My friends like to kid me (Well, sort of kid. I think they’re actually serious most of the time.) that I do my best writing when I’m pissed off/on my high horse/ full of righteous indignation. If that’s the case, hold tight because I’m good and pissed off right now.
I just read an excerpt from Sarah Palin’s new book. If you haven’t just eaten, you can go over to Gawker and read a little of it. If you’ve just eaten, I recommend waiting a while to read it. I want to zone in on one area in particular.
Ms. Palin discusses her pro-life position. About young women in the pro-life movement she says, “They are young, their ranks are growing, and the girls and women among them are not buying yesterday’s orthodoxy about the inextricable link between abortion and women’s liberation. No matter how many times the feminist establishment tells them to sit down and shut up, they show no signs of doing so. Let the debate over the true meaning of feminism begin.” She says that feminists, “seem to want to tell these young women that they’re not capable, that you can’t give your child life and still pursue your dreams. Their message is: ‘Women, you are not strong enough or smart enough to do both. You are not capable.’”
She talks about her son who has Down’s syndrome. She says, “I want to help other women who are in the same situation. Women who may be thinking that these are less-than-ideal circumstances to have a child, and maybe I can just make this go away and we’ll pretend it never happened. I want to tell them that if you give this life a chance, your life truly will change for the better.”
Of her daughter who became pregnant at seventeen, she says, “I’m proud that she chose life.” She says that what she and her daughter went through with their pregnancies changed her own perspective. “I understand much better why a woman might be tempted to take what seems like the easy way out and change the circumstances. I understand what goes through her mind, even if for a brief moment, a split second, because I’ve been there.”
You know, I couldn’t be here—sitting here at my computer, speaking my mind—if it weren’t for the women who came before me and cleared the road. What “women’s liberation” did for me was allow me to have a voice. To be part of the process. No one has ever told me to “sit down and shut up” although I’m sure there are many who have wanted to. I’ve not silenced another woman’s voice. And I never will. You know why? It is in diversity that we find commonality. It has been my experience that when we take the time to listen to each other’s very different stories, our desire is to find a shared one. And I believe that when people with very differing views communicate—really talk and listen to each other—the joy we have in our shared experiences increases exponentially.
The problem I have with Ms. Palin’s assertion that the “feminist establishment” is so dogmatic is that her position is so anti-woman. It’s like writers trashing other writers. It’s like a high school version of the real world. And it’s just not true. NEVER has any woman told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t pursue my dreams. And you know what? Because of that, I’ve NEVER said that to another woman. I wouldn’t. Because it doesn’t matter if I agree with her position or think her dream is ridiculous. There is room enough for both of us. That, for her, what the women’s movement boils down to is abortion rights rips away the accomplishments of all those other women before us who fought (and still fight) for equal pay, affordable child care, or holding a public office.
But what really hurts me is that Ms. Palin wants to take away what she is so proud of: Choice. Choice. Chance. Decision. She and her daughter chose to have children. Why is it not okay for me to choose not to have children? Why does it always come down to abortion? I chose not to have children. That’s totally different from choosing to abort. So maybe my family doesn’t look like hers, but mine is the family I chose.
I know no woman who sees abortion as birth control. I can’t think of a single woman I know who faced an unplanned pregnancy who was willing to “pretend it never happened.” It makes me so incredibly sad that Ms. Palin thinks the decision to abort is an easy one. Because if we’re still talking about family planning in those terms, we’re screwed, guys.
What I can give to other women is the benefit of my experience, and Ms. Palin can as well. Ms. Palin should absolutely share her story if she chooses. We need to hear all sides. More importantly, we need to listen to all sides. And it should be absolutely none of her business what my story is unless I choose to share it with her.
Because it’s not about the fact that someone is pro-life. That’s a ridiculous label, “pro-life”. I’m not “anti-life” because I believe a woman has a right to a safe abortion. It is about the fact that people like Ms. Palin want to take my choice away. Ms. Palin doesn’t think I’m smart enough to choose for myself. So all that stuff about the feminist agenda and the “feminist establishment” is just projection. All that blunder, all that smoke isn’t a call to women for us not to buy The Establishment line. It’s simply one woman saying to another: I know what’s better for you than you do. And that is about the most anti-woman position I can think of.
So Ms. Palin can call herself a part of the new breed of feminists if she wants. I don’t really care. It’s not the label that’s important. It’s what’s in the bottle that matters. And I don’t really see much in that particular bottle other than a bunch of nothing.