Reason Writers Around Town: Katherine Mangu-Ward in Slate on Who Gets to Be a Feminist


just say no?

Over at Slate, Senior Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward mixes it up with a bunch of other ladies on the question of who gets to be a feminist.

When people use the word "feminism" in casual conversation, they mean something like this: Ladies are pretty OK, you know? They're more or less as smart and competent as men. They deserve to own property and make contracts and vote and stuff. And they're sometimes good for things other than having babies.

If you were born into the American middle class after, say, 1950, you are almost certainly this kind of feminist. The term is so widely used as to seem nearly meaningless in certain social settings. It retains a specific function only because this view doesn't happen to be typical of attitudes about women held by most people for most of human history.

But when Sarah Palin calls herself a feminist and a variety pack of pundits and activists from around the nation freak out, they're not talking about this definition.

Read the whole thing—plus an bonus entry from Reason Contributing Editor Kerry Howley!—here.

NEXT: Austan Powers

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  1. Who Gets to Be a Feminist.

    Only those who agree with me.

  2. Wow!

    Sarah Palin and media omphaloskepsis, what’s not to like!?

  3. To call oneself a feminist in this context requires a certain set of opinions on abortion, social justice, sexual-harassment laws, equal pay, contraception, and a whole host of other contentious issues.

    That is, the right opinions, of course . . .

  4. Christina Hoff Sommers:

    The feminists now in power in our universities and in Washington see the world differently ? as a zero-sum struggle between men and women, in which their job is to fight for women.

    Marxistoid ideologues see the world as a zero-sum game ALWAYS, despite reality and the laws of economics.

    1. Only when men are replaced by a synthesis, a hermaphroditic being, will feminism truly be realized.

      1. And then everyone can just fuck themselves?

        1. It always comes down to sex with you, doesn’t it?

        2. I’m glad I had my phone on mute during a tele conference when I read that!

          1. Oh, so you read H&R at work as well??? I thought I was the only one *wink* *nod*

  5. Sarah Palin doesn’t get to be a feminist because otherwise the Obama/Biden ticket was the vote for the 3/4 white, male oppressors.

    1. Keep the Patriarchy in charge.

      Where’s my samwich?

      1. Make it your damn self! I’m going moose huntin’ Ya betcha!

  6. I strongly suspect SugarFree provided “feminist” links are forthcoming.

    I’ve got the popcorn and beer, let the show begin!

  7. Why do I get the feeling the Slate article’s comments section features a full-on chimp-out by it’s pretentious liberal arts Gen-Y commentariat?

    1. I was going to say the comment section had to be full of flaming retards. But you put it so much more elegantly.

      1. So far they aren’t too bad. I might have to revise that position.

    2. They’re shockingly sane, oddly enough.

  8. You’re only a feminist if you spend way too much time talking about uteruses.

    1. I saw that one. It was too depressing to make fun of.

      1. I bleed each month, my body’s reminder that I am a woman, that some day I will bear children. This month, like every month for the past sixteen years of my menstruation, I allow blood to flow through my vagina; I allow another child-to-be to pass through me, but today, I bleed after learning my mother’s uterus has failed her.

        I’m not making fun, I’m just quoting Danielle T. here.

        1. What, no accompanying music to that?

  9. Too true, Warty. Its funny that Feminists regard the uterus as the most important part of a woman. Just like the most primitive cave-dwelling chauvinist.

    1. I lived with my twin sister in my mother’s womb for eighth months. My older sister lived there too, and my twin brothers who never made it past a month on earth lived there too. And, now, my mother’s uterus, the place where my sisters and I became people, will be ripped out of her body. Her womb has been weakened by the many years of oppression, pain, and stress my mother hid within her and from us so that she could be a pillar for her family of all women, my two sisters and me.

      1) Let’s introduce her to Dan T.
      2) The phrase, “I lived…in my mother’s womb for eighth months” is bizarre to hear from someone who’s presumably adamantly anti-life (to steal Penn Jillette’s word).

      1. She should donate her uterus to the White House so that the people who whinge about the correct body parts in the halls of power will always have the correct body part in the Oval Office.

      2. I prefer “pro-death”.

      3. Her womb has been weakened by the many years of oppression

        How, exactly, does one go about oppressing a womb? Cause it sounds like it could be fun.

        1. Perhaps by having to put up with that daughter’s melodramatics for decades?




        1. What?!! What’d I say?!!

          1. It’s not very nice to ruin Urkobolds fantasy world.

  11. Why should I give some bullshit publication like Slate extra page views? It’s owned by the Washington Post company, which has been known to fire writers for not keeping the page hits up. If we all ignore Slate, it’ll go under and we won’t have to deal with its particular brand of bullshit anymore. I mean, of course I block ads, but it’s not like the marketroids at the Post know that, they’ll just see my hit and assume I would love to read more liberal statist crap.

