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Jun. 23 2010 - 12:33 pm | 355 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

Gloria Steinem, Kathleen Parker weigh in on feminism and abortion

The role of feminism in the current election season has been a go-to topic for pundits as of late (this girl included), with everyone from Jessica Valenti to Ross Douthat putting in their two cents on the crop of Republican women vying for elected office.

Now the world’s most famous feminist, Gloria Steinem, is having her say. She spoke to Katie Couric about Sarah Palin’s grab at the feminist mantle, saying that while “we’re free to call ourselves whatever we wish,” but that Palin’s use of the word has more to do with vying for votes than with any sort of commitment to feminist principles. “Yes, you can be a feminist who doesn’t agree with abortion … but you can’t be a feminist who says that other women can’t.”

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker – who will host a new show with former N.Y. Governor/noted adulterer Eliot Spitzer – sees it differently:

That other women, such as Palin, want to reframe the abortion debate in new feminist terms, arguing that abortion hurts women and is, therefore, anti-woman, doesn’t bother me a bit. And it shouldn’t bother older-school feminists.

Still, Parker – like Douthat before her, confuses feminists’ anger over Palin and her doppelgangers. Feminists aren’t angry because there are Republican women out there – they’re angry because they’re using feminism to court votes, while espousing views that fly in the face of feminism. Writes Parker: “One can find other reasons to think Palin shouldn’t be president, but being a pro-life woman shouldn’t be one of them.” To this, I’ll simply let Steinem do the talking: “One in three women will need an abortion sometime during her life. To make that criminal and dangerous is not a feminist act.”

Both women can’t resist condescending to the sisters who don’t agree with them. Of Republicans like Carly Fiorina, Steinem says she “defend[s] their right to be wrong.” And Parker reacts snottily to the many feminists bloggers who have written more eloquently and been out in front on this issue from the get-go: “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?”

Guess cattiness runs deep on both sides of the aisle.


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  1. collapse expand

    I’ve felt for several years now that if abortion was put to a nationwide referendum with only women allowed to vote, the results would be a coin toss. Ironically, the political ideology of the women most often opposed to abortion is supposed to uphold the principle of limited governmental involvement, which would greatly increase the availability of abortion when needed. Ultimately, due to the fractured nature of female opinions on abortion, the rules are made by men who are less affected by abortion, which is both unfortunate and ineffective.

  2. collapse expand

    Steinem & Couric: What a ghoulish horror show. So, it’s all about abortion, eh? If Sarah Palin is anti-feminist, then these two are about as anti-feminine as it gets.

  3. collapse expand

    Silly me. Here I had been led to believe that feminism is the right for women to vote, assert their beliefs, seek justice, or to expect an equal role in a family.

    I guess these ladies have proved to me that there should be a litmus test issue before one can appropriate the title. Sigh.

  4. collapse expand

    As someone who’s probably closer in age to Ms. Steinem than you, I’m really tired of the feminist debate being framed around abortion rights. To me, abortion should always be the option of last resort or only used if there is severe genetic abnormalities or the pregnancy a risk to the mother’s life. What happened to Planned Parenthood and their former clout with NOW? Every young woman should have access to free birth control and know how to use it. Women should not be using it as birth control We have the highest abortion rate of all Western industrialized nations because we are the most schizophrenic in our messages to the young about safe, protected sexual behavior.

    Enough is enough. Let’s frame the feminist discussion differently than we have for the last 40 or so years. To equate feminism with abortion is a dishonest, one-note argument for something that is far more complex.

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