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A New Feminist’s Guide to The Movement: The Sarah Palin Welcome Wagon

[Yo! In case you have forgotten, it is STILL TIGER BEATDOWN PLEDGE DRIVING TIME. With FABULOUS PRIZES! But also, annoying reminders. About how you can send us your couch-change, and still be loved and necessary and receive gratitude, and such! During PLEDGE DRIVING TIME, things get a little wacky. For example: Two posts! In one week! By the lovely Garland! Enjoy.]

Howdy Tiger Beatdown enthusiasts!!!

If you haven’t heard, Sarah Palin is a feminist now! Which I’ve decided to view in the best possible light and write her an open letter (because she’s getting ripped to shreds everywhere else), effectively Quantum Leaping us to a timeline where she isn’t just an absolute monster!

GAWWWWWD, I hope the next leap is the leap home.

Sarah Palin,

Sarah Palin, I love to hate you. I haven’t loved to hate anyone this much since George W. Bush. And like Bush, you become more and more of a cartoon character each day. Sarah, if you had won the election I would be living in Canada right now. I would have moved to Canada,  gotten married to an architect and raised Labradoodles, I really would have.

It isn’t just that every time I hear you speak, you seem uneducated. Because you are not a dumb person. You are shrewd. Just like Lady Gaga. Both of you ladies have this ability to crawl your way to the top, elbowing everyone else out of the way with your tenacity… it is breathtaking. Everything you do seems wacky and calculated.

Sarah, we need to talk about feminism. We need to have a conversation about feminism. A long one. Because feminist isn’t a word that anyone takes lightly. Especially now, when it seems a little heroic to call yourself a feminist. Conservatives and douchebags with too many hypotheticals and too much aftershave and personal space issues have dragged that word through the mud. I know a lot of women who won’t call themselves feminists — even though they believe in total and complete equality for women.

Being a feminist is about fighting complacency within yourself and others. It is waking up every morning and knowing that something you do will be shitty and full of privilege. For guys, it is about repeating “If it’s not about you, don’t make it about you” a million times until you understand that it isn’t. That is the process that we all go through to be allies to one another.

This is a journey of personal growth. And frankly, I didn’t think you were interested in personal growth. Women like you have your career, your money, and fuck the rest of the world. You ignore facts, evidence, and logic if they don’t gibe with your delusional, right-wing talking point – you lie and lie and lie (SARAH, remember that time, you like, got found guilty of ethics violations and then came out and JUST PRETENDED YOU HAD WON?) and no one cares. Some people love you – my mother bought your book. She rambles on about you not aborting your baby, and I’m all “Aren’t you pro-choice?” because she was a 911 dispatcher for a million years and knows how important safe, clean access to abortions is to desperate young women and my mother says something about her feelings changing since my brother had his new kid and just walks away. [I’m on to you, mother.]

Sarah, ideas as important as feminism don’t have gatekeepers. There is no licenses given out [Tiny Tape Recorder Notes #478: Suggest selling feminism licenses to make money at next staff meeting… as a joke.] to be a feminist. You just wake up one day and say “Hey! The world is a shitty place. I am making it shittier with my ignorance. I should educate myself. Now I will use what I’ve learned to make things happen.” DONE. You are now a feminist.

Here are a few things YOU could do, right now, to be a better feminist:

1. Stop protecting corporations from justice. Survivors like Jamie Leigh Jones need your support more than KBR does. Women in the armed forces are being sexually assaulted AND NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT. No one is talking about the smug sense of entitlement the military has about silencing survivors of sexual assault. The rape culture is bigger and more tentacled than you can imagine – rape culture is all around us. You could be helping.

2. Women living in the midst of a rape culture are intentionally restricted from family planning options. Abstinence-based sex education takes all of the power from young women, and places it in the hands of young men. Young men are socialized to be aggressive and take what they want, and young women are socialized to be demure and passive and that is how a girl ends up pregnant without knowing that sex leads to pregnancy. These girls deserve a choice. They deserve to choose when they will have a child and they don’t need a FUCKING VAGINAL ULTRASOUND AND A LECTURE, they need someone to hold their hand and comfort them. Abortions should be clean, free, and legal. Forever.

3. Quit making fun of Barack Obama. He is doing a very difficult job, he is doing it with aplomb, and you are not helping. When you ridicule Obama, your followers take that as a thumbs up for some nasty, old school racism. There are some ugly pockets of the country, Sarah, and these people worship you. They sit with their NASCAR Big Gulps in front of their high-definition televisions, and they nearly wee themselves when they see your face! They love everything you love and hate everything you hate! Including any and all minorities.

