Illustration for article titled Gloria Steinem On Feminism, Sarah Palin: Its Such An Insult

For New York Magazine's 40th anniversary issue, original contributor/feminist godmother Gloria Steinem and activist Suheir Hammad (seen above left) had a conversation about Sarah Palin and the state of modern feminism, among other things. When Palin's name comes up, Steinem says, “It’s such an insult," and she goes on to add, "Having someone who looks like you and behaves like them — who looks like a friend but behaves like an adversary—is worse than having no one."The use of the word "feminist" in reference to Palin has gotten so out of hand that even uber-conservative Kathleen Parker of the National Review, a woman who calls the mainstream feminist movement the "hirsute, Birkenstock-wearing sisterhood," admits that "to express reservations about [Palin's] qualifications to be vice president — and possibly president — is to risk being labeled anti-woman." As I've noted before, questioning Sarah Palin's "feminism" is a losing battle, because she probably thinks she is one. The dictionary definition of feminism is "the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men," and in her own fractured way, I'm sure Palin believes she upholds this doctrine. And many many people believe that the fight for equality has already been reached, and we're in a "post-feminist" era — to which Gloria Steinem says, "I’ll know that we’re getting someplace when I go into Central Park and see white men wheeling babies of color and getting well paid for it. There is no postfeminism—it’s like saying 'post-democracy'!" Feminism has been declared over by some, its meaning co-opted by pretty much anyone with the proper genetic equipment, regardless of their actions or actual beliefs. The word itself is so maligned and misinterpreted that it's almost ceased to mean anything at all, and many women, particularly women of color, feel abandoned and ignored by the mainstream feminist movement. So perhaps instead of declaring the feminist movement dead, or pretending its goals have been accomplished, maybe it's time for a new word entirely and a more precise definition. The word would include the notion that being pro-female does not just mean benefiting from the feminist movement, as Sarah Palin undeniably has. As Katha Pollitt notes in the Guardian today, "The glass ceiling is the invisible barrier of gender prejudice that prevents women, as a class, from rising to the level that their qualifications and abilities merit – the level they would reach if they were men…As has been known to happen in less exalted workplaces, Palin got the promotion because the boss just liked her. She will do no more to shatter the glass ceiling for other women as a group than such women usually do." The new word could be for women who actively promote the advancement of the interests of other women, not just the narcissistic advancement of themselves. I don't have any great branding ideas for the new movement's name — "womanist" is already taken and it sounds painfully retro; "community organizer" is also unfortunately taken. What about wombanist? Hmm, that sounds too close to wombat. Cuntrarians? Catchy, but the MSM probably won't print it. If you have any clever names for the new movement, we're all ears. In Conversation: Gloria Steinem and Suheir Hammad [NYM] The End Of Meritocracy [Guardian] Palin Problem [National Review] Earlier: Sarah Palin's Feminism Is Irrelevant To Her Irresponsible Record Sarah Palin: Feminist? Victim Of Sexist Smears? Or All Or None Of The Above?


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