Are Palinâ€™s â€˜Mama Grizzliesâ€™ Feminist?
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|Sun, 07-18-2010 - 9:38am|
OP-ed: Are Palinâ€™s â€˜Mama Grizzliesâ€™ Feminist?
Itps nice that right-wing women are embracing feminism after demonizing the term for so long. Now letâ€™s see what they can do.
Itâ€™s not often that I get invited to breakfast at the Four Seasons with a baroness, and I was curious. So were a few dozen other women and three brave men who sat down to fruit and pastries, and to hear from Baroness Mary Goudie, a member of the British House of Lords and an activist on human-rights issues from sex trafficking to maternal health in Afghanistan. A feisty lady who relishes spirited debate and laughs easily and often, she won over everyone in the room as a self-appointed leader of womenâ€™s causes around the world, including getting more women on corporate boards.
These are issues that cut across political lines, but the women at the breakfast were mostly working for nonprofits, and it was clear from the conversation that their sentiments were on the progressive side. Goudie was there to promote her blog about shared global concerns and how they relate to women and children, and to create synergy with like-minded advocates across the pond. There was lots of agreement and female bonding until one of the men asked a question that he likened to tossing a grenade into the discussion.
He wanted to know what the baroness and others thought about Sarah Palin and her ability to command attention. Thereâ€™s a womenâ€™s explosion happening, he said, but itâ€™s not happening in the progressive sphere. Why is all the energy among women on the right, the cohort Palin dubs â€œMama Grizzliesâ€? Surely progressive women love their children and their way of life and the Constitution every bit as much as the self-appointed Mama Grizzlies. Goudie ducked the question, but as the breakfast concluded and she was bidding farewell to her guests, she confided to me, â€œThe Mama Grizzlies are winning.â€
Itâ€™s nice theyâ€™re embracing feminism after demonizing the term for so long, and I welcome them to the arena. Letâ€™s see if they can do for women what their sisters on the left have done since the â€™70s, breaking down the barriers for women in all areas of American life including politics. Palin has George W. Bushâ€™s disdain for intellectual elites, and she lives the rhetoric. Sheâ€™s undisciplined intellectually, but sheâ€™s got street smarts, and they count.
Sheâ€™s like Oprah staying ahead of the curve in the way she sees things. Call it EQâ€”emotional intelligence. She knows better than anyone in public life how to navigate the new social media, and she resonates with enough people in the Republican Party that sheâ€™s the wild card for 2012.
The women candidates she considers Mama Grizzlies would have been out there anyway; I donâ€™t think she inspired them to run. But sheâ€™s given definition to a movement that would otherwise be just a bunch of kooks, or one-offs. Sheâ€™s fenced off a wing of the GOP that she owns, and in politics, when itâ€™s your turn to ride the rocket, thatâ€™s what you do. A Republican source says Palin is nothing new, sheâ€™s really Pat Buchanan in dragâ€”the same issues except that her reality show is a lot more gripping. The media went overboard for Buchanan in 1996 when he won the New Hampshire primary, defeating establishment favorite Bob Dole. But the insurgent campaign of a former Nixon speechwriter canâ€™t compare with the ongoing soap opera of the Palins. Bristol and Levi together again!
When I ran the Palin-as-Buchanan theory past another Republican, a woman this time, she said that was an insult to Buchanan, who is deeply serious and has thought about these issues. She doesnâ€™t agree with his conclusions, but he rode the rocket at a moment in time, just as Palin is poised to do. This friend does corporate focus groups that have nothing to do with politics, and at the end she likes to ask what the participants think of various people in the news: â€œWhen you mention her name, they all smile, even if what comes out of their mouth is that sheâ€™s terrible.â€
A big part of Palinâ€™s appeal is how well she works with todayâ€™s culture, which is shallow and quick. Twitter is 140 charactersâ€”which gets me back to the serious do-gooders who worry about girls in Afghanistan. They donâ€™t have the same ability to get to the heart of things, plus theyâ€™re dealing with issues most voters would rather avoid, and that includes Palin, who quit public office when it got harder than tweeting.