Sarah Palin owes a lot of her superstar career to the women who have rallied around her. And now Palin has returned the favor by releasing a video called “Mama Grizzlies,” in which the former Alaska Governor celebrates women’s political power and promises that they will change the world through a “Mom Awakening.”
Palin deserves praise for offering such a powerful rallying cry for women who have been stuck in the political kitchen. Her message, however, may end up doing more harm than good.
“These policies coming out of D.C. right now, this fundamental transformation of America — well a lot of women who are very concerned about their kids’ futures are saying we don’t like this fundamental transformation and we’re going to do something about it,” declares Palin over an upbeat, inspirational score and pictures of screaming fans. “It seems like it’s kind of a mom awakening in the last year and a half where women are rising up and saying ‘no, we’ve had enough already.’ Because moms sort of just know when something is wrong.”
The Palin brand has in part been build on motherhood: she proudly, and frequently, described herself as a “hockey mom,” brought her baby around the campaign trail, embraced her teenage daughter’s unwed pregnancy, and consistently works with pro-life women’s groups, like the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. And maternity provides Palin with a perfect platform: it celebrates girl power while also stressing the conservative movement’s ideal family. “Mom-as-activist” amounts to little more than right wing ideology veiled in vaguely feminist rhetoric. But it’s not feminist. Not in the least, because those who don’t copulate are left out in the cold.
There’s no doubt women can be mothers and political players. Palin’s a wonderful example, as are South Carolina gubernatorial candidate and mother-of-two Nikki Haley, and Kirsten Gillibrand, the New York Senator who has a two-year old and a six-year old. And mothers of all varieties need as much love as possible. They did, after all, give us life. But there are other women on this planet, and, in Palin’s case, electorate, and they need to be encouraged, too.
President Obama recently implored men to get involved in their children and families’ lives. “An active, committed father makes a lasting difference in the life of a child. When fathers are not present, their children and families cope with an absence government cannot fill,” said Obama on Father’s Day. “Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a step father, a grandfather, or caring guardian.” Palin would do well to learn from the president. Her message includes only women who choose to reproduce. Women who don’t want or can’t have children have no place in the “Mama Grizzly” movement. And lesbians, I’m sure, are far too beastly even for the fierce breed of “common sense conservative woman” Palin prefers.
Rather than speaking to a prohibitive, exclusionary “traditional” family unit, Palin should be speaking to the nation as a whole. After all, a good mother wouldn’t play favorites with her daughters. Why should the rules be any different when it comes to empowering women?
By relying solely on mothers and grandmothers, Palin’s shunning young women and/or single women (like Elena Kagan, for instance) who don’t subscribe to her maternal instincts. They’re implicitly marginalized and told that they’re not worthy of Palin’s or anyone’s political engagement. If mama Palin wants to heal that wound, she’s going to need a bigger band-aid.