Last night, Sarah Palin chatted with Greta Van Susteren about what "liberal feminists" get wrong, and Willow's use of a "bad word." But between Van Susteren's softballs, I started wondering what would happen if liberals tried treating Palin with respect.
After some small talk about the weather in Wasilla (cold) and Palin's roaring fire (warm), Van Susteren got down to business: reading excerpts from Palin's new book that would allegedly set liberal feminists "on fire." Watch from 0:30 to about 2:45 for Palin's thoughts on how "radical feminists" (who have apparently "hijacked" the feminist movement) are obsessed with victimhood.
Van Susteren's language is a little creepy throughout, as she describes not only immolating liberal feminists, but also "hitting 'em right between the eyes." It's a little hard to forge common ground with Palin when her interviewer/booster is suggesting she might like to field-dress us. But that's not Palin's fault, of course, and what she says here isn't new — plenty of feminists have accused their own movement of too frequently casting women as victims.
As far as being "on fire" — well, Elizabeth Wurtzel does write (in an otherwise largely pro-Palin piece) that "as a liberal feminist, it drives me absolutely bonkers that Palin is the most visible working mother and female politician in America, that she is the best exemplar of a woman with an equal marriage, that she has put up with less crap from fewer men than those of us who have read The Second Sex and marched in pro-abortion rallies and pretty much been on the right side of all the issues that Palin is wrong about." But these are exactly the things that shouldn't piss us off about Sarah Palin. To my mind, the Mama Grizzly's right when she says we have a lot in common. I'd like to make it easier for women to work and raise families, and at least from what I see of their public partnership, I find the equality in the Palins' marriage inspiring. Palin talks about being raised to do anything boys can do — well so was I, and by a "feminist foremother" with "dirt under her fingernails" no less (seriously, nobody has grosser nails than a botanist).
Where Palin and I most clearly part company is on the issue of abortion, and I wonder if she'd recognize my continued anger at her claim that giving women fewer choices is actually giving them more as a form of the "rising up" and "coming out swinging" that she repeatedly applauds in her interview. At around 10:55, she criticizes her daughter Willow for using a "bad word" in a homophobic Facebook post, but goes on to praise her for hitting back at critics — I wonder if Palin would extend the same respect to feminists who get angry when people try to take their rights away. These are honest questions — the more I watch Palin talk about her political opponents, especially female ones, the more I'm curious about how she would respond to legitimate, respectful engagement. My Palin strategy thus far has centered on mockery, as has the strategy of many liberals — a few, like Wurtzel, have instead chosen somewhat confusing adulation. What would happen if instead of making fun of Palin (or verbally making out with her), we actually tried having an earnest, serious conversation? At least then we'd find out if Palin's respect for strong women extends to those who disagree with her, as she insists ours should.