No, really. He totally did (via Feministing). In an interview with…idk, some dude, he said, and I quote, “she is a direct counterpoint to the liberal feminist agenda for America” to justify picking her to be his running mate. Watch it.
Which is rather rich, of course, as one of Palin’s major selling points (at least nominally) has been how she gives hope to women that we can be powerful too, and she isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and oh yeah – she explicitly calls herself a feminist (about 0:20 in the video below).
Now, I and most other feminists would strongly disagree with her on that conclusion, but really. A pseudo-feminist who at least pretends to care about women’s equality and rights has got to be better for McCain and Palin’s image than admitting she is a pawn to alienate free-thinking women, right? Oy.
The best part is, of course, McCain’s use of the term “liberal feminist”. I do not think he knows what that term means; it’s not one I’ve ever heard used in a derogatory sense before. I’ve heard feminazi, and radical feminist, and fat hairy-legged atheist lesbian castrating cunt feminist, but never liberal feminist by anyone except people who actually knew something about the feminist movement. Since we know that, for McCain, the mere mention of the word “liberal” is enough to make him froth at the mouth, I’m sure he only meant it in a pejorative sense; i.e. in his book, the term “liberal feminist” is greater than or equal to all of the former ones in terms of sheer insult power. But, oh John. You are such an idiot. I was trying to think of the best way to tell you this, when I thought of a scene from one of my favorite movies, A Fish Called Wanda. Luckily, YouTube came to the rescue, and I was able to find a clip of that precise moment.
No, John. The London Underground is not a political movement, Aristotle was not Belgian, and liberal feminism isn’t actually a cabal of women just dying to cut off your penis. Those are all mistakes. I looked them up.
Courtesy of (and according to) Wikipedia, here is a brief summary of the basic tenets of liberal feminism:
Liberal feminism, also known as “mainstream feminism,” asserts the equality of men and women through political and legal reform. It is an individualistic form of feminism and theory, which focuses on women’s ability to show and maintain their equality through their own actions and choices. Liberal feminism looks at the personal interactions of men and women as the starting ground from which to transform society into a more gender-equitable place. According to liberal feminists, all women are capable of asserting their ability to achieve equality, therefore it is possible for change to happen without altering the structure of society.
These are mostly things that you kinda, sorta, claim to stand for. I mean, individualistic? Conservative ideal. Show and maintain equality through their own actions and choices? Conservative-tacular! Just looking at this paragraph, this is something you should wholeheartedly agree with, being a not-sexist but still conservative person.
Well!, you say. Perhaps this is just a very clever way of hiding the fact that liberal feminists eat babies for Sunday brunch! So, let’s look at that gosh-darn liberal feminist agenda (again copying and pasting from Wikipedia, because they do an okay job and I don’t feel like culling through 50 websites to find the same information):
- Constitutional Equality through the Constitutional Equality Amendment
- Reproductive Freedom Issues/Abortion rights
- Ending Violence Against Women
- Promoting Diversity / Ending Racism
- Lesbian Rights
- Economic Justice
- Also important
- Judicial Nominations
- Marriage Equality
- Media Activism
- Mothers’ Economic Rights
- Working for Peace
- Social Security
- Supreme Court
- Title IX/Education
- Women-Friendly Workplace
- Women in the Military
- Young Feminist Programs
Hmm – let’s focus on “priority”. Constitutional equality – you might not be in favor of another Constitutional amendment, period, particularly one guaranteeing rights, so I could see you not digging that. Reproductive freedom – well, we know how you feel on abortion (at least since having been anointed the GOP’s Last Hope and thus renouncing any moderate views you may have had on the subject), and also know that you are completely unfamiliar with other reproductive rights issues such as contraception (several times in the past year, reporters have asked him about abstinence-only sex-ed, contraceptive use preventing the spread of HIV, and birth-control access, and each time he admitted he was clueless). Ending violence against women? Idk, did you vote for the VAWA? Your running mate doesn’t care about it, that’s for damn sure. Promoting diversity/ending racism – well, nominally yes, but you’re not a fan of the whole affirmative action thing, and love that racism is getting you votes, so I can see that point. Lesbian rights – ha! I’m sure every time you think of “gay marriage” that you think of two dudes, and we know how much that squicks you out. Two actual, full-blooded, hardcore lesbians that want to get married? Keep this in mind:
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
What’s that last priority? Economic justice? I’m just gonna let that slide, because…come on, people.
