As the GOP presidential primary draws near, the media has set its sights on two conservative women – confirmed candidate Michele Bachmann and possible runner former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
These news outlets have analyzed both political figures from seemingly every angle, with such wildly contrasting classifications as strong, crazy, outsider and opportunist. Yet, there’s one label tossed around regarding the two that has no basis in reality and should be put to rest – feminist.
Palin has used the term comfortably for some time now following her 2008 vice presidential bid, calling herself a conservative feminist and “mama grizzly.” Both CNN and the Washington Post, meanwhile, have suggested in recent months that Bachmann represents an evangelical feminist.
Feminist icon Gloria Steinem has already spoken out against this notion and said Bachmann and Palin are “there to oppose the women’s movement. That’s their job,” according to New York magazine.
Palin responded Aug. 18 on Fox News, calling Steinem’s feminism “very pass” and claiming that “we are the women’s movement – we are illustrating equality and empowerment of other women.”
It seems especially disingenuous for Palin to say she and Bachmann stand for female equality considering both have been vocal opponents of same-sex marriage and benefits. Women comprise much of the LGBT movement, including lesbian, bisexual and some transgender members.
Even ignoring their resistance to abortion and LGBT rights (lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgendered) – hard to do since both subjects are huge cornerstones of modern feminism – both have made highly questionable decisions for anyone claiming to be within the women’s movement. According to CNN, when Sarah Palin was mayor of the Alaskan town Wasilla, women were forced to pay up to $1,000 for their own rape examinations. Sarah Palin’s actions as mayor do her so-called feminist stance no credit.
In fact, such an action not only fails to empower other women, it actually disenfranchises them as they must pay out of pocket to relive what is almost certainly among the most traumatizing events of their lives.
Perhaps most telling of all is Bachmann and Palin’s relationship with anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly. For those who aren’t aware of her, Schlafly was a key opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment and told a Bates College crowd in 2007 that rape could not exist in marriage because “by getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape,” according to Maine’s Sun Journal.
Even under the loosest definition of feminism, associating with someone who protests equal gender pay and forgives sexual assault would appear as an automatic disqualification. Yet, Bachmann still presented her with a Citizens United Lifetime Achievement Award in February after introducing her as a personal heroine.
Schlafly, in turn, has shown her support for Bachmann and Palin, although even she says the latter is not and could never be a feminist, according to the Daily Caller. She also lets Palin’s critics know the only reason they could disagree with her is that “she is pretty and they cannot stand her.”
Ultimately, the only argument to be made for either’s supposed feminism is that they are both women with a powerful position, and that doesn’t make them any more of a feminist than Schlafly. Whatever one thinks about Bachmann or Palin, the “f-word” should stop being used in honest discussion about them.