4. Universal health care, Sarah. We need it. We need it for disabled women who can’t work, we need it for better and more comprehensive sex education, we need it to lower the infant mortality rate. Health care is only expensive because people will pay more to keep their loved ones alive. That is it. End of story. Health care is shitty because of greed.

5. Support full civil rights for gays. Stop calling people “San Francisco liberals”, with that homophobic twinkle in your eye. It is a huge fucking city. A few blocks of it are gay. The world is not ending, your face is not sliding off, chill the fuck out with the homophobia. And please don’t say you have gay friends. In fact, please stop making claims if you aren’t prepared for follow-up questions. (What magazines do you read? ALL OF THEM? Bullshit. You struggle through Highlights, maybe.)

Those are just a few helpful hints. Again, welcome to feminism. Enjoy this journey of emotional and intellectual growth.

Yours always,
Garland Grey

P.S. Do you still talk to Levi? I’m pretty sure he and I are soulmates.

[You can fund Garland’s extensive collection of Levi Johnston memorabilia and/or his awesome and much-valued posts by clicking this here donate button. Click for a life-sized Johnston cardboard cutout! Click for a BETTER WORLD.]


  1. Hmmmm… “dumb” and “uneducated”? Could do without the ableist and classist language.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Permalink
  2. Sady wrote:

    @Switchintoglide: I could do without comments that refuse to engage with the post itself! It might very well be worthwhile to have a conversation about these words, but I’m not a fan of the trend of people only commenting on the small, potentially objectionable shreds of language they caught in a post without taking it upon themselves to engage with the post as a whole. This isn’t some random person writing about “dumb bitches” on the Interwebs; it’s someone who you can assume to be 90% on your side, or at least open to hearing your perspective, who has also put a lot of work into thinking about gender, sexuality, and other forms of privilege. To isolate two words from the post and write specifically and only about them is dismissive. And while I’m okay with dissent, PLENTY okay (as the conversation in the last post should make clear) dismissiveness is something I hope we can avoid. Let’s actually try to have conversations in the comment section, OK? Hopefully related to the post itself?

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  3. Melissa wrote:

    I don;t know if “uneducated” is classist. A basic education is free and available to all American children of every social class, if they and their parents choose to take advantage of it.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  4. I don’t mean to be dismissive, it is just something that hurts when I read it and is -so- easy to fix. Isn’t that what we do in Anti-O spaces? I really don’t see how pointing out words that prevent this from being a safe space is unproductive.

    I really like the post otherwise, that is why I read this site! Even though I am at work and don’t have time to do a point-by-point analysis of why I like the post!

    …but sometimes when words have been used against you, people you love, or the people you are allied with, when these words are used to perpetuate your/their oppression, it is worthwhile to point out their casual usage. Especially when others have written extensively about why these words are harmful:

    I think that most of us would do the same to call out transphobic language (ie. making sure that there is a space in between ‘trans’ and ‘woman’ or ‘man’), since it only takes two seconds, and there is no difference between that and calling out other -ist language.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  5. snobographer wrote:

    @Melissa – actually it is harder for poorer people to get the same kinds of educations that wealthier people have access to. Consider Ivy League grad GWB. If he was born to a working-class family, he might have managed a trade school certificate.

    But anyway, I’m really disturbed by this insistence that Palin can call herself a feminist if she wants to call herself a feminist. I can call myself a green tree sloth if I want to, it doesn’t make it so. If she’s a feminist, then the word feminist means nothing.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink
  6. snobographer wrote:

    But also, I agree with Sady about the language policing. It’s tiresome.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  7. Also, as per your request that I really engage with the material instead of being the language police, I really like this take on the issue:

    However, those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. A lot of mainstream feminist rhetoric promotes some extremely problematic things about women. Transmisogyny, racism, classism, and ableism are all rife in feminist circles. Are there feminists who are resisting this? Absolutely there are, and that is awesome. But feminism itself is not necessarily harm free or even about harm reduction and there is a long history of really problematic stuff in feminism that is being ignored by people who declare that Sarah Palin can’t be feminist because of her attitudes.

