by Cathy Young, Wall Street Journal (Link is in the title.)
Left-wing feminists have a hard time dealing with strong, successful conservative women in politics such as Margaret Thatcher. Sarah Palin seems to have truly unhinged more than a few, eliciting a stream of vicious, often misogynist invective.
On Salon.com last week, Cintra Wilson branded her a "Christian Stepford Wife" and a "Republican blow-up doll." Wendy Doniger, religion professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, added on the Washington Post blog, "Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman."
You'd think that, whether or not they agree with her politics, feminists would at least applaud Mrs. Palin as a living example of one of their core principles: a woman's right to have a career and a family. Yet some feminists unabashedly suggest that her decision to seek the vice presidency makes her a bad and selfish mother. Others argue that she is bad for working mothers because she's just too good at having it all.
In the Boston Globe on Friday, columnist Ellen Goodman frets that Mrs. Palin is a "supermom" whose supporters "think a woman can have it all as long as she can do it all . . . by herself." In fact, Sarah Palin is doing it with the help of her husband Todd, who is currently on leave from his job as an oil worker. But Ms. Goodman's problem is that "she doesn't need anything from anyone outside the family. She isn't lobbying for, say, maternity leave, equal pay, or universal pre-K."
This also galls Katherine Marsh, writing in the latest issue of The New Republic. Mrs. Palin admits to having "an incredible support system -- a husband with flexible jobs rather than a competing career . . . and a host of nearby grandparents, aunts, and uncles." Yet, Ms. Marsh charges, she does not endorse government policies to help less-advantaged working mothers -- for instance, by promoting day-care centers.
Mrs. Palin's marriage actually makes her a terrific role model. One of the best choices a woman can make if she wants a career and a family is to pick a partner who will be able to take on equal or primary responsibility for child-rearing. Our culture still harbors a lingering perception that such men are less than manly -- and who better to smash that stereotype than "First Dude" Todd Palin?
Nevertheless, when Sarah Palin offered a tribute to her husband in her Republican National Convention speech, New York Times columnist Judith Warner read this as a message that she is "subordinate to a great man." Perhaps the message was a brilliant reversal of the old saw that behind every man is a great woman: Here, the great woman is out in front and the great man provides the support. Isn't that real feminism?
Not to Ms. Marsh, who insists that feminism must demand support for women from the government. In this worldview, advocating more federal subsidies for institutional day care is pro-woman; advocating tax breaks or regulatory reform that would help home-based care providers -- preferred by most working parents -- is not. Trying to legislate away the gender gap in earnings (which no self-respecting economist today blames primarily on discrimination) is feminist. Expanding opportunities for part-time and flexible jobs is "the Republican Party line."
I disagree with Sarah Palin on a number of issues, including abortion rights. But when the feminist establishment treats not only pro-life feminism but small-government, individualist feminism as heresy, it writes off multitudes of women.
Of course, being a feminist role model is not part of the vice president's job description, and there are legitimate questions about Mrs. Palin's qualifications. And yet, like millions of American women -- and men -- I find her can-do feminism infinitely more liberated than the what-can-the-government-do-for-me brand espoused by the sisterhood.
Ms. Young, a contributing editor at Reason magazine, is author of "Ceasefire!: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces To Achieve True Equality" (Free Press, 1999).