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Letter from a Mama Grizzly to Sarah Palin

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Commentator Sally Kohn, somewhat confused about Sarah Palin's recent outreach video, asks here for a bit of clarification.

Dear Ms. Palin,

I’m a little confused by your recent video calling for an uprising of “Mama Grizzlies”— the label you give to conservative women who allegedly have their conservative undergarments in a bunch over President Obama’s health care reform, financial regulation and environmental conservation, which will undoubtedly make the world a better place for little cubs for generations but are nonetheless cast by you as anti-mom. I’m not confused by your nonsensical ideological narrow-mindedness. That I’ve come to expect. What I am confused by is how you are now casting your nonsensical ideological narrow-mindedness as protecting “Mama Grizzlies.” Aren’t you the one who hunts bears from helicopters?

I’m asking because, lately, you’ve been shellacking yourself with the varnish of feminism. A few months ago, you gave a speech describing yourself as leading an “emerging, conservative, feminist identity.” Now I don’t want to second guess an experienced, political operative such as yourself, but I imagine you’re trying to broaden your base from beer cozy-carrying white men to breast milk-carrying white women. Smart. Especially given that black folks, Latino immigrants and those latte-drinking upper-middle class whites seem rather cold to your aw-shucks-statesmanship and thinly veiled cultural warfare.

But in courting the mommy set, doncha you think that your anti-mom policies—like opposing efforts to guarantee equal pay for equal work, supporting tax cuts for the super rich that will kill funding for public schools the rest of us rely on, objecting to federally subsidized health care and child care—make you, what’s that big word… hypocritical? Like, um, claiming to champion “Mama Grizzlies” while personally owning several dead grizzly bears? Should the fact that, as governor of Alaska, you passed laws to encourage the extinction of bears be seen as a warning? Are you luring America’s women into the same sort of trap?

Just as your “nature” strategies have systematically killed off the bear population in Alaska, the policies you promote have been shown to kill jobs, economic prosperity, the pursuit of higher education and retirement savings—in other words, making the secure and prosperous American family all but extinct. Seems to me you’re about as pro-woman as you are pro-bear.

As a potentially explanatory digression, I understand that sport hunters like yourself mainly target male grizzly bears. If in fact you have some covert agenda to grow the lesbian bear population, killing the male grizzlies in order to create a Sapphic grizzly heaven, then frankly that’s an armed helicopter I might be able to board. You say, “Gay bears!” I say, “Grrrrrreat!”

Or, now that I think of it, perhaps the real trajectory of your strange bedfellows political base-building is to sidle up to gay male bears. I assume you know that, for decades, rotund and hairy men in the gay community have been nicknamed “bears.” Google “gay male bears” and you’ll get a very graphic idea of what I’m talking about. Given the aforementioned unlikelihood of the Republican big tent bending its ideological tent poles enough to welcome blacks and Latinos and the white upper-middle class, I can see the Palinesque logic of where you’re headed.

The inherent alignment between you and the hairy homosexual population is obvious. You both represent extremely fringe but nonetheless influential subcultures. You both have an affinity for animal skins. And, in both cases, your ideal man looks a lot like Todd. It’s a political match made in San Francisco.

But, um, if that’s not where you’re headed well, then, I’m lost. I cannot think of a more anti-woman candidacy than your vice presidential bid in 2008, which suggested that women’s assent to leadership can and should be based solely on cute looks and folksy sweetness rather than serious experience and competence equal to any man. The fact that there are hundreds of women far more qualified than you to be vice president of the United States of America but you emerged from the election as the new figurehead of women in politics undermines the fight of other women to be taken seriously in the public arena.

Even more, your conquest for cultural and political power through co-opting “Mama Grizzlies” is nothing more than a big business, anti-family agenda in drag. You said in an interview that the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would lengthen the period of time for which men and women could sue regarding very overt cases of pay discrimination, would be a “boon to trial lawyers.” Uh, yes, women who had been systematically discriminated against on the basis of their sex and paid less than male colleagues would need to hire lawyers. But the law (which passed despite your objections) is really a boon to fairness and equal opportunity. It only hurts big business that, over the years, has relied on paying women less in order to increase their own margins of profit. You’d think that would be something to growl about…

In a nutshell, Ms. Palin, you are no feminist—and women across the country, whether they’re soccer moms or hockey moms or “Mama Grizzlies” or not even mothers at all, can see through your hypocrisy and easily spot your fangs and claws.

Yours truly,

Sally Kohn

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