    By those grounds, a lot of people who self identify as feminist aren’t feminist. What this illustrates is not that the world is filled with fake feminists, but that feminism is not a hivemind. That feminists come from different backgrounds and have different social and cultural attitudes as well as distinct priorities. People within the feminist movement have quite varied priorities, interests, and politics. I disagree with a lot of the stuff that happens in mainstream feminism, so either I’m not a feminist or those people aren’t feminists and we both know that neither of these things is true, right?

    -from ‘this ain’t livin” (

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink
  8. Sady wrote:

    @Switchintoglide: I didn’t mean to be hurtful, or to imply that your points weren’t worth consideration. However, I think that when you’re walking into someone’s post, there’s some responsibility to engage with it. Garland has been responsive on issues relating to disability in the past. I think that some Internet activism has left us with the impression that all we need to do is to compile a list of words or phrases we don’t like, walk over to the corners of the Internet where they use those phrases (and if they’re within short Internet-walking distance of the sites that taught us about the phrases, so much the better), point out the words and phrases, and walk away, confident that we have Accomplished Some Activism. But learning to use or not use the words doesn’t change the ideas underlying them, and learning to leave blog comments about the words doesn’t demonstrate a willingness or ability to engage with ideas. Which is why I have problems with us (and I include myself in this!) leaving comments about language rather than ideas; it makes us all feel like we’re accomplishing more than we actually are.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink
  9. Melissa wrote:

    Yes, it’s absolutely harder for poorer people to get the *same level* of education as richer people; that was never in question, and I’m puzzled why anyone would think it would be.

    I’m talking about a basic comprehensive education, the kind that if you have it, the word “uneducated” doesn’t apply.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Permalink
  10. Sady wrote:

    @Melissa: There’s some doubt as to whether the same “basic comprehensive education” is available to all people. There are structural issues in the schools that lead to marginalized/poor people getting less than middle-class/privileged people in the classrooms, even if the programs in question are supposed to be the same.

    And now, since we have SEVERAL comments engaging with the first comment, and ONLY TWO comments engaging with the post itself, I have to ask that we move on to talking about the post.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink
  11. Samantha b. wrote:

    I think it’s fair enough to ask for an engagement with the post. On the other hand, I also have to raise an objection to the use of the term “language policing” in the comments of a post that specifically sets out to define a single word, “feminism.” If you’re going to suggest that language doesn’t matter, you’re going to fly in the face of much of the fields of cognitive science, linguistics, and physical anthropology, just for starters. The term “language police” is yanked straight out of right wing rhetoric, and it’s also a sweepingly dismissive that itself obviates meaningful discussion.

    However, on that note I would also say to SwitchingtoGlide, that it’s worth noting that Garland used the words “better feminist” and never claimed that Palin didn’t have a right to see herself as a feminist in any capacity. She absolutely does, and we also absolutely have a right to ask that she (and any self-described feminist) do better by it.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Permalink
  12. Samantha b. wrote:

    Okay, per Sady’s just seen request, scratch the first paragraph of my comment. Visualize a big, big black spot, kids.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Permalink
  13. McK wrote:

    Garland Grey, if Sarah Palin wins, I WILL BE THAT ARCHITECT.

    Fun, slightly irrelevant abortion ultrasound story: when I found out I was pregnant, even though I didn’t want to keep it, I had these vague happy fuzzy ‘i grew a baby in me!’ thoughts. Then I got an ultrasound and they immediately changed to “I have a tinycreepy bulgy-headed alien in me getitout getitout GETITOUT” I do not know if this is the standard reaction.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink
  14. The Best Kelly wrote:

    I believe the term uneducated can be used in a classist way but is not in and of itself a classist word. I would happily call Paris Hilton uneducated. I would consider Sarah Palin uneducated (or GWB for that matter) because she willfully refuses to educate herself on the topics and issues that are pertinent to her position or the position she wants to hold.

    All that aside, Garland I really love this piece. Sometimes my dislike of Sarah Palin is so much of a blinding rage its very useful to have this point by point analysis. After reading your stuff on TBD I’m convinced we’d be the best of friends and read comics together and watch Glee and have sleepovers. Don’t you want to move to NYC?

