Sarah Palin feminism watch #3: the RNC and the “girls in between”

Here’s a third datapoint in the Sarah Palin Introduces Her Children sexism series. The first two are in this post: “Republican sexism watch: Sarah Palin gives us no evidence that she values girls” (cross-posted to Shakesville).

The only change is that she now gives her daughters two adjectives. She introduces them as a group, not as individuals. They are the “girls in between“. Seriously. She drops the “another daughter”, and replaces it with “girls in between”.

The introduction of Bristol, Willow and Piper is at 2:05, in case you blink and miss it. It runs for eight seconds, then there are 18 seconds of applause: a big improvement on the stony, “who cares?” audience silence with her first speech.

She talks about her sons and nephew (and the politics and cheering arising) for 128 seconds. So we’re down to 83% on the boys, now. Is the marginal improvement a sign that someone has given her a heads-up? Who knows.

[Direct link:]

[Transcript below. Clipped from the complete speech here. ]

Here’s what I see: a woman who wastes no time using the introduction of her children to talk about her politics. I’m not going to debate in this post the pluses and minuses of that; let’s just take it as a given, for the purposes of this argument.

* Palin has a son and nephew in the armed services. She talks about how proud she is of him and others in uniform, she talks about the war in Iraq, she leaps on the chance to say September 11, the crowd cheers and chants “U!S!A!” when they hear that Track is going to war.

* Palin has a son with a disability. She talks about the joys and challenges, and about her pledge to be an advocate for parents with children with disabilities. [Note that she doesn’t talk about being an advocate for people with disabilities themselves; only for their carers – I think this is a telling point right here, and perhaps something to expand on later. Also note that her actual record on disability policy is poor.]

* Palin claims the word “feminist”, as a member of “Feminists for Life”. Yet she glosses over her daughters, lumping them together, rapidly getting their introduction out of the way so she can move on to talking at length about the next son. What feminist in this position and in this context – and by that I mean having already used her family as a political springboard – would not talk about making the world a better place for her daughters? About being sure they can freely access every opportunity in life, about equal pay, about bodily autonomy and support for their reproductive choices, about being free from gendered violence and exploitation and objectification and harassment and coercion?

What does her “feminism” consist of, if not this?

Transcript (bare bones from

“Our nominee for president is a true profile in courage, and people like that are hard to come by.

He’s a man who wore the uniform of this country for 22 years, and refused to break faith with those troops in Iraq who have now brought victory within sight.

And as the mother of one of those troops, that is exactly the kind of man I want as commander in chief. I’m just one of many moms who’ll say an extra prayer each night for our sons and daughters going into harm’s way.

Our son Track is 19.

And one week from tomorrow – September 11th – he’ll deploy to Iraq with the Army infantry in the service of his country.

My nephew Kasey also enlisted, and serves on a carrier in the Persian Gulf.

My family is proud of both of them and of all the fine men and women serving the country in uniform.

Track is the eldest of our five children.

In our family, it’s two boys and three girls in between – my strong and kind-hearted daughters Bristol, Willow, and Piper.

And we were so blessed in April, my husband Todd and I welcomed our littlest one into the world, a perfectly beautiful baby boy named Trig.

You know, from the inside, no family ever seems typical. That’s how it is with us. Our family has the same ups and downs as any other … the same challenges and the same joys. Sometimes even the greatest joys bring challenge.

And children with special needs inspire a very, very special love.

To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters.

I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.”


[A note to commenters: Note: Before commenting, please read tigtog’s post “Families, politicians and stupid rumours“. What this post of mine is NOT about: 1. Palin’s reproductive choices, private life, or sexual behaviour; 2. The reproductive choices, private life, or sexual behaviour of anyone in her family. Comments should adhere to the same. Please also read our general Comments Policy before commenting.]

Categories: gender & feminism

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13 replies

  1. Her record on disability may be poor, but her baby with Down’s syndrome is only a few months old, yes?
    I would think that experiencing it yourself might change your perspective.

  2. Down syndrome.
    If we have to rely on politicians to all raise a child with disabilities themselves (or have disabilities themselves) before they’re willing to see people with disabilities as fully human, we’re doomed already. I don’t think that should be a prerequisite, nor should their able-bodied privilege be an excuse.

  3. On Down or Down’s syndrome, my impression is that Down is used in north America and Down’s is Anglo-Australian terminology. Everyone I know with Down’s syndrome here (including a cousin) uses “Down’s”.
    So far everything she’s said about disability is a platitude/cliche – “special love”, etc.

  4. The move away from using possessives for eponymous syndromes has been going on for over thirty years now. The argument against the possessive is that the (usually dead) white medico who happened to write down the symptoms and become hailed as supposedly the “first” to describe the disorder neither owns the syndrome nor has it. I confess to strong leanings toward that point of view, though old habits can die hard.
    Totally agree about the series of platitudes.

  5. On CNN they interviewed Palin’s sister and bro-in-law in Alaska, said they have a “child with special needs” themselves and specifically pointed out she knew about those issues (and the “special love”!) but before she had Trig. So change of perspective is not only a dodgy argument but … can’t even be made.
    On the upside and shallow-ly, Piper was totally adorable with the baby. (Prob has a lot of practice given how quickly dad passed the baby off on her.)

  6. I was neither suggesting it should be a prerequisite, nor am I suggesting a lack of personal experience is an excuse for a previous abysmal record, but I do think a personal experience can and does change perspective, and her saying she will be an advocate shouldn’t be dismissed out-of-hand.
    And I wouldn’t suggest that someone else in your family having a child with a disability means you have the same sort of experience – I’m pretty sure my sister-in-law, with two disabled children, would say her perspective is a lot more personal than mine – she’s living it day-to-day, which I, no matter how much I love my nieces and nephew, am not.
    So I would still say it’s a change of perspective.

  7. PS have never seen it referred to as anything other than Down’s, sorry. But if someone’s wrong about something like that, you might want to perhaps offer a link, rather than just the correct term, which I had no idea was the correct term.

  8. Lauredhel, I definitely agree about the fact that her choice of subjects gives very little evidence that she cares about feminist topics other than as lip service. Not to mention that basically her entire speech was one long attack on the dems. Apparently her daughters futures aren’t important enough to take a substantial pause from that.

  9. Glad to see Miranda Devine on SMH online just loves her…*gag*
    She is a scary god botherer and of course she doesn’t support women.
    It is nice to see in her anti choice/abstinance only heart she totally “supports” Bristol’s choice to keep the baby. Pity that won’t extend to everyone else if she gets in.
    (i have that ‘trust Bristols paints, sure can’ ad stuck in my head and it won’t get out…agghhh)
    Wish I could vote…dammit.

  10. I wish you could vote too, cozzy … but not in freakin’ ARIZONA which is McSame’s home turf. Y’all move to a swing state dammit!


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