The recent firestorm surrounding “Palin Feminism” has got me thinking about what, exactly, it means to be a feminist. What do you have to believe in to earn the feminist title?
Obviously, a commitment to reproductive justice is key. You can’t call yourself a feminist and deny women the right to make their own healthcare decisions. If you are anti-choice, you simply can NOT be a feminist. You also have to support comprehensive sex-ed so that women can make their own choices about whether to have sex or to abstain. A support of abstinence only sex-ed is not feminist, it denies women the right to decide their sexual future in a safe and healthy way. Without educating women on safe sex practices and allowing them access to birth control, “Palin feminists” are harming women, and therefore are decidedly anti-feminist.
Although a commitment to reproductive justice is a necessary condition to being a feminist, it is not sufficient. You have to show support for women in ALL areas of their lives, not just reproductive health. Palin feminists do not support equal workplace rights, protections for battered women, or healthcare for all. Poverty rates are much higher for women than they are for men, which requires feminists to fight for the rights of ALL Americans, not just those in the top tax bracket.
A commitment to healthcare for all, better school systems, better childcare, marriage equality, AND reproductive justice, among many other issues, are critical to being able to call yourself a feminist. Without a commitment to empowering ALL women to make their own decisions, whether they are gay, straight, poor, rich, educated, or uneducated, you can not be a feminist.