Considering the Tea Party’s male-heavy demographics, it makes sense they would most closely align with the GOP, a party that has historically supported things like an unfettered free market, an aggressive foreign policy concerned more with “shock and awe” than diplomacy, a distrust of intellectualism, a love of guns, and an even bigger love for American-made Dodge Rams. That takes a lot of testosterone. And sometimes testosterone’s not even enough. In today’s political climate, the GOP and its newest spawn are riding on more steroids than A-Rod at the All-star game.
So how is it that Sarah Palin, with her stylish pencil skirts, $11,400 per week make up artist, and mama grizzly attitude – not to mention being a self-described feminist – is arguably the most powerful voice of such a movement?
Long story short, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The right has an antagonist history with feminism. First-wave feminism was largely concerned with gaining political equality for women through democratic participation – in other words, voting. Second-wave feminism sought to actually bring these legal gains into practice; thus, women would not be “equal” until society actually saw them as equals. In the 1960s and ’70s, this meant banning sexual discrimination in the workplace, equal pay and, everyone’s favorite party wedge, reproductive rights.
Throughout both waves, the right was staunchly against women stepping out of their place, be it the kitchen, bedroom, or receptionist hub. Whether it was painting “feminist” women as lesbians (or as unattractive spinsters, which many times meant the same thing) or displaying a paternalistic, patronizing attitude, the right has historically been a foe of feminism.
Then came the 1980s when the hair, shoulder pads, and attitudes were big. The Reagan/Thatcher Deregulation Revolution created enormous economic growth. And, for the first time, women were the spark behind this business explosion. While the proportion of women in the workplace had steadily increased since the 1950s, the women of the 1980’s made this proportion skyrocket, (think Working Girl, but in real life). And it wasn’t just because more women were becoming secretaries; rather, women were obtaining high-power, high-earning positions that would have been unheard of even a decade earlier.
Feminism was now striving for not just economic independence, but fat checks, as well as the ability to work, have sex, and live like a man. To be equal to men, these feminists had to act like, well, men.
Flash forward to 2010. Where is feminism now?
The short answer is that today’s feminism (dubbed ‘Third Wave Feminism’) cannot really be defined. Like many postmodern understandings of isms, its meaning is all relative (it can mean anything, really.) That is why women like Palin (as well as cronies such as Michelle Bachman, Christine O’Donnell, and Nikki Haley) can be against traditional feminist platforms such as womens’ reproductive rights, paid maternity leaves, same-sex marriage, increasing school funding, universal healthcare, universal daycare, and even equal pay laws.
O’Donnell, to her credit, did file a lawsuit in regards to a termination she believed was rooted in gender-discrimination, even though her most memorable political platform is her take on “sexual purity,” which from a traditional feminist standpoint, discourages women to embrace their sexuality. (See Christine O’Donnell’s anti-masturbation campaign.)
So does that mean that since Palin and co’s “feminism” is so closely intertwined with Tea Party platforms (which young people vehemently oppose, in general,) that the youth is against third-wave feminism?
No way! Today’s women were raised to believe we were equal to men, but we didn’t have to try to be them to prove it. We play sports, go to college, start businesses, have babies, and travel the world on our own terms. We aren’t constantly trying to out-man the boys, play for play. And we certainly aren’t angry old mama grizzlies with blood-red lipstick smeared across our glistening teeth.