women were going out to work while humming the new feminist anthem "I am Woman" by Helen Reddy. Of course, throughout the centuries poor women had often been compelled to work for financial reasons, but they didn't represent the new "girl power" idea that the bra burners espoused. Toiling to put food on the table isn't nearly as exciting as working for the cause.
My own mother went back to work when I was in elementary school. She was fortunate that my father was a teacher at the very school my sisters and I attended, and so except for the year before my younger sister was in kindergarten, daycare was not much of an issue. It's not clear to me whether she went back to work because she had to or whether it was because of a need to "keep up with the Joneses," but regardless, I don't recall any kind of zeal on her part to prove herself in a man's world. She simply did what she had to do at the time.
Growing up, I was under the impression that feminism meant a woman now had a choice: she could pursue a career - provided she met the qualifications for it - or she could stay home with her children. It was all about choice and what was best for the individual.
Boy, was I wrong.
The selection of Sarah Palin for vice president on the John McCain ticket has sent feminists and their supporters into a frantic tizzy. First there was outrage because the media, safe in their liberal cocoon, had no idea that Palin was even under consideration -- something conservative blog readers and talk radio listeners had been aware of for several months. And so to punish the "mushroom" (a phrase from the days of the British Regency that means "social upstart"), rumors, condescension and hand wringing replaced honest reporting. The gamut ran from her faking her recent pregnancy to cover up for her oldest daughter to her glasses being "vanity glasses" to her being married to a guy who - gasp - likes to race snowmobiles and is a union member who works with his hands. Even worse, she dares to have five children and enjoy hunting.
No, the latte sipping, self-anointed elite could not let this affront go unanswered.
So the very people who had once championed Geraldine Ferraro's vice presidential bid and Hillary Clinton's more recent bid for the presidency closed ranks and suggested that, in addition to her inadequacy for the job based on her prior experience of being mayor of Wasilla (ignoring her current status as Governor of Alaska), we began hearing how, as the mother of five, it would be irresponsible for Sarah Palin to assume the rigorous schedule and duties of vice president. Why, she has a 17-year-old daughter who's pregnant and is keeping the baby! And her youngest child has Downs syndrome! My gosh, how could any woman, in this day and age, even think about stepping one foot out of the house when she has her family to care for?
Just a few years ago, Lawrence Summers was ousted from his tenure as president of Harvard University for daring to suggest that innate differences in the makeup of men and women could contribute to fewer women than men entering the fields of math and science. (I happen to agree with him.) Yet today, we're being told that Sarah Palin can't possibly juggle the demands of family and career. It's an interesting paradox. If Sarah Palin needs to stay home with her children, then I suggest Katie Couric be given the pink slip from CBS News on the same grounds. Granted her poor performance should be reason enough, but of course, it's not her fault -- it's sexism. Couric claims Palin is too inexperienced for the job. The argument could also be made that Couric's gig as a morning show host did not lend the kind of gravitas needed or give her the necessary experience to host the evening newscast, a horse of a different color. But let's not go there, lest we be accused of being sexist. The National Organization of Women even went so far as to declare that Sarah Palin is more like a man than a woman because even though, as a working mother juggling career and family she can speak to many women, her pro-life stance means she cannot speak FOR women.
It just goes to show that feminism is a crock.
You see, Sarah Palin is the "wrong kind" of woman for several reasons. She didn't attend elite colleges. She didn't abandon her small-town roots in search of more enlightened climes, like New York or Los Angeles. (I mean, Alaska...who the heck would want to live out there in the boondocks? Do they even have Starbucks?) She believes all life is sacred and therefore doesn't approve of abortion unless it is to save the mother's life. And finally, she got where she is today not only by not following the rules set forth by feminists, but she did it without bashing men. She understands that to play successfully in the big boys' sandbox, whining and crying about sexism and being treated differently isn't going to cut it. She even suggested in an interview with Newsweek earlier this year that Hillary Clinton put too much emphasis on the flack she received from the media during the Democrat primary:
"When I hear a statement like that coming from a woman candidate with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism or, you know, maybe a sharper microscope put on her, I think, man, that doesn't do us any good. Women in politics, women in general wanting to progress this country. I don't think it's, it bodes well for her -- a statement like that."
Bring out the torches and pitchforks!
Tammy Bruce puts it into even better perspective:
Palin's candidacy brings both figurative and literal feminist change. The simple act of thinking outside the liberal box, which has insisted for generations that only liberals and Democrats can be trusted on issues of import to women, is the political equivalent of a nuclear explosion.
What I used to think was feminism, isn't. Feminists don't believe in allowing women to choose what's right for them. Women need to walk in lockstep, bent on achieving not even equality but domination of men. In their eyes, women were horribly oppressed by bearing children and raising families and now they need to get their own back. It's not about a real, working partnership with men; it's about domination of men. And it's difficult to achieve domination with a child clinging to one's pantsuit, which is why the abortion question is so critical for feminists.
NOW may not think that Sarah Palin speaks for all women, but the polls and crowds say differently. Self-described feminists do not speak for the majority of American women, or men for that matter. In Sarah Palin we see a woman who isn't afraid to reach for the brass ring while embracing her role as a wife and mother.
To the rest of us, it's a breath of much-needed fresh air. To the feminists and the left, it's the death knell of feminism as we know it.
Feminism is dead. Long live the new feminism!
Pam Meister is the editor for FamilySecurityMatters.org. The opinions she expresses here are her own.