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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sarah Palin: The Clarence Thomas of Feminism

OK, I've done it. I promised myself I wouldn't give any more attention to the Alaskan governor. Ignore her, and she'll fade away as a public figure- a female Dan Quayle who will be in 'Where Is She Now?' articles in fifteen years.

Promise done broke.

Yesterday I was reading an issue of the New Yorker reviewing a Clarence Thomas memoir. I'm not a big Clarence Thomas fan. The man most definitely benefited from his race in climbing through the Reagan and Bush I administrations, but seems hell-bent through his rulings on the Supreme Court to want to lift the rope ladder away from those who would wish to follow him. After reading Rebecca Traister's piece about Sarah Palin in today's Salon I'm pretty certain Mrs. Palin is the feminist Clarence Thomas.

In this strange new pro-woman tableau, feminism -- a word that is being used all over the country with regard to Palin's potential power -- means voting for someone who would limit reproductive control, access to healthcare and funding for places like Covenant House Alaska, an organization that helps unwed teen mothers. It means cheering someone who allowed women to be charged for their rape kits while she was mayor of Wasilla, who supports the teaching of creationism alongside evolution, who has inquired locally about the possibility of using her position to ban children's books from the public library, who does not support the teaching of sex education.

In this "Handmaid's Tale"-inflected universe, in which femininity is worshipped but females will be denied rights, CNBC pundit Donny Deutsch tells us that we're witnessing "a new creation ... of the feminist ideal," the feminism being so ideal because instead of being voiced by hairy old bats with unattractive ideas about intellect and economy and politics and power, it's now embodied by a woman who, according to Deutsch, does what Hillary Clinton did not: "put a skirt on." "I want her watching my kids," says Deutsch. "I want her laying next to me in bed."

Welcome to 2008, the year a tough, wonky woman won a primary (lots of them, actually), an inspiring black man secured his party's nomination for the presidency, and a television talking head felt free to opine that a woman is qualified for executive office because he wants to bed her and have her watch his kids! Stop the election; I want to get off.

Rebecca, I'm with you. Just like Justice Thomas stuck to the Republican playbook to get where he wanted to go, Mrs. Palin has made a career of being acceptable to political neanderthals. How could this woman appeal to Hillary fans? The two are truly from opposite ends of the political spectrum.

I don't believe in any kind of Mrs. Palin character assassination. But she is not a feminist, and her rise has not done anything for women's greater good.

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