Palin fever has enthralled both voters and non-voters around the world, inspiring vehement hatred or fervent devotion. Her shock nomination as VP left ‘feminists’ with a dilemma; support her because she’s a woman and all that represents in terms of ‘progress’, or not, due to her beliefs which hardly support women.
Feminism retains its position as an easy slur, although is re-branding its image. Defined as a belief in equal rights and opportunities for men and women, aren’t we all feminists? The spotlight today is on ‘Sex And The City’ feminism; demonstrating that woman can do it all, and look great, therefore not stifling their femininity. Questions about their political priorities aside, recent revelations that the Republican Party spent $150,000 on Palin’s wardrobe demonstrate the extent to which women are judged on their appearance and thus society’s expectations.
Sarah Palin is a self-proclaimed feminist, although has since refused to ‘label’ herself as such. However, Ann Friedman, a prominent journalist has commented of her, “a woman candidate is not the same thing as a woman’s candidate.” Will Palin represent woman and their agenda? More to the point, should she? Her fierce anti-abortion stance or legislating to make women pay for their rape test kits in Alaska hardly improves the lives of women as human beings, let alone ‘advancing progress’. This lack of focus on women’s issues, has secured her widespread criticism from feminists in the US. However, that not what she’s there for. Feminist groups may criticize any candidate for not advancing their issues, but simply because she’s a woman, this shouldn’t be her job, it should be to promote policies that are best for the nation.
As a role model she shows that women can pursue a career successfully and have a family, integral to feminist beliefs. While some believe her gender will garner the Republicans votes, her ill-informed answers and indecision on policy are more likely to disaffect voters. Or at least I’d like to think so. Her overt sexuality also seems to be winning over voters, traditionally seen as anti-feminist on the grounds of objectification. Is it important how she makes it to the top? Or chiefly that a woman does, increasing society’s acceptance of it.
Perhaps her greatest contribution to feminists is the re-inspiration of the debate surrounding feminism, no longer an issue exclusively reserved for liberals. Her ‘female agenda’ reduces to, in her words, “No woman should have to choose between her career, education and child.” A conservative woman in a leading position in one of the most conservative organizations could just indicate shared values and irrelevance of gender as an issue.