Saturday Night Live last week: It was hysterical.
Speaking of hysteria, I think I finally get what’s going on with all the shero worship of the GOP veep candidate. It’s bigger and more important than any governor of 700,000 people showering the lower 48 with piss and vinegar. There’s a seismic shift going on among women who just a few years ago wouldn’t have dared call themselves feminists. The best characterization I’ve seen locally of this phenomenon showed up on the
City Weekly Website last week, in a comment from a Palin supporter:
[Palin] is confident and comfortable in her own skin, and really a breath of fresh air in such a long campaign ... It seems all too many women, especially women who call themselves feminists, are out to get Sarah because she is as confident as she is and such a breath of fresh air.
If women who called themselves feminists really are what they say they are, they would get behind Sarah Palin and help her succeed. Sarah and her confidence will do more to promote the causes of women and girls than any other person I can think of. Let’s all get behind her.
The female Republican groundswell for Palin is rooted in something far deeper than politics. It’s not about rallying around a candidate who’s pushing hapless drilling for oil or who considers a war with Russia a possibility. Nope. This whole thing is bone-deep sociological. Palin’s female fans—perhaps for the first time ever—are giving themselves permission to embrace feminism. This could well be the next wave of the women’s movement in America.
It’s especially intriguing—gratifying even—to see Palin’s power in Utah, ground zero for thousands of bright and talented women who deeply love their LDS faith, and who have lived the way the men in their lives (church leaders, fathers, husbands) have counseled: Build a home. Raise a family. Do not work outside the home unless absolutely economically necessary. Above all, put off your own needs and goals until your children are grown.
All of which would be fine, if this were enough for all women in Utah. But it isn’t. If you don’t believe it, visit the blog FeministMormonHousewives.com Often, the discussion there swirls around topics such as polygamy in the hereafter or disciplining preschoolers. But then, along comes counsel from the General Conference pulpit of a woman’s place solely as home manager and nurturer, and the bloggers go ballistic.
There is something bubbling under the surface of women who, influenced by the conservative men they honor, suddenly see their chance at full equality in the guise of Sarah Palin. How else to explain the near reverence conservative Republican women are showing toward this candidate? Palin is the antithesis of every value the right wing has belittled in progressive women. She works full-time outside the home—and not in some mundane little side job. She’s a governor, for heaven’s sake, and potentially the second-most powerful person in the world. She’s the mother of five, including a baby with special needs who will need social services his whole life. She speaks her mind. She hunts and fishes.
And amazingly, the woman is idolized for this way of life—from Sean Hannity to Dr. Laura to John McCain to average women who post comments at SLWeekly.com
More than anything based in a political platform, the Palin women have exposed their own pent-up feelings about their role in society. Millions of them want more to life than the narrow road they’ve been encouraged to trod. They sense there is more to this life than pushing a triple-wide stroller through the park, and trying to reclaim a delayed career 22 years later. It’s taken a woman in a red suit and Kawasaki designer eyeglasses to let them know that options are A-OK.
The question is, where will this new permission for empowerment lead these women? Because, much like the earlier waves of the women’s movement, once you realize there’s more than the limited role ascribed to you, it isn’t long before you want more. Will the Palin-powered women start thinking about the logical next steps in their evolution? What about equal pay for comparable worth? Jobs with more generous maternity leave benefits? What about the drive for affordable child care, and not just for middle- and upper-class families, but everyone?
And, if your own child is suddenly made a celebrity on a national convention stage for her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, perhaps you’ve unwittingly become a poster candidate for more rigorous sex education in the schools. Beyond, of course, the obviously fallible theory that abstinence-only curricula prevent teen pregnancies.
If all of these issues sound suspiciously like Democratic Party values, it shouldn’t be too surprising. It’s been the original party of feminist women and men since the whole talk of equality between the sexes caught fire more than a century ago. If it takes Palin to get you there, go right ahead.