Carey Roberts
The grizzly truth: identity politics and conservativism don't mix
By Carey Roberts
March 3, 2011

Sarah Palin has emerged as the nation's foremost advocate of conservative ideals. By design, she has also become the most prominent purveyor of feminist identity politics.

In numerous speeches, Mrs. Palin has proclaimed herself a feminist. In America by Heart the former vice-presidential candidate announces: "It surprises some people to hear that I consider myself a feminist."

Exactly what does this mean?

"Feminism is all about power for the female left," explain Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly in their hot-off-the-press sizzler, The Flipside of Feminism. "Feminism, like communism, depends on hypothesizing an oppressed class."

Palin might gainsay that description. She would likely point to this statement in Going Rogue, where she describes herself as a "believer in individual rights and responsibilities rather than heavy-handed government; in free-market principles that included reward for hard work; [and] respect for equality." (page 45).

And what does "respect for equality" mean?

Well, it turns out Sarah Palin is an avowed supporter of Title IX. In her words, "I also consider myself a grateful beneficiary of the movement for female equality, particularly Title IX."

But as we know, Title IX is the very epitome of a "heavy-handed" government program that certainly does not reward men for their "hard work." Instead, it imposes a rigid feminist quota on college athletic participation that has spelled the demise of thousands of men's sports teams.

Equal outcomes, not equal opportunities — that's the socialist ideal, and this policy is writ large at the U.S. Department of Education. Sarah Palin is perfectly fine with that.

Marxist class analysis also gave rise to a patchwork movement that many call identity politics. The term "identity politics" was first coined in the 1970s during the civil rights movement. Before long the women's libbers latched on to the concept, as Zillah R. Eisenstein documents in his book, Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism.

In The Disuniting of America, historian Arthur Schlesinger probes the rise of identity politics and its effect on American life. Noting that democratic societies require a unifying cultural, social, and legal fabric in order to function, he concludes the trend threatens the cohesiveness of civil society.

The phenomenon of the Mama Grizzlies, of course, is a prime example of identity politics. In her recent America by Heart, Sarah Palin devotes an entire chapter to the topic. Exactly who are the Mama Grizzlies?

They are the "new generation of American women leaders, many of whom I've met on the campaign trail and in the towns and cities of America," Palin adumbrates. These women are "strong," "tough," "formidable," "serious," and "confident," in Palin's own words. What's more, these women "ran cattle" and even "ploughed the fields."

If this is beginning to sound like a women's liberation consciousness-raising exercise, that's exactly what it is.

And like any card-carrying feminist, an occasional You-go-girl! shout-out to her female comrades will not suffice. While we're at it, why don't we indulge in a cavalcade of gratuitous gender-baiting and male-bashing, as well? This appears on page 132 of America by Heart:

"Women have a unique perspective. Typically, they are less ambitious for superficial power than men [It's a relief to know that dust-up about Nancy Pelosi's demand for a military plane was all a misunderstanding], and more focused on providing for the needs of others [Men who work a 60-hour week to put bread on the table are doing this for some weird ego boost]. I think we appreciate, more than some men, the fullness of American life, everything from raising decent kids to protecting our national security [A proven fact!]."

Palin continues...

"And we're not afraid to work hard and get our hands dirty [A high-five to all the female oil-rig, construction, and mine workers out there]. We're busy enough to know that time must be spent efficiently [No more inefficient trips to the beauty salon!]; in fact we're too busy to waste time with typical political games and power struggles [Busy governors have no time for political gamesmanship, I'm happy to announce]."

But sensible-talking Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schalfly offer a different prescription: "We must stop talking about women's rights, women's needs, women's problems, and progress for women....When we frame the debate in feminist lingo, we foster a war between the sexes. It's time to end the war between the sexes. Men are not the enemy."

I certainly endorse Sarah Palin's vision of individual self-reliance, strong families, and limited government. I admire her resolute defense of conservative values.

But this paroxysm of identity politics that seeks to empower women at the expense of men is an anathema to respectful gender relationships, strong families, and traditional values.

© Carey Roberts


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

Click to enlarge

Carey Roberts

Carey Roberts is an analyst and commentator on political correctness. His best-known work was an exposé on Marxism and radical feminism... (more)

More by this author