The Enemy Within

I’m working on a fisk of some recent utterances by Sarah Palin. But I thought I’d precede that with a short post that tacks in the opposite direction.

There’s been a recent spate of articles attacking Palin and other conservative women as traitors to the cause of feminism. According to articles like this one in Slate, forwarded or Facebooked by many I know, these conservative women are simply the latest wave of anti-feminist feminists.

The invocation of the word feminist at a meeting of anti-abortion women can be confusing, but it shouldn’t be. There’s no real reason to consider Sarah Palin a feminist. She’s just the latest incarnation of a long and noble line of feminist anti-feminists: women who call themselves feminist but also object to the existence of the feminist movement and organize in opposition to it.

It’s been a while since I read Catherine McKinnon, so I don’t have the background to justify my belief that this is categorical bullshit. Fortunately, Cathy Young is here to take this argument apart and give us some background on the writer, who said some truly vile things during the Duke Lacross incident. Her summary?

The real mystery is why a publication of Slate’s stature, and its “women’s section,” Double XX, would run an article whose main purpose is to exclude dissent from feminist discourse and smear the dissenters … What happened to letting a hundred flowers bloom?

(More from Reason on this here.)

The reason this debate caught my eye is that a similar debate is going on in the conservative side of the political aisle, one in which I am deeply immersed. Certain politicians and certain views are being deemed “unconservative” even if they are, at their base, completely conservative. For example, I think taking global warming seriously is a very conservative position. But that has now become a litmus test. Agreement on philosophy and outlook is longer enough; agreement on dogma is required.

Here we see the same thing. Having a philosophy of equality is not enough; agreement on a platform is required, even if that means denouncing all pro-life women (who comprise half of American women) as anti-feminist. Even though I’m opposed to Palin on cultural issues generally (and abortion specifically), I just don’t see that conflating “feminism” with “the Democratic party platform” helps anyone. It’s certainly not advancing the debate.

The genesis of this debate is the appearance of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann on the national scene. I can certainly understand why they’re driving some people — especially liberal people, but even moderate people — around the bend. But is it not a sign of progress that female politicians can be just as crazy, stupid and full of shit as their male counterparts? Why must they be seen as some kind of anti-feminist trojan horse?