  12. I think most people associate feminism with a certain amount of elitism, and I think it’s the elitism that people are reacting to.

    I think the people who smirk when they hear the word “feminist” are reacting to the elitism, and I think the elitists who are reacting to Sarah Palin calling herself a feminist are reacting to the elitism too.

    How dare someone who is so obviously not an elitist compare herself to elitists like us! Doesn’t she realize how elite we are? Why, it’s her own ignorance of how elite we are that proves she’s not a feminist…

    She can’t be a feminist–she isn’t an elitist!

    1. I agree with your position on the relationship between feminism and elitism.

      However, I do think feminists react to Sarah Palin because of Palin’s political positions. Palin opposes same-sex marriage. Palin opposes abortion after a rape. Palin prefers abstinence before marriage programs to explicit sex education programs. Such positions will be abhorred by many feminists.

      1. I was unaware that Palin opposed abortion after rape–do you have a reference for that?

        Opposing abortion for any reason isn’t exactly an elitist stance though, is it? Preferring abstinence to explicit anything directed at children sounds pretty salt of the earth to me.

        Opposesing same-sex marriage? …looks like another elitist litmus test to me. Is it possible to be an elitist and oppose same-sex marriage?

        I don’t think so.

        I’m probably not much of an elitist myself, and even I tend to think of people who oppose same-sex marriage as drooling NASCAR fans and truck drivers.

        1. “Is it possible to be an elitist and oppose same-sex marriage?”

          Why yes. Yes it is.

          1. Oh Barry…

            You so cra–zy.

        2. No.

          But what is absofuckinglutely elitist about this particular brand of feminist, is that they cast stones from their academic lairs where they do nothing but theorize about what it is to be a woman (and recount/make up ways in which they have been/are being oppressed), while Palin, as much as I generally despise her political stances, is actually doing shit and making real differences in millions of peoples’ lives. She was a mayor, a governor and now a major celebrity and de facto fairy god mother for one of the most influential political movements in our lifetime while her husband stays at home with the kids. She is making shit happen.

          She is the living incarnation of what feminists condone for all women, except she doesn’t believe the Right Stuff?.

          That is what is elitist.

        3. As a drooling NASCAR fan, I don’t give a shit who is sleeping with who. And the Government shouldn’t be in the the marriage business.

          Elitist= people that think all NASCAR fans drool.

          1. What about hockey fans?

            Just ’cause I’m a hockey fan doesn’t mean I like to get drunk and pick fights.


          2. Dude, it’s just so left turn only.

            I’ve paid to watch Moto GP online. Moto GP? Those guys are athletes!

            Left turn only? Not so much.

        4. The Palin position on abortion isn’t difficult to find, it is all over the place, even videos on youtube. She has, though, a somewhat unusual position where she both opposes abortion and thinks women should not end up in prison because of an abortion.

          I do think that opposing abortion for any reason is elitist. It is a different kind of elitist, though.
          Not the “I have a masters degree, and I am smarter than you” type of elitism, but “I am the moral elite, and thus I get to define what you are allowed to do”.

          The same-sex marriage topic isn’t elitist. The percentage of feminists among lesbians is higher than the percentage of feminists among the general population.

          1. I guess I’m judging myself here, but I think my support for gay marriage is an elitist thing.

            I don’t have any reason to support it personally–I’m not gay. I’ve had friends and coworkers who were–and I think anybody who really cares enough about stopping gay marriage, enough that it would change who they vote for?

            I think those people are pretty much knuckle dragging neanderthals who listen to Garth Brooks and Latino immigrants, mostly.

            That’s what I’m tryin’ to say. I’m an entrepreneur who’s really based out of South Bay, Los Angeles and North County San Diego. I was a hellraiser in my youth. I ride dirt bikes, like hockey and, more than anything else, hot chicks.

            …and even I think of people opposed to gay marriage as stupid rednecks–who enjoy being called out as stupid rednecks.

            I’m not talking about attitudes among elitist lesbian feminists; I’m talking about attitudes among every day people–like me. If the extremes are people who are elitist and love being identified as such–and people who are despised by elitists and love being despised by elitists, then I think gay marriage is probably the defining elitist wedge issue.

            It separates the elitists from the “proud neanderthals”, for want of a better term.

            1. Personally, I support gay marriage as the simplest approach to give those people various rights they deserve, such as being able to visit their partner in intensive care, or next-of-kin status for emergency decisions.

              With respect to the group of people who oppose gay marriage,
              I see (at least) two types of people in that corner.

              One such group of people are those you call proud neanderthals. Those are not elitist. They are sheep.

