Feminism, Faith, and the Palin Factor
I pulled back into traffic after ending a cell phone conversation with Lisa Miller of Newsweek, wondering what direction her coming article on Gov. Palin was going to take. One of her questions to me was, "Do you pray for Gov. Palin?" Newsweek once again put Palin on the front cover this week. The article, though predictable, has some points that need to be addressed. I was not surprised, however, that I was not quoted in the piece and actually did not expect be as my answers would not have fit the preconceived profile of Palin that Newsweek wanted to portray. But then again I am only a farmer's wife from North Dakota, the kind of uninformed woman and mother and also an "evangelical" (whatever that is) Christian, that should never be allowed to call herself a feminist!
Liberal feminism versus conservative feminism has been a source of political tension for decades, but not nearly as visible as it is today, with Gov. Sarah Palin publicly re-claiming feminism for what I deem to be the majority of women. Strangely enough, the titles above will not sit well with either side of the spectrum on the issue. Why is that? "Feminism" is a word that derives its meaning from the word "feminine," meaning simply "of the female sex." That is a pretty straightforward definition, so why on earth should the word "feminism" stir up such deep political feelings in the general public. And why does it anger people to put the word feminism in the same sentence as faith? I believe it is because the word has been hijacked and used for decades solely for not-so-feminist issues with great hostility towards faith. Leftist feminism has, at its very core, reproductive rights as its sole issue; an issue that translates into abortion rights, destructive embryonic stem cell research, cloning and unlimited sex education for minors. The fight for equality has been hijacked by the likes of Planned Parenthood and NARAL, the two largest abortion providing and supporting organizations in the world. The saddest part of liberal feminism in America is the fact that tens of millions of little women never saw the light of day due to abortion. Who has stood for their feminist rights?
If you carefully read Miller's article, once again the underlying subject is abortion. She quotes Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood saying about Palin, "There is nothing there … her rallying cry is pretty empty if she's against women's rights." What rights would those be, Cecile? You are not talking about abortion, are you? I thought conservatives were the ones obsessed with that "single" issue. You have been exposed once again by your own words; abortion is your one and only purpose as a feminist; how sad is that!
The left's feminists are perpetually in opposition to women of faith, a total partisan rejection of all things concerning Christian faith, the value of life, and family. They have an ideological agenda usurped by abortion rights and expressed through anger. It is wholly unattractive to most people. The presence of Palin in the public square as a true feminist with values is simply attractive. Palin stands unwilling to give up faith, family and life, and that sure sounds like most of us women out here! She believes not only that America is exceptional, but that the women of America are as well! Palin represents the continuity of true feminism, no excuses nor apologies needed. It is not perplexing at all, it is just plain and simply someone to whom we can relate and in whom we can believe! The perplexity comes from the left, in their total lack of understanding mainstream America, as seen in Miller's limited understanding of evangelical women and the Palin factor. Miller asserts in her article that Palin is "remaking the religious right in her own image." The fact is rather that Palin happens to articulate our public policy issues at this time in history, nothing new there, just good old fashioned common sense, time-tested principles on which we firmly believe America was founded and with which we should stick. Faith is a threat to the left, and with Palin emerging on the national stage, a woman of faith, her entire family remains the constant recipient of attacks from the left, including liberal feminists.
We all know the story of women's suffrage, and we so deeply appreciate the women who stood strong in the face of great discrimination and challenges in this country and in other nations; challenges not truly seen by the recent generation. There will always be those who take exception to female exceptionalism amongst us yet here in the US, but our offenses here pale in comparison to the injustices done to women in nations like Somalia and Afghanistan. I recommend reading Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I truly believe, as a conservative feminist, that though there are still some glass ceilings out there in America, the opportunities are plentiful. One has to take the bull by the horns and pursue one's path, regardless of gender! And this is where we split the Left from the Right, and where the Palin factor comes in.
Gov. Palin has faced the "good old boy system" and won many times over. How? She has done it with principled hard work and no excuses for gender or anything else. Palin is a refreshing source of determination and steadfastness in the face of challenges, and that is just attractive to us normal folks out here in the heartland.
Gov. Palin does not ever focus on gender, but rather on issues, as was clearly seen in her interviews after last Tuesday's primaries. She judges by character and intentions, not color or gender. Palin is a woman of grit, who is busy as most moms are! She does what we all do, while focusing on what is really important. Her frequent Andretti quote (paraphrased), "If everything in your life seems all comfy, perfect and organized, you are probably driving too slow" resonates with most women. Just ask my hubby and kids; they will verify that I am not driving too slow!
Gov. Palin is successful, and her message is well received. The liberal feminist's is not. Palin gives voice to the silent majority of women, conservative and moderate; the liberal feminists do not. As Mrs. Beverly LaHaye once noted during the public battle over the Equal Rights Amendment, "They (liberal feminists) do not speak for me." And out of that statement grew the nation's largest public policy women's organization, Concerned Women for America, the organization President Reagan praised for bringing the "reinforcements" to his conservative policies in the 80's. She knew the liberal feminists' anti-God, anti-family rhetoric did not represent her beliefs nor resonate with the vast majority of women and took them on. Even Miller recognizes this "power of one" in her article, and it is appreciated.