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink
  15. solara wrote:

    Love the post, but I have to say that I’ve always found Palin far more willfully ignorant than uneducated. She simply chooses to ignore the facts of any situation she pleases, and simply cruises onto her happy little conclusion. It has nothing to do with her education – I’m sure it was quite good – and everything to do with not caring about the actual issues, simply wanting to return the United States to some weird 1950s-esque utopia that never really existed.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Permalink
  16. snobographer wrote:

    You know, I’m from a poor-working-class background (trailer homes and yard sales) and have mental health issues. If I read a feminist argument that includes words like “crazy” or “yokel,” while those words do sting, I’m not particularly compelled to make the whole discussion about those words or to argue that feminism really isn’t much of a movement because some of my fellow feminists aren’t as clued in about my intersecting oppressions as they should be.
    Especially since feminists are a lot of people’s favorite targets, so how they’re fucking up is bound to be a really popular discussion. Seriously, I have never seen an antidefamation or antiracism org get nearly as much shit about sexism or ableism or homophobia in their ranks as I do feminists. Ever.
    Most feminists I run into are pretty open to discussions about intersectionality and these discussions happen quite frequently. Palin wants to take away women’s rights. By definition she’s not a feminist. And somebody who is in favor of women having rights isn’t as anti-feminist as she is just because they neglected to consider the relation between education and economic background.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink
  17. Samantha b. wrote:

    I don’t know, Snobographer. I don’t entirely disagree with what you’re saying, but I also feel like there’s actually a big value to having the word mainstreamed. And as aberrant as Palin is, I don’t think there can ever be a single set of litmus tests. Per the Garland Grey pearls of wisdom, “we don’t have gatekeepers;” any hint that we might gets me all twitchy squirmy.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Permalink
  18. Britte wrote:

    First I just want to say right on to Snobographer. I am so down with what you’re saying right now.

    In regards to the post, it was fantastic in that it terrified me. Many women I have known are afraid to call themselves feminists based on the stigma that so many have placed upon it. And now people are claiming that Palin is proof that feminism has won? I have a biologically male friend who declared to me that he couldn’t stand “radical” feminists (as he called them) because basically they made him feel bad about himself and being a man. They are fighting for something that is already over… Women have won… or so he claimed; just look at Sarah Palin.

    Of course, a woman who panders to and encourages the patriarchy and who wants to take the rights away from other women, makes it to the top. She is tokenism, straight-up, and it is sad that she is the right’s sad excuse for progressivism.

    Generally, this whole issue makes me want to say KSjfahg;iwuehrgaHHHSAHHHHH.
    Because when Sarah Palin is a femenist, she is supposed to be an inspiration to women. When I, a gay teenager with a strange haircut, is a femenist, I am a radical man-hater who clearly is lusting after a big penis if I’m so concerned with rape culture (or so claim the trolls).

    Mmmkay this went on for longer than I planned… Great post again Garland 🙂

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
  19. snobographer wrote:

    Well can we have standards? At least the standard that feminists want women to have rights? The same rights as men? Or at least the same rights and legal protections men would have if men had uteruses or were, outside of prison, as susceptible to sexual violence as women and girls are?

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
  20. Sady wrote:

    @snobographer: I think that’s exactly what Garland is saying. Call yourself a feminist all you like, no-one can stop you from using the word, and good for you for finding it: Now, here are some ways you can actually BE that.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Permalink
  21. McK wrote:

    Garland’s post looked like satire to me at first, but really it’s the kind of thing you *would* say to a new feminist: “hello, glad you are here! But there’s some things you haven’t thought of that maybe you really should look at, educating yourself on feminist issues is a long process, and this might point you in some good directions.”

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Permalink
  22. snobographer wrote:

    @Sady – I agree with Garland. It’s just this argument floating around lately – n ot from Garland – that why can’t Palin call herself a feminist since feminism is imperfect and supposed to be inclusive. Like if Pat Robertson wants to call himself a queer ally he should be able to.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Permalink
  23. snobographer wrote:

    …Because some people within the LGBT movement are sexist or racist or ableist…

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink
  24. Tabby Watauga wrote:

    I really value the description of How To Be a Feminist – this is something I am bad at talking about, and I think “journey of personal growth” model is a good, succinct start.

    But the crack about Higlights was unnecessary.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink
  25. NameChanged wrote:

    Great post Garland.

