When Sarah Palin speaks, liberal feminists go wild. The woman is like a stilettoed catalyst for backlash from the professional political sisterhood.
Much of the bitterness that gushes forth from the lefty ladies has very little to do with Palin herself. It's about many of the things she represents: She's a happy mom, surrounded by a big family and husband; she's pro-life, religious and conservative; and, lest we forget, a political powerhouse the likes of which has not been seen for decades. Depending on who you are and the nature of your gripe, you can add and subtract to this list.
A most recent source of feminist madness over Palin stemmed from a speech she delivered at a Susan B. Anthony List fundraiser in Washington, D.C. The List is a group that supports candidates who are pro-life. It does so in the tradition of the early feminists who fought for life issues. The List, like other similar groups, including the group Feminists for Life, educates and promotes the largely forgotten or otherwise suppressed history of the women who fought for the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. These suffragettes were smart, at home with their femininity and perplexed by those who would deny the very power of life within them.
In many ways, the women among the Tea Party activists of today -- whom Palin counts as part of a "mom awakening" going on -- would be quite at home with their foremothers. If polls I've seen and rallies I've attended are any indication, today's female fighters are pro-life and sensible. They've seen the pain the last few decades of social radicalism has wrought. They're a danger to the feminist establishment.
And so in her speech, Palin talked about "a new revival of that original feminism of Susan B. Anthony." She said, "Together, we're showing young women that being pro-life is in keeping with the best traditions of the women's movement."
Palin talked about "empowering women," and in her worldview that translates into making sure women know that they have options when they are pregnant in "less-than-ideal circumstances." She talked beautifully about her son Trig and the transcendent challenge of raising a son with Down syndrome.
As the former governor of Alaska tends to do, Palin rallied the people about the future and their role in it. Referring to the recent health care debate and the failure of nearly every so-called pro-life Democrat to step up to the plate, Palin talked about how a "new pro-life, pro-woman majority will actually be pro-life when it counts, when those votes are needed."
And so for days after, there was the usual anti-Palin march of derision. On the Washington Post's website, two Anthony aficionados asserted: "Sarah Palin is no Susan B. Anthony." They lamely criticized Palin for not providing enough footnotes in her speech to prove that Anthony cared all that much about abortion.
As they worked to demonstrate that Anthony was indifferent on abortion, the Palin critics managed to conveniently skip over the other suffragettes and their writings in newspapers and letters. Like the letter Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote to Julia Ward Howe in 1873 in which she explained, "When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit."
The Post article dismisses anonymous editorials in the newspaper Anthony was intimately involved with. But to do so is to ignore the attitudes that were a natural part of the activism for which early feminists are most well-known. Attitudes that are truly reflective of so many pro-life groups today -- including the much derided and hated Catholic Church and evangelical activists who for decades now have labored to keep the fight active
One respondent to Palin argued: "Her usual rhetoric extolling the values and importance of freedoms doesn't extend to women." In the rhetoric and reality of the liberal feminist movement from which a comment like that is born, freedom doesn't extend to the unborn child. Increasingly, Americans are not tolerating this. In the tradition of the suffragettes, women, increasingly, will have none of it.
And so I understand why women of the left react early and often to Palin. It's not about her, it's about the threat to their power she represents. They've based so much of their political activism on the tenets of the sexual revolution, which have been such a disaster for women, men, children, and families. But the jig is up. It didn't fly with the likes of Anthony and Stanton. And it's increasingly not flying now. It's not the pro-lifers who went rogue in the first place.