Governor Sarah Palin has grown up in a world full of open doors. She was born on February 11, 1964. By the time she entered middle school, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 had been passed which prohibited discrimination against women in educational activities (including athletics) receiving federal funds. By the time she entered high school, the Supreme Court had decided Roe v. Wade. By the time she graduated from college, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibited employment discrimination based on sex and the Equal Pay Act which prohibited women from being paid less than men had been in operation for over two decades.
Palin grew up in an age when many of her female counterparts chose to reject marriage and husbands. She grew up in an era when many women decided to send their children to day-care or not to have children at all. She grew up in an era when women could pursue the most masculine of careers and make a good living doing so.
She has had more opportunities open to her than many early feminists ever dreamed possible. Yet, because of the choices she has made, she is being rejected, insulted and condemned by her feminist counterparts.
Palin chose to marry her high school sweetheart, stating proudly during her acceptance speech, “We met in high school, and two decades and five children later he's still my guy.” She chose to have children. And she chose to focus her time on raising her children, pursuing public office not to climb the political ladder, but to make her community better for her children. During her acceptance speech she said, “I was just your average hockey mom, and signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids' public education better. When I ran for city council, I didn't need focus groups and voter profiles because I knew those voters, and knew their families, too.”
If feminism is about giving women choices, she should be cheered as an example of the success of feminism. However, because of the choices Palin has made and the conservative principles she has adopted, National Organization for Women (NOW) PAC Chair Kim Gandy started attacking Palin within three hours of her speech in Ohio.
Gandy issued a press release entitled, “Not Every Woman Supports Women’s Rights,” stating, “Sen. John McCain's choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate is a cynical effort to appeal to disappointed Hillary Clinton voters and get them to vote, ultimately, against their own self-interest.” Nowhere does Gandy recognize the historical importance of this moment for women. Rather, she criticizes Palin’s politics and suggests that women are not smart enough to figure out how to vote in their own self-interest. Who is sexist now?
The press release continues, “The fact that Palin is a mother of five who has a 4-month-old baby, a woman who is juggling work and family responsibilities, will speak to many women. But will Palin speak FOR women? Based on her record and her stated positions, the answer is clearly No.” Why? Because of some of her issue positions—positions with which NOW, the self-anointed spokesperson for women, disagrees.
This press release confirms that NOW is not a broad-based movement representing all women. While NOW argues in abstract terms of choice, there is only one correct choice for NOW. They promote empowerment, but only if that power is used to push their agenda. NOW may disagree with Palin on some of the issues. Vigorous debate is valuable in American society. Yet, it is improper, unnecessary and discrediting for NOW to completely disown Palin. She is, after all, a living example of what second wave feminists claimed to be about: empowering women to make choices and giving them the opportunity to do so. NOW, women and all Americans should celebrate Palin for the woman she is and the possibilities she symbolizes for women. She is truly a liberated woman.