              The other group of people are those who try to herd the sheep into a certain direction. The medieval catholic church in Europe, where the Bible was in Latin, the Bible was the foundation of law, and peasants were not taught Latin. The ayatollahs and imams in modern day Islamic countries. The “family values anti-gay” senator who cheats on his wife with another man. Those are elitist. I put Palin into this group.

  13. Would the last feminist in the room turn off the lights, or is that request sexist?

    1. Oh great, another feminist light bulb joke.

      1. That’s not funny!

  14. When feminism became just a flavor of leftism, it ceased to be about equality of opportunity and became about the equality of outcomes. Equality of outcome can only be accomplished by tyranny.

    In an effort to broaden the base, the feminist cant is that all it requires to be considered a feminist (or, more accurately, for them to claim you as an ally) is for you to believe in the equality of women in matters legal and political. But this is suspect. For all my faults and prejudices, I actually do believe in the equality of women in matter legal and political…

    Would I survive Slate’s Feminist Purity Test?

    1. Lift your dress and we’ll tell you.

    2. Feminist: Someone who believes in individual choice and liberty for herself on the issue of abortion, but is all for collectivism, regulation, government control and redistribution for everyone else.

      1. Feminist: Someone who believes in individual choice and liberty for herself on the issue of abortion but not reproductive choice writ large, and is all for collectivism, regulation, government control and redistribution for everyone else.


  15. Okay…

    Eldritch 10/06/10
    The Tea Party people scare the hell out of me. I actually had a nightmare a few weeks ago about them. I was put into a camp with Roman Catholics (I’m lapsed, agnostic, but still…) and I was taunted and tortured for having a degree. *shudders*

    Malle.Babbe 10/07/10
    It isn’t just you. I am waiting for a Tea Bagger mob to at least try to firebomb a public library before the decade is out. I am waiting for reading above the 8th grade level to be considered “Un-American”.


    What was that about “The Paranoid Style In America Politics”?

    1. Firebomb a library. Right up there near the top of the Tea Party agenda, I’m sure. In fact, the movement was founded because of a hatred of books and knowledge.

      I wonder if they think libertarians want to firebomb libraries, too? Or, just maybe, they’re projecting their own desires?

      1. wait, I thought tea parties love reading old-timey books by forgotten authors like Hayek and Paine?

        1. Obviously, those books are not up to 8th grade standards. ‘Cause they mention icky numbers and stuff.

          1. Or are racist.

        2. I did too!

        3. wait, I thought tea parties love reading old-timey books by forgotten authors like Hayek and Paine?

          Yeah, and the total wrench in FDR’s plans, The United States Constiution.

    2. Someone needs to write some good O’Donnell/Palin slash fic.

        1. “As Sarah swung off of Christine’s face, a protracted queef quickly filled the air with the scent of old scallops and regret.”

        2. Actually, I was looking for an excuse to have that posted again.

        3. that was great.

    3. Somebody should tell eldritch that dreams say more about the dreamer than outside political movements.

      My interpretation of that dream is that eldritch is gay and wants to have sex with his/her mother.

    4. I knew I could count on NutraSweet.

    5. It’s not paranoia, but a result of outright scare tactics by the left. They preach over and over and over, (despite the facts showing the those in the Tea Party are likely to have a higher income and be higher educated than the average person), that those in the Tea Party are nothing but uneducated racist rednecks marching the streets with their AR15s awaiting their marching orders from O’Limbeclin.

    6. Damn those Bastiat-reading anti-intellecutal authoritarian anarchists!

  16. “If the feminists won’t have de Cleyre, the anarchists surely will.”

    We already do!

  17. I just read the parts by the women who had attractive photos. is that wrong?

    1. Yes it is wrong. Why would you care what they have to say. You could have spent that wasted reading time photoshopping their heads onto some porn stars body.

    2. That you thought any of those photos were “attractive”? Yes. “Cute”, I wouldn’t say anything, but the line has to be drawn somewhere.

  18. Hey woman, stop talkin’ that nonsense and get me a beer.

    1. Exactly, this reminds me of an article I saw the other day about how to tell if a woman is satisfied. It’s like, who the hell cares?

    2. Hey woman, stop talkin’ that nonsense shut yer dicksmacker and get me a beer.


    3. Hey woman, stop talkin’ that nonsense shut yer dicksmacker and get me a beer.


      1. If you had to tell her twice, she’s obviously not paying attention.

  19. This is a great post but I find it funny that so many in the comments section are calling out feminists for ideological purity tests while conducting them for libertarians.

    Believe global warming is occurring but deeply torn about how to address it? STATIST!

    Support National Parks? STATIST!

    Willing to compromise on the abortion issue to elect a more libertarian politican or two? STATIST!

    1. Your whininess leads me to believe you have a scrotal sac. Please STFU.

      1. BALLS? STATIST!

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