When Palin spoke on Wednesday night, my head almost exploded from the incandescent anger boiling in my skull. . . . What I feel for her privately could be described as violent, nay, murderous, rage.
That’s a pre-Civility Era quote from a young feminist called Jessica Grose, writing on a website called Jezebel, as quoted by Kay Hymowitz in a City Journal piece on Sarah Palin and feminism. Whatever you think of Palin (and I am beginning to feel she is-ahem-overexposed), Hymowitz’s article is fascinating. (Actually, the piece just starts with Palin–it moves quickly into a more general arena.)
Hymowitz understands why women like Ms. Grose had such a violent reaction to Palin:
However excessive their frothing, feminists had good reason to be in panic mode. Palin may have lost her bid to become vice president; she may have failed to appeal to such prominent conservatives as Peggy Noonan, George Will, and Karl Rove, as well as to lesser right-of-center mortals like this writer; but by leading a wave of new conservative women into the fray, she has changed feminism forever. In fact, this new generation of conservative politicas-having caught, skinned, and gutted liberal feminism as if it were one of Palin’s Alaskan salmon-is transforming the very meaning of a women’s movement.
Not that the new crowd of right-wing women were ever explicitly hostile to feminism. On the contrary, they often embraced it, and for liberal feminists, that was precisely the problem.
Hymowitz notes that feminists like Ms. Grose are angry not only because they feel that the conservative feminists (some of them would deny this category exists) not only came late to the party, benefiting, their critics charged, from the struggles of earlier stalwarts, but because these conservative women harbor a very notion of what the American social contract means. This is why they are such a threat. They oppose the very ideals that built up as feminism:
Over time, the list of women’s issues got longer: workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, domestic violence, parental leave, child care, the feminization of poverty, abortion, access to contraception, comprehensive sex education, child support, sexist media representations of women, and-depending on which feminist you asked-sex workers, gay rights, pornography, and the beauty industry. As the list grew, so did the demands for government action. Even as feminists won major congressional reforms like the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title IX, as well as a host of court cases ranging from minor to transformational, it became clear that from their perspective, a woman’s policy work was never done….
The newcomers, however, weren’t talking about child care, parental leave, equal-pay initiatives, or any other issue on the familiar agenda. They were talking about government debt and patronage, about TARP and bailouts and excessive regulation. …
Policy aside, the arrivistes were incomprehensible to liberals for cultural reasons. The old guard, consisting mostly of lawyers, writers, journalists, and other media types, tended to cluster on the coasts. The new crowd came from the South, the Midwest, and the West, and a number of them were businesswomen-not surprisingly, given that women are now majority or equal owners in nearly half of American businesses. Some were techies, such as Tea Party organizers Jenny Beth Martin of Georgia, a computer programmer, and Michelle Moore of Missouri, who ran a technology consulting firm. Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s newly elected governor, was an accountant in her previous life. The new congresswoman from South Dakota, Kristi Noem, runs the cattle ranch that she inherited from her family. Tech geeks, businesswomen, and ranchers: not Lesley Stahl feminism, that’s for sure.
I urge you to read the entire piece. Hymowitz nails it.