The reporting on Palin via Miller's Newsweek article, as well as recent online allegations relating to Palin's physical attributes (not worth commenting on), again reveals the intense desperation the libs have over Palin's resonating message. They have yet to take her on in regards to policy issues, and I firmly believe it is because they do not have the guts to do so. They nitpick at her female-ness, her mama-ness, her body and her faith-ness, but never dare to discuss the issues about which most Americans care! And let's not forget the attack on her testimony about Trig! Miller suggests in her cover story that Palin's testimony on the blessings of Trig "turns discomforting and self serving". Then she jumps right to the false claim that Palin seriously considered abortion and therefore, according to Miller, "defies a generation of pro-life activist beliefs". From Miller's piece, I ascertain she may have been present (or at least watched the speech) during the Susan B. Anthony breakfast where Palin spoke of the discovery of her pregnancy. The fact that Miller misrepresents Palin's clear testimony at this event is a sad and constant reminder that journalism is no longer objective, to say the least. The rest of us hear her testimony loud and clear, and there is no judgment from pro-life activists here, myself being one of them! And you know what, attacking motherhood is just plain stupid!
Miller then immediately goes back to lament Palin's "lack of expertise on policy", an argument so exhausted by now, that it needs no comment. Strange though, the only one in the public policy arena that makes any sense these days on the tragedy in the Gulf oil spill is none other than Gov. Palin.
What the liberals are missing is the simple fact that we mainstream women can relate to her! She shares herself, her struggles, her steel spine decisions, her family, her vision and dream for America with grit and determination. And they can laugh at the mama grizzly term as much as they want, but we are out here; we are many, and we are awake! Miller scoffs at the fact that Palin called out to "sisters" in one of her recent speeches; well, I for one am honored by that and will gladly stand by Palin in her journey and call her sis!
We are in a deep culture war over the values of this nation. Sure, the economy, national security, energy and terrorism are the headlines, and so it should be. But I firmly believe that beneath all of those issues lies the true battle which is for the moral and spiritual soul of America. And Gov. Palin stands square in the ring of that battle, knowing well for what we fight. She has become the voice that articulates so clearly the principles of government the Founding Fathers laid out so clearly in the Constitution, and she does not yield an inch or pander to the cultural elite. As Reagan said, "A political party (or person) cannot be all things to all people, it must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers." That is the essence of what Palin represents. When Palin says the government should not spend over its limit, she is simply applying checkbook common sense to which we all can relate. When Palin expresses the need for a strong national defense, she mirrors the human nature of protecting the family. When Palin says "drill, baby, drill", she simply mirrors the reality of the everyday energy needs a family and a nation have. When Palin fights corruption and wrongdoing, she applies the God-given moral absolutes we teach our kids and by which we try to live. When Palin speaks of less government and more freedom, she taps into the deeply human right of individual pursuit of happiness and prosperity. All these principles, spoken in plain language, are time-tested throughout history. It's not that complicated or perplexing, is it?
Leadership should never be about how it appears, but rather how it performs. Real leaders are not weathervanes, but rather show a steel spine of conviction in the face of adversity! Popularity is not their goal; doing what is right is! It is not all about me, my rights and my life. It is about America, the blessing bestowed upon her from above and the exceptionalism for which she stands. It is about serving the future generations, and about reassuring the world that America is good and that we will stay good. It's about returning to Constitutional principles and limited government. It is about servant leadership, and that is what Palin embodies. It is deeper than Miller grasps in her "not so new" news article; it is stronger than conventional politics as usual, partisan bickering and the election campaigns to which we have become accustomed. It is about more than individual power! It is a people's movement of faith in family, flag and freedom. And that is not easily defeated! This is the strength of Palin and those who believe as she does, and come the attacks as they will, we will stand with her and for our convictions!.
So, why do Miller and others feel so uncomfortable with Palin, her faith and the women who support her? I truly believe it comes down to power and effectiveness. Palin is effective. Her message and journey in the public arena is powerful and joined by many! Miller has an absurd and outdated view of American evangelicals and what motivates them and how they live. Liberals have long been uncomfortable with a fixed value system, such as is embodied in Christianity, because it calls one to a place of decisions based on moral absolutes. Palin's political views and convictions are based on these time-tested, God-given and Constitutional values. This is a direct threat to the liberal minority of "old feminism" and the influence they have enjoyed in the corridors of power. The feminist left of America has lived a long life of marginalizing women of faith, excluding a large segment of the population to their own detriment. In Palin they have finally met their match in the public square. She will not back down, quit or shut up! You don't have to turn the lights off and say "boo" to scare liberals; just whisper "Palin" in broad daylight, and they go into hysterical fear and trembling. It is kinda amusing; I must admit.
The ultimate deathblow to the liberal left's occupation of the term feminism would be if Palin and other conservative feminists win state and national races in the upcoming elections. It would, by virtue of their beliefs, prove liberal feminism fatally injured and that scares the heck out of the liberal left minority! Thus the blind illogical attacks we have seen on Palin and her entire family. Sadly, we have not seen the end of it, but I for one will keep defending her in the public square, no matter what her future holds. Run sisters run!
PS. Oh, to answer Miller's question, "Yes, you bet I pray for Gov. Palin and her family. Actually I am one of those prayer warriors who provide her prayer shield. I'm honored to be one! (That should provide material for another interesting liberal media article.)
Janne Myrdal serves as State Director for CWA of North Dakota.
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