Washington Post writer Anne Kornblut moderated an alternately infuriating and inspiring panel discussion Tuesday on reproductive rights, Sarah Palin, and what it will take for a feminist to win the presidency.
In addition to Kornblut, author of Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win, the panel included conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, one time McCain campaign adviser Nicole Wallace, and former White House press Secretary Dee Dee Myers. When the discussion turned to the now rather tired topic of whether feminism is dead (isn't "is feminism dead" dead?), Parker held up Sarah Palin as a shining example that it lives. She cited the old saw that feminism has been too restrictive ("the movement that only accepted a certain way of thinking, and women had to sign on to specific platforms"), and argued that Palin's success comes from the fact that "there are lots of women out there who are profoundly pro-life, who don't subscribe to abortion as choice." Though the notion that Sarah Palin is an open and accepting alternative to harsh, unyielding "old" feminism is pretty ridiculous, it is worth asking, as Myers later did, whether feminism has to include reproductive rights. As a pro-choice feminist, I would argue that it does, though I do agree there needs to be room in the tent for those who personally would not choose abortion. In any case, it's extremely frustrating that Parker — and others — paint feminists as limited and intolerant when they fight for a right that's of huge importance to many women.
Later in the discussion, Kornblut gave her prescription for the kind of woman who could become President. She said,
My suspicion is that when a woman candidate comes along who's able to talk about this without getting uncomfortable, who's able to give a speech where she talks about what feminism is today without alienating people, being able to be all-encompassing, relating to younger people who have that same question who maybe don't identify themselves as old-school feminists, somebody who can talk eloquently about that and run for office [...] will be somebody who will be able to win.
So, paging Wonder Woman. While this sounds like a tall order, Kornblut says Obama was able to accomplish a similar feat in discussing race. So maybe there is hope for a feminist candidate — but that candidate won't be Sarah Palin. As Jessica of Feministing says, "The movement may be broad, but it ain't stupid."
Defining Feminism [Washington Post]
Please Stop Appropriating Feminism [Feministing]
Reception And Discussion Of Washington Post White House Correspondent Anne Kornblut's New Book [The Washington Scene]