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Sarah Palin - The Most Dangerous Woman in America

The Liberated Woman Vs. Women's Liberation - Why the Difference Matters

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Sarah Palin - The Most Dangerous Woman in America
© Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Updated October 04, 2008
I like Sarah Palin. She is our victory, as Gloria Steinem pointed out in her recent Los Angeles Times Op-Ed piece. Hillary punched 18 million holes in the glass ceiling of the White House and the anti-feminist right wing, recognizing how politically powerful women have become, pulled Sarah Palin through it.

I admire Palin's honesty. "I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq," she answered when questioned about it. She admitted, "I still can't answer that question until someone answers for me: What is it exactly that the VP does every day." This is not a smooth politician; this is a fresh voice, the voice of a working-class white woman. And I feel bad for her when she's publicly humiliated because of her obvious lack of knowledge and preparedness.

"Not Going to Be Pushed Around"

I like her on a personal level, too. She's plucky and gutsy, and resourceful; she's not affected and she's very self-confident. She's not going to be pushed around, but she's going to disarm with teasing and flirting, not strident attack. Even the cheap shots the Bush scriptwriters put in her mouth during her acceptance speech came out sounding sweet, not snarky.

When she opens her mouth and that kind of strained nasal "gonna" and "gotta" comes out, it is the voice of my mom and my aunts and all the women in my home town of Aberdeen, South Dakota. Her daughter got pregnant at 17, unmarried, in a little town and so did I. When I saw her up there on the Republican stage, courageously making her debut in front of a national audience, and there sat her family -- the Down Syndrome baby's hair stroked by his not much older sister, the virginal-looking pregnant 17 year old with her boyfriend, the son about to go off to war, the part-Native dad -- all looking on adoringly, I thought of how much it took to keep it all together and how far she'd come from that unformed small-town girl. I confess I got tears in my eyes.

"The Liberated Woman"

Life knocks her down and she picks herself up, brushes herself off and comes out smiling. I relate to her naturalness, her down-home-iness, and her up-and-at-'em spirit at a very human level.

She represents the liberated woman, who can have a family and a career; who can be whatever she chooses, on her own terms.

And that is why Sarah Palin is the most dangerous woman in America.

"Baking a New Pie"

She has the trappings of the liberated woman. And that's the problem. The liberated woman and women's liberation have always been enemies. "Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman," (Gloria again). "It's about making life more fair for women everywhere." "We don't think it's much to break a glass ceiling for one woman and leave millions of women behind," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. No woman is liberated until every woman is liberated.

Nor is women's liberation about women getting a piece of the American pie. As Flo Kennedy used to say, that pie is s***. It's about baking a new pie.

"Face of False Feminism"

Sarah Palin is the face of false feminism and worse. She wears a mask of feminism to hide her God and guns and glory commitment to the old boy's club: She doesn't support environmental protection or alternative energy development. She is against sex education, birth control, abortion, freedom of speech, and most importantly, the separation of church and state. How ironic is it that Hillary, the first woman to have a real shot at the presidency – although women have been running since Belva Lockwood campaigned in 1884 on the Equal Rights Party ticket – the first woman to get close to the presidency had to wear an old boy's club mask to hide her feminist soul.

"A Declaration of Their Rights"

How do I know that Hillary has a feminist soul? When I briefed her during "Celebrate '98", the 150 anniversary of the first woman's rights convention in Seneca Falls, I told her the story of the Woman's Declaration of Rights. In 1876, during the nation's centennial, the radical wing of the woman's rights movement declared that they had more cause for revolution than the men of 1776 – ruled as they were, not by a foreign despot but by their brothers, their fathers, their husbands and even their sons. They illegally presented a Declaration of their rights at the official July 4 celebration at Independence Square in Philadelphia, -- knowing they would probably be arrested. They did it, they said, for the daughters of 1976, so they would know that their mothers of 1876 had impeached the government for its treatment of women. When I finished the story, Hillary's entire staff stood and applauded.

"What Women Want"

But we don't need a personal narrative to know that Hillary stands for women's rights. Her record speaks. She favors pay equity, sex education, reproductive rights, freedom of speech and a new pie: environmental protection, alternative energy development. Most importantly, she doesn't believe that she has the right to impose her personal religious beliefs on the country – nor does anyone else have that right. Hillary supports maintaining the separation of church and state.

Even with Hillary out of the race, these are the two poles against which women are centering themselves now. How could Newsweek then come out with a cover questioning, "What Women Want?" Why isn't Sarah Palin's anti-woman agenda as patently clear as Hillary's pro-woman agenda should be?

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