    The point about Palin being shrewd is spot on. While many of her “greatest hits” are blunders (Katie Couric interview), so much of her “aw shucks, I’m just a silly little hockey mom” persona is constructed precisely to appeal to the patriarchy. It is almost as if she materialized out of a focus group.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Permalink
  26. aprilu wrote:

    I really like this post, but I have to say I do take issue with some of the classism in here – especially characterizing Palin fans as all being big NASCAR fans. I know it’s supposed to be humorous, but the main reason I’m pointing it out is because this is exactly the dismissive kind of rhetoric that Palin uses to fuel her own rhetoric and against those darn elite liberals. like you point out, that’s how she panders to her base — but she has fans in all economic classes (racism and homophobia know no boundaries).

    other than that, yeah, I think it’s ridiculous how Palin somehow contorts logic to say that being anti-choice is “feminist.” to me, feminism and conservatism are irreconcilable because feminism is about changing the status quo. I guess Palin (and her defenders) only use the label when it’s convenient.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Permalink
  27. aprilu wrote:

    also, one more thing, I really like the way this post was framed — not just “no no no you’re not a feminist,” but rather, okay, if you want to wear that label, here’s what generally goes along with it — that feminism isn’t just about identifying as such, but thoughtful engagement and action.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Permalink
  28. Samantha b. wrote:

    @Snobographer, I can’t really claim to be decisive on this, but I’m thinking maybe there’s a distinction between what someone might call themselves and what we, as semi-sentient human beings, might choose to call them? If Pat Robertson calls himself a queer ally, isn’t that one more step towards saying, “hey, these people are worthy of our respect?” And then the rest of us are free to call him on it and say, wait a fucking minute. You need to walk the walk. But, as I said, I’m goddamned wiffly waffley on this. I’m very curious as to how your average Joan/Joe Schmo perceives Palin’s use of the word- does it function as a co-option or as a validation of the word for non-self proclaimed feminists? But I don’t think I’ve seen any polling or useful representation to gauge that, and I’m guessing I won’t anytime soon.

    Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 7:43 am | Permalink
  29. Agnes wrote:

    Tiny tape recorder notes # 478: you may have been joking, but I’m not. Sady, if y’all make a laminated card that I can put in my wallet, I will buy it. I want to finally be a card-carrying feminist!

    Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink
  30. laura k wrote:

    Just jumping into this one to say that this post is an excellent reminder, to me, about what basic feminism means. I just wrote “Being a feminist is about fighting complacency within yourself and others” up on my wall, because it is so easy to get caught up in debates about how good of a feminist so-and-so is and what words are ok and what words aren’t. And it is also easy to get caught up in life and forget what really matters, and to let things slide because it’s easier.

    So thank you, for giving me a timely reminder of why I care about these things.

    Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink
  31. snobographer wrote:

    @Samantha B. “I’m very curious as to how your average Joan/Joe Schmo perceives Palin’s use of the word-

    I’m guessing, as the average Joan/Joe Schmo is as uninformed about feminism as Palin seems to be. A lot of people think an individual woman performing traditionally male activities like moose hunting and politics is what feminism means – ‘Girl Power!’ – rather than a movement and a philosophy to improve the lives of all women, even the weak and invisible ones.

    Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  32. Samantha b. wrote:

    @Snobographer, yeah, that’s completely my guess, too. So that’s why I’m curious as to how it’s received when Palin tosses around the f word. Damn if I know.

    Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Permalink
  33. snobographer wrote:

    That’s what I mean though. She says she’s a feminist and people figure, “Well she can kill and dress a moose, so I guess she is a feminist.”
    But feminist-feminists go “No! She can’t be a feminist because she charges victims for their own rape kits!”
    The feminist-feminists are the ones with the legitimate argument, not the former.

    Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink
  34. Lizzie wrote:

    I read the article about her in Newsweek today and I was ENRAGED. Especially because the way the author posed the situation made it seem like Palin is inventing a “new, more inclusive kind of Feminism,” as opposed to the old, anti-religious Feminism. I just kept muttering under my breath “not feminist. not feminist. not feminst.” Gah.

    Saturday, June 19, 2010 at 1:40 am | Permalink
  35. GarlandGrey wrote:

    @Switchintoglide I apologize for my language. I know this is several days after the fact, but I try to remove myself from any discussion about my own problematic behavior, lest I begin -splaining/defending myself. I know the power that language has to make people feel unwelcome, the way it can sour a safe space very quickly. I am sorry.

    Sunday, June 20, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Permalink
  36. @GarlandGrey

    Thanks so much for responding, it means a lot–and it is super easy to slip up with stuff like that (God knows I do it often enough).

    I really enjoy reading your stuff, so thanks for writing!

    Monday, June 21, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink

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    […] patriarchy, what would Frued say?, Wimins ishoos To quote at you.  From Garland Grey’s post on Tiger beatdown.. Being a feminist is about fighting complacency within yourself and others. It is […]

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