Steinem’s Attack Dogs

Feminist icon's LAT op-ed takes on Palin (and everyone else)

Gloria Steinem takes the ax to Sarah Palin’s woman-in-the-spotlight moment in a Los Angeles Times opinion column today. Countering whatever pundits have been tempted to say about a symbolic torch-passing from Hillary Clinton to the GOP’s fresh female—and bespectacled—face, Steinem makes clear that she is no fan of the Palin pick. But she diffuses her own argument by deciding to unleash multiple attack dogs:

A pit bull (wearing lipstick?) at Palin, for not being the Right Woman:

Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton… I don’t doubt her sincerity. As a lifetime member of the National Rifle Assn., she doesn’t just support killing animals from helicopters, she does it herself.

A Rottweiler at McCain, for the politics of his veep decision:

The culprit is John McCain. He may have chosen Palin out of change-envy, or a belief that women can’t tell the difference between form and content, but the main motive was to please right-wing ideologues.

And one very large, slobbering Doberman at the GOP, for, well, existing at a 180 degree angle from her own feminist vantage point: housing the “anti-feminist right wing - the folks with a headlock on the Republican Party” and endorsing a platform that, she fumes, “opposes pretty much everything Clinton’s candidacy stood for.”

Now, it’s true that the reasons behind the McCain camp’s decision to choose Sarah Palin are probably not the ones most feminists would prefer (i.e. Steinem’s form over content gripe).

But by conflating her tsk-tsking over the McCain-Palin decision with a general tirade against the GOP’s stances, Steinem weakens her main point: that a loss in November (in spite of the addition of Palin to the ticket) “could cause the centrist majority of Republicans to take back their party.” Taking issue as she does with veep-choice motive, Palin’s social conservatism, and the party’s platform, she manages to shake the ground upon which she and her followers walk. But an experienced advocate like Steinem ought to use her op-eds to reach further than the feminist home base.

The column’s title, ironically, hints at the scribe-message-audience closed circuit: “Wrong Woman, Wrong Message.” But as the saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a column done right.

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Jane Kim is a writer in New York.