A feminism that spans from Palin to Pelosi

By Kathleen Parker
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Proving one's feminist bona fides has become the latest challenge for women aspiring to public office.

Is she a "real" feminist who walks in lock step with traditional feminist orthodoxy? Or is she a faux feminist, i.e. a woman who has benefited from traditional feminism, become all that she could be, but, alas, thinks independently on certain sacred tenets of the sisterhood?

The latest debate emerged recently when pundits on both sides of the widening chasm weighed in on the number of pro-life (and pro-life-ish) Republican women running for public office. The back-and-forth seems to have begun when feminist Jessica Valenti criticized Sarah Palin in The Post for declaring herself a feminist.

The implication: A pro-life woman can't really be a feminist.

Soon thereafter, Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review senior editor and author of "The Party of Death," declared in the New York Times that 2010 is the year of the pro-life woman, listing all those on today's ballot who happen to be pro-life.

Among them: Nevada's Sharron Angle, who will oppose Harry Reid for the U.S. Senate; South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley; former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina, who won the Republican nomination in California for the U.S. Senate seat held by Barbara Boxer; Susana Martinez, who became her party's nominee for governor of New Mexico.

Seeing so many accomplished women reach the top of the political heap, not to mention their professions in some cases, should be cause for feminist celebration -- except for that one thing. Thus, left-leaning feminists in the blogosphere have responded breathlessly, which I mention only to suggest passion rather than to imply debutante tendencies, though who can be sure?

This all would be tedious if it weren't so entertaining. In fact, this is the crux of the crux in the arena of so-called women's issues. Can one be a pro-life feminist, or is the question an oxymoron?

As a matter of orthodoxy, yes, but as a matter of reality, not really.

We've come a long way, baby, and there's more than one type of woman roaming the vales and plains. But then, it was always so. There just weren't many varieties of women in the public sphere, as Ponnuru points out.

Earlier feminists were almost universally pro-choice and have dominated political debate until now. Having access to abortion was viewed as the only way women could have full equality with men, who, until recently, couldn't get pregnant.

Okay, they still can't, but we've now witnessed a bearded transgender man having babies -- and fake wombs are inevitable -- so anything's possible, apparently. Good luck with all that.


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