Sarah Palin's Brand of 'Feminism' More Popular With Men Than Women

Listen up, all you champions of women's rights, Sarah Palin has a message for you. All that stuff about equal pay, controlling your own body, putting an end to domestic violence and rape: that's a whole lotta tired old hooey. There's a new feminism afoot, a feminism that's moved beyond the issues of economic justice and your right not to be beaten and violated, and it's all about Sarah.

In her new book, America By Heart, Palin takes aim at the feminists who blazed the trail to political agency that Palin now walks, accusing Hillary Clinton of "bra-burning militancy" and Gloria Steinem and second-wave feminists of obsession with domestic violence and rape.

Perhaps that's why, overall, Palin appears to be more popular with men than with women. A recent CNN poll found that while, in a hypothetical 2012 match-up against President Barack Obama, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee threatens to siphon off Obama's former constituency of independent women voters, a contest against Palin does not. Among women, the CNN poll found, Obama led Huckabee only by 2 percent, according to the Hill, while he trounced Palin by 15 percent. Other polls reported by the Hill confirm the trend by women away from Palin.

You see, Sarah Palin is all about grrrl power. Or maybe just her power. "The new feminism," she writes, "is telling women they are capable and strong." And, apparently, "capable and strong" women don't get raped. Perhaps that's why in Sarah Palin's Wasilla, during her term as mayor, women alleging rape were made to pay for their own rape kits.

Women, of course, should also be capable and strong enough to suck it up if, say, seven months after being hired they learn that a man hired for the same position with lesser qualifications is paid a higher salary than she. Otherwise, to allow that woman to sue for equal pay after a six-month statute of limitation "would be a boon to the trial lawyers." That's how Palin explained her opposition to the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2008. Strong and capable women should be willing to sacrifice their fair share in the service of sticking it to trial lawyers, because trial lawyers generally support Democrats. Which means that they don't generally support Palin. So, women, if you were real feminists, you'd want to sacrifice your pay in order to further the career of Sarah Palin.

And because Sarah Palin would never have an abortion, no strong and capable woman would either, right?

It seems, in fact, that Sarah Palin's "new feminism" is nothing more than narcissism dressed up in feminist clothing. Call it farcissism. For when it comes to matters that affect her directly, Palin is all about feminism writ large. Despite her anti-government rhetoric, Palin on the campaign trail applauded Title IX, the federal mandate that barred federal funds from educational institutions that discriminated against women, even in their sports programs. This heralded a record expansion of girls' and women's athletic programs, of which Palin, a star basketball player known statewide as Sarah Barracuda, rightly availed herself.

So Title IX -- an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- earns Palin's kudos, even if it flies in the face of her anti-government rhetoric. (As Alaska's governor, Palin rejected the portion of the federal stimulus package earmarked for education.)

But as a small business owner and elected public official, Palin hasn't had to worry about paycheck discrimination, so neither should any strong and capable woman, regardless of any differing circumstances. And despite Palin's "new feminist" paean to motherhood and family, as published in America By Heart, a woman whose family suffers because of paycheck discrimination is probably just not strong and capable enough.

Yet, when Palin feels that she herself is facing discrimination because of her gender, she doesn't hesitate to throw down the sexism card. She told New York Times Magazine writer Robert Draper that a description in a local paper of her mode of dress at a rally for Joe Miller (the Alaska Tea Party-branded candidate for U.S. Senate who was defeated by Sen. Lisa Murkowski's write-in candidacy) was sexist, as, she said, was the use of the word "drama" in a Politico story to describe the behavior of her ally, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. And likely they are.

Palin rails against the "good ol' boy" club of the Republican Party whose members would like her to go away. And she's got a point there. Those who anointed her as their 2008 phenom cast her in a helpmeet role. When Palin picked up the ball and went rogue in the service of her own ambition, she went off the gender-role script. And for leaders of a party that have been conducting a war against women's rights for three decades, that had to smart.

I have seen Palin derided in sexist terms, and called on progressives to cut the crap when I see it coming from our own. But I wouldn't count on Palin to step up for a liberal feminist -- unless Palin found a way to make it about Palin herself.

"There is a narcissism in our leaders in Washington today," Palin writes in America By Heart (via the Huffington Post). "There's a quasi-religious feeling to the message coming from them. They are trying to convince us that not only are they our saviors, but that we are our saviors... as candidate Obama proclaimed on Super Tuesday 2008, 'We are the ones we've been waiting for, we are the change that we seek.'"

Yet it's Palin who has a so-called reality show, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," based around her own life in her home state. It's hard to get more narcissistic than that. And it's Palin who wants to reshape feminism in her own image -- to hell with any woman who's faced a different form of sexism than she has.

When calling narcissism or farcissism on Palin, I don't use the terms lightly. Too many women of ambition are tagged as narcissists simply for behaving as ambitious men do. But if there were ever an example of someone living in a glass house, it's one whose life is willingly scripted and served up on a flat screen, for the modest payment to Palin of $250,000 per episode.

In 2008, Sarah Palin took on the role of decider in determining what a real American was. (Note: If you're a liberal, you don't qualify.) Now she seeks to be the arbiter of what a real feminist is, based solely on the research she's done while looking in the mirror. Who's the farcissistest of them all?


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