The risk Sarah Palin took in sparking a feminist revolution on the right is paying off in some pretty amazing ways, setting off a wave of movement for women on the right. Most readers here are familiar with the criticism Palin has received from an obsessive left that pours out its aggressive brand of sexism (and classism) against her. We’re also familiar with the success of Palin-endorsed candidates, many of whom were women. What we’re not familiar with is the idea of a right standing defiant in the face of sexism from the left, the media, and its own ranks. That’s what we saw last week in the wake of Christine O’Donnell’s primary win, and as a lifelong feminist firmly on-board with the new pro-woman movement, it was extremely gratifying to watch. In the face of left-feminism’s catty call for exclusion, a chorus of voices on the right this week demonstrated why Palin’s conservative-feminist revolution is necessary and effective.
This wouldn’t have, and perhaps couldn’t have happened three short years ago. Women on the right might have noticed and even discussed sexism within their own ranks, but an article like the one published by Jeri Thompson, wife of former Republican Senator Fred Thompson, wouldn’t have been published. Mrs. Thompson is unapologetic in her indictment of the predominantly male hierarchy of power on the right and their over-the-top displays of sexism against Christine O’Donnell:
“The response by the Republican political establishment to the Christine O’Donnell victory over liberal Republican Mike Castle in Delaware has been an embarrassment. A strong, vocal woman upturned the political tables in Delaware, a state where both political parties have been run like blue-blooded patriarchies for the better part of half a century, and all the boys that compose “the establishment” can muster is omniscient edicts about her absolute un-electability in a general election.
Funny, I don’t recall hearing similar talk from the likes of Mssrs. Rove and Cornyn after Scott Brown won in Massachusetts, Joe Miller won in Alaska, or Rand Paul won in Kentucky.
The difference here is that once the primary was over, the political elites in Washington stood by their men. Why won’t they do it for the woman?”
The whole piece is worth a read. Thompson, however, is not the only one on the right speaking out against the sexist treatment of Christine O’Donnell, which I documented at the New Agenda here. Michelle Malkin promoted the Thompson piece on her blog, and linked to other conservative commentators discussing the subject. Her post was headed by a giant picture or Rosie the Riveter. A day later FOX News did a segment on whether female candidates are treated differently. Rush Limbaugh was cited complaining about sexism against conservative women from the left and the right. The same day Tim Graham of the conservative site Newsbusters complained about sexist and obscene language in reference to O’Donnell from female liberal radio host Randi Rhoades.
This is nothing short of amazing. Jeri Thompson is calling out sexism on the right, and using the word “patriarchies”! Malkin is posting pictures of Rosie the Riveter! Conservative men are calling out sexism! Do you think this could have happened before Sarah Palin? Before Hillary Clinton and 2008? Absolutely not. It’s not that women on the left and the right didn’t recognize that sexism existed; they just didn’t talk about it much. 2008 changed all that for a number of reasons.
Sexism in America was laid bare in the reactions to Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. It was put on national display and was so overt that we’re still talking about it two years later. Books are still being written about it. And new trends are developing because of it. Chief among them are the feminist revolution happening on the right, and the feminist revolt within the left. This is particularly exciting for people like me, who don’t care what brand of feminism surges as long as tangible results are seen.
Sara Palin, “Queenmaker,” is obviously the biggest benefactor and beneficent of the movement on the right. The sexism leveled against her in 2008 came mostly from the left, and revolved largely around her sex/sexuality and reproductive capacity. Americans had the reality that young men on the left were okay calling conservative women such offensive terms as “cunt” shoved into their faces. Conspiracy theories about the birth of her young son and the hoopla surrounding how much money the McCain campaign had spent on clothing for her and her family are just two examples of the sexism inherent in media coverage of her campaign.
This, after a Democratic campaign season that laid bare the existence of sexism on the left, a surprising development considering how much noise Democrats have made about supporting women since it co-opted the second wave. The naked power plays of Team Obama and the Democratic power structure, which was also largely male, just to keep the woman down and out were evident to anyone paying a modicum of attention and who dared have the critical capacity to think for themselves.
It changed things for a lot of people, especially women, on the left and the right. A lot of us on the left became moderates or independents; many of us refused to be held hostage by the abortion debate anymore. Palin fought back, and she called on her conservative sisters to help, offering her help to them in return. It’s been a wildly successful strategy. I certainly think these two trends—Sarah’s feminist revolution, and the fracturing of feminism on the left and the resultant creation of a feminist center—have created the environment where this progress can flourish. They are the fruits of Sarah Palin’s labor.
They are also the reason feminists on the left are so vehement and critical. Palin’s brand of feminism can break the monopoly on women’s votes by the Democratic Party, that much is clear, and it’s clearly frightening judging by much of what they’ve written. But another issue is at play, and it doesn’t get discussed: women on the left are jealous. It isn’t the women of their party who are calling out sexism—2008 proved they didn’t much care until it was too late, and then they were proved hypocrites by their encouragement of sexist treatment against Palin. There is not and never has been a liberal equivalent to the new documentary film about conservative women, promoting them because they’re women, Fire from the Heartland. No prominent women on the left discuss their femininity, let alone feminism, like Sarah Palin does.
As Palin keeps going in her feminist revolution, we’ll see more and more of the kind of discourse we saw coming from conservative corners last week, and that is a good thing. When women of the first and second wave envisioned equality, they didn’t envision it just for women who looked, thought, and acted like they did; they yearned for it for all American women. Palin and other conservative women are helping deliver on that promise once again, and that may just be the most progenerative fruit of all.