Marrying Sarah Palin and Two Sheens
Headlines run deep.


Kathryn Jean Lopez

I thought of the unceasing reactions to Palin as I sat with two generations of anti-feminists at a book launch last week. Phyllis Schlafly, that brave lone warrior against the Equal Rights Amendment, and her niece, Suzanne Venker, have a book out called The Flipside of Feminism. Schlafly is an unapologetic fan of Palin — much more so than Venker — because she sees this. She knows this. She’s lived it. Having been called the worst of names simply because she was the most empowered of them all; refusing to surrender what’s only natural to an ideology that, masked as freedom, waged war on the complementary nature of the sexes.

You don’t have to want Sarah Palin to be president to acknowledge that the frenzy around her may have more to do with us than her.

On multiple fronts, the former governor of Alaska is actually much more complicated than most of the debates about her ever indicate. She’s that pro-life mom, a poster gal whom the Susan B. Anthony List was waiting for. But she’s also been known to get her inner Gloria Steinem on — which is ironic given that Steinem’s among those who would excommunicate her from the global sisterhood if she could.  She’s very much the product of her times in this way — very much of the moment in this way. Born and raised in a culture where girls were educated as if they were an oppressed class in need of empowerment, often at the expense of boys, she’s representative of a culture that is increasingly coming to grips with the fact that the sexual revolution messed with some very fundamental things. Our opinions about politics sometimes merely reflect our inner struggles and longings in the messiest of ways, providing endless fodder for a ravenous media.

I do think that when all is said and done in 2012, the candidate who finds his name on the top of the Republican ticket is going to be someone who doesn’t evoke the passions of a wounded culture in quite the same way. But I also think to deny that Sarah Palin, flaws and all, already holds a positive place in our history is akin to believing that Charlie Sheen is actually “winning.”

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online. This column is available exclusively through United Media.