So, upon closer inspection, I can see why the “liberal feminist agenda” is something you oppose. But here’s the thing. All of those things, on that list, that you have spoken against? Those are good things. And I’m not saying that to try to convert you, because quite honestly, I think there’s no hope. But what are you going to do when people look up the “liberal feminist agenda” and see that it all sounds, well, rather reasonable? How can you speak out of both sides of your mouth at once: say that Palin’s nomination is “empowering women” or some other drivel like that, and then at the same time admit that you don’t care about even basic human rights?
Because the thing is, as I mentioned, liberal feminism is kind of like Feminism Lite. It’s Feminism 101. It’s feminism with training wheels. It’s the kind of feminism that most compassionate, moderately-educated, common-sense people should be able to agree with, were the mere word “feminist” not a smear. It is probably the most common brand of feminism embraced by people in this country. It is (largely) sex-positive: not condemnatory of pornography, prostitution, or BDSM. It has its flaws and shortcomings, but not in a way that would irk a true social conservative (of course, a true social conservative would be irked by other parts of it). It is the kind of feminist your next-door neighbor probably is (unless you live in San Francisco), or that nice guy down the road with three kids and a “Kerry/Edwards” sticker on his car.
If you really wanted something that a lot of people could disagree with, why not anarcha-feminism? Why not separatist feminism? Why not use the quintessential rallying cry of the wounded right: radical feminism? Yes, it is an actual thing, not just a phrase to trigger Rush Limbaugh’s cremaster reflex. Radical feminists want to disrupt society and overthrow the patriarchy. Separatist feminists don’t even support heterosexual relationships, for Pete’s sake! They would be so easy to malign and use to scare people! But you didn’t use them. You used liberal feminists. That ideology alone was enough to make you squirm.
No, I haven’t gone off the deep end. I don’t actually think that John McCain is intimately familiar with the subtypes and nuances of the different “feminisms”, even insofar as anybody can be an expert on the subject. But the fact remains that he is diametrically opposed to even the basic, bread-and-butter, tenets of feminism. Things like “men and women have an equal right to determine their own lives”. And while by “liberal feminist” he may have meant something other than “mainstream, fairly non-controversial feminist”, the fact remains that he IS opposed to the latter, as well as the former. Vociferously. It’s just amazing that he had the wherewithal to publicly state it, and furthermore cite it as a major factor. The dude JUST SAID that he picked Palin as a VP candidate to piss off people who care about equal rights. I mean, the fact that he has no shame or hesitation in stating that, shows how he thinks most of the country feels.
He may be right, at least in terms of how the word “feminism” is portrayed in the media. But I don’t think he’s right about the ideas. We do actually have a progressive majority in this country, largely aligned with liberal feminist views (via Tom Paine). Only 29% of the country, at the time of the linked poll, supported overturning Roe v. Wade (a cornerstone of social conservatism). The linked report also shows a steady increase in people’s belief in women’s equality and that of homosexuals, and a decrease in opposition to the latter. Republicans still manage to win votes because people are not evenly distributed, geographically; there are, of course, lots of areas where 90% of the people believe in overturning Roe v. Wade and 20% believe in women’s equality. Republicans are also no stranger to negative campaigning and using wedge issues to gain votes. But that doesn’t seem to be working as well this year, and the Democrats have a large majority in electoral votes. Many former red states are looking distinctly blue.
The death knell of the Republican party is already tolling. Now McCain has alienated at least a chunk of the conservative women, the pseudo-feminist ones who were maligning most other feminists for not being gaga over Palin. He just spanked her whole shtick about “female power” and “equality” and, yes, “feminism”. Now that he’s publicly stated his own sexist agenda – could his anti-feminism be the final nail in his coffin?
Let’s hope so.
Note: In this post, I was not trying to cast aspersions on any particular “brand” of feminism; I know that, despite certain differences, what all feminisms have in common is a desire to right the wrongs towards women of the past, present, and future. We just differ in the methodology.