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Feminist Sarah Palin and Journalist Glenn Beck

June 15, 2010

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and so it is with the foul stench emanating from Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. After years of proclaiming "I am not a journalist," Beck told USA Today he is in fact a journalist, albeit one without "formal training." And after grappling with whether to be or not be a feminist, half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has concluded it's worth it for her outrageous fortune.
Palin's antic disposition when it comes to labeling herself a feminist dates back to the 2008 presidential campaign. Before being tapped as John McCain's running mate, Palin in March 2008 blasted Hillary Clinton for her "perceived whine about excess criticism from the media." In September 2008, she told Katie Couric, "I'm a feminist who, uh, believes in equal rights and I believe that women certainly today have every opportunity that a man has to succeed, and to try to do it all, anyway." Alas, Palin reversed course within days, telling NBC's Brian Williams that October she rejected the label she proudly donned just a couple of weeks before. Asked, "Governor, are you a feminist?" Palin replied:

"I'm not gonna label myself anything, Brian. And I think that's what annoys a lot of Americans, especially in a political campaign, is to start trying to label different parts of America different, different backgrounds, different...I'm not going to put a label on myself."

Of course, that was then and this is now. Speaking last month to a gathering of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List in Washington, Palin praised their "emerging, conservative, feminist identity." Their strength, she suggested, comes from making a choice they would deny others. And what is the identity of "our sisterhood?"

"The mama grizzlies, they rise up. You thought pit bulls are tough. You don't want to mess with the mama grizzlies. And I think there are a whole lot of those in this room."

To be sure, the "lamestream media" so often decried by Sarah Palin bought it hook, line and sinker. While the Washington Post proclaimed, "Palin pushes abortion foes to form 'conservative, feminist identity'," The Los Angeles Times featured "Sarah Palin, Feminist." That was followed last week by Newsweek's hagiographic cover story, "Saint Sarah."

Palin has been antagonizing women on the left of late by describing herself as a "feminist," a word she uses to mean the righteous, Mama Bear anger that wells up when one of her children is attacked in the press or her values are brought into question...
With her new faith-based message, Palin gathers up the Christian women that traditional feminism has left behind. In her speech to the SBA List last month, Palin derided the old feminism as a relic of "the faculty lounge at some East Coast women's college, right?"--even as she wrapped the label around herself, channeling the pioneer wives who "made sacrifices to carve out a living and a family out of the wilderness." Hers is a "mom of faith" movement, a "mom uprising." It's an emotional appeal, unfettered by loyalty to the broader policy agenda of traditional feminism.

The article, which gushed that "to white evangelical women, Sarah Palin is a modern-day prophet, preaching God, flag, and family," was an extremely flattering one. And as was clear in her discussion with Greta Van Susteren yesterday, Palin would have done well to read it before speaking out against it:

"Haven't seen it, but if the title and what I hear about the content is any indication of where Newsweek is going, it's no wonder that Newsweek is doing so poorly. People are not reading that stuff. It's not relevant. It's not interesting stuff that they're making up and writing. And that's why they're going down."

Meanwhile, the $32 million Fox News host Glenn Beck has long made a cottage industry out of denying he was a journalist. As ThinkProgress documented, Beck has announced literally dozens of times that "I am not a journalist." Beck instead called himself "just a dad", "a guy who cares", "an opinion maker", "a commentator" and, famously, "a rodeo clown." But as USA Today reported Monday, the entertainer has had a change of heart:

Asked to define what he does, he says, "I'm a little of everything." That includes "concerned dad," "faith-based guy," "businessman," "entertainer" and, after a long pause, "journalist."
"I don't have formal training as a journalist, but I think that works to my advantage."

Whatever their latest labels, one thing is certain about the pronouncements of Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. For each, it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
UPDATE: When Newsweek author Lisa Miller said that Sarah Palin calling herse lf a feminist "doesn't jive with the that traditional definition of Feminism," Palin's Fox News colleague Bill O'Reilly countered, "Sarah Palin absolutely has the right to describe herself as anything she wants."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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