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Feminism is Alive and Well ... Even Sarah Palin Wants to Be One

Gloria Steinem, grande dame of the feminist movement, and Jehmu Greene, Women's Media Center director, discuss the state of feminism with Katie Couric.

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COURIC: Do you think one of the reasons that a patriarchal society is perpetuated -- that white males in positions of powers and authority generally, t generally hire people who look like them and that’s part of the problem.

STEINEM: That’s part of it. But that’s the outcropping of something that goes very deep, which is that women got in this jam in the first place, all of us, wherever we come from, because we are the means of production. Our bodies are the means of reproduction. And it’s the desire to control the process of reproduction which is made even more strong if there is a racial caste system because then you want to maintain racial “purity.” And restrict the movements of the women of the powerful group and create and get the women of color to create more and more cheap labor. And you know it really is the politics of reproduction at the root of it. And that is increased by what you described ‐- the idea that we are not all human beings and we can somehow only relate to people who look like us.

GREENE: And I think we can point to the health care reform process we just went through as a very clear example of how much work there is to be done. Absolutely there are some really good things in the bill that should be celebrated and will allow for greater access for healthcare for many women. But we just went through the biggest rollback in reproductive rights in my generation. I was born the same year Roe v Wade was affirmed.

GREENE: Going through the health care reform process, women and our reproductive rights were targeted. At that last minute hour, behind closed doors, when the Catholic bishops cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi. When it came to which constituency was going to be hit the most, we did take a real big hit.

STEINEM: Even though the majority of Catholics in public opinions polls didn’t agree with what the bishops were asking for.

COURIC: That no federal funds be used…

STEINEM: Yes

COURIC: Wasn’t that just an extension, though, of the Hyde Amendment which basically said no federal funds could be used…

STEINEM: No. No, it went further than the Hyde Amendment. And the Hyde Amendment should be repealed. You know, it was challenged in the Supreme Court. If there had been more women at the time on the Court we wouldn’t have the Hyde Amendment because it penalizes poor women terribly.

COURIC: Right

STEINEM: But you know I think we need to understand, if we get the politics of reproduction, we’re not so mystified by what happens. For instance sometimes on campus, students will say to me “Why are these right wing groups both against contraception and lesbians? “ Haha. Which they find bizarre. And I say but you know it’s not bizarre. It’s rational because they’re against any form of sexual expression that doesn’t end in conception or that can’t end in conception. So those are condemned by the same groups even though it may seem irrational.

Sarah Palin as Faux Feminist

COURIC: While we’re on the subject of reproductive rights, can you be a conservative feminist? Sarah Palin recently I think rankled some traditional feminists by calling herself a feminist, despite the fact she doesn’t espouse many traditional feminist points of view.

STEINEM: Well, we’re free to call ourselves whatever we wish. But I think her calling herself a feminist has mostly to do with how many votes Hillary Clinton got in the presidential race. Because yes, you can be a feminist who doesn’t agree with abortion, who would never have an abortion. But you can’t be a feminist who says that other women can’t and criminalizes abortion. 1 in 3 American women needs an abortion at some time in her life. To make that criminal and dangerous is not a feminist act and that is the position of Sarah Palin.

 
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