Ms. Steinem: That chromosome AK Gov. Sarah Palin and NY Sen. Hilary Clinton share is the same one that you and Palin – and all women – share as well. But it is Palin – whom Cindy McCain described as a “reform-minded … hockey-mommin’ …  basketball shootin’ … moose huntin’ … fly-fishin’ … pistol-packing … mother of five” in her speech to the RNC – who more closely resembles the typical American woman, not you.

American Thinker editor Thomas Lifson describes the disconnect:

Liberals have long lamented the existence of two nations in America. They are right to do so today, but in a way they never meant. It is not the divide between rich and poor which soon will be causing serious pain on the left. Sarah Palin’s pending nomination for Vice President is exposing the depth of the cultural divide between Middle America and the leftists who have taken over the education, media, and cultural establishment of our country. …

She has the rarest of qualities: authenticity. Media and Beltway types can’t fathom what that is. It goes right over their heads. Not even on the radar screen. Her multiple facets – beauty queen, moose hunter, mother, member of an Assembly of God Church, and ferocious reformer of corrupt politics may baffle sophisticates, but ordinary Americans see all the pieces fitting together, and they recognize a type of person they know and love.

 And as The Guardian’s Paul Harris notes: 

She does not look like a normal politician. She looks like what she says she is at heart: a mother who got into politics via the parent-teacher association at her local school. Or to put it another way: she looks like the voters she is aiming at.

It’s obvious from your op-ed in the Los Angeles Times that it’s been a long time since you’ve hung out with women who do not share your world view, women who can relate to Palin and find a role model in her. Here are a few of them:

[F]or many Republicans and right-leaning independents, Palin’s arrival comes almost as a relief. For them, Palin’s biography and lifestyle reflect aspects of their own lives rarely seen among women on the national stage.

Some are women from rural states where hunting and fishing are as much women’s pastimes as men’s, and who have hungered to see a woman on the national political stage who understands that. Deanna Wallace, an 18-year-old college student and alternative Republican convention delegate from Shreveport, La., a “huge tomboy” growing up, loves football and got a gun for her 13th birthday. She identifies strongly with Palin, who earned the nickname “Sarah Barracuda” on the high school basketball court and is a lifetime member of the NRA.

“I think people have the idea of Southern belles for so long, and we’re tired of it,” Wallace said. “We want to be strong women in our own right, not what society expects of women.” And after decades of hearing women who favor abortion rights argue that the male-dominated Republican Party could not possibly understand the plight of women facing an unwanted pregnancy and have no business regulating abortion, women who oppose abortion say Palin is a living validation of their point of view. – The Boston Globe, September 2, 2008

“I have been hearing from women, especially women who didn’t go to Harvard or Yale Law School, saying, ‘Hold on, this is a woman we can actually relate to,'” says Susan Estrich, a Democratic strategist. “The very fact that she could go from the PTA to the vice presidency is the story they connect to — without regard to her position on abortion.”

“I do not consider myself a feminist, only because of what the feminist agenda is,” says Sheryl Fikse, a manager at a high-tech firm in Atlanta who has three children. “I consider myself an empowered woman. Sarah Palin is not a shrinking violet. I love the ‘Sarah Barracuda’ name. If a woman has worked at any corporate level, you have to be tough, but you can do it in a feminine way.” …

“She is very much like my wife, assertive, very focused, able to balance a lot of different things,” says Tim Fikse, husband of Mrs. Fikse, the high-tech-firm manager. “Good for Hillary for what she is doing. But there is a silent majority that is more like Sarah Palin.” – The Wall Street Journal, September 3, 2008

Kimberly Speranza is not only emblematic of the kind of religious conservative voter Palin was tapped to “energize,” she’s uncannily similar to “Sarah Barracuda.” Raised in rural, working-class Nebraska, Kim’s a veteran snowmobiler, has hunted pheasant, slopped hogs and butchered and cleaned chickens, and worked as a corporate executive. …

Kim, who’s 42, lives in Palos Verdes with her husband, Scott, 41, and their 3-year-old twins. … 

The Speranzas work in the health insurance industry, get their news from National Public Radio as well as Fox and CNN, and describe their religious affiliation as “evangelical and as far right in the Christian right as you can go.” And although Kim says she supports abstinence being taught in schools alongside traditional sex education (ditto for creationism and evolution), she and Scott both say Palin makes them feel as if they have a voice in the political arena.

“She reminds me of my grandmother, who worked on the farm and could hunt and grow food and raise kids and have two of them die and still go on. You don’t see that in politics a lot, and you don’t get it from going to Harvard, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valid.” – Los Angeles Times, September 6, 2008

You write that “[f]eminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere” – which is kinda ironic, as you’ve been a professional feminist for most of your life and the gig’s been rather lucrative – and raise the specter of a McCain-Palin administration “invit[ing] government into the wombs of women.”  

But you are so utterly obsessed with preventing women’s wombs from being used for what they are biologically meant to be used that you have accomplished little to help women who bear and raise their children instead of aborting them juggle their work and family responsibilities.

For this reason, you and NOW are irrelevant to the lives of most women. In her answer to your op-ed, columnist and radio talk show host Tammy Bruce – a former president of the Los Angeles chapter of NOW – writes that voters are “deciding women’s rights must be more than a slogan and actually belong to every woman, not just the sort approved of by left-wing special interest groups”:

Palin’s candidacy brings both figurative and literal feminist change. The simple act of thinking outside the liberal box, which has insisted for generations that only liberals and Democrats can be trusted on issues of import to women, is the political equivalent of a nuclear explosion.

The idea of feminists willing to look to the right changes not only electoral politics, but will put more women in power at lightning speed as we move from being taken for granted to being pursued, nominated and appointed and ultimately, sworn in.

It should be no surprise that the Democratic response to the McCain-Palin ticket was to immediately attack by playing the liberal trump card that keeps Democrats in line – the abortion card – where the party daily tells restless feminists the other side is going to police their wombs.

The power of that accusation is interesting, coming from the Democrats – a group that just told the world that if you have ovaries, then you don’t count. …

The Republicans are now making direct appeals to Clinton supporters, knowingly crafting a political base that would include pro-choice voters.

And it’s not just Palin’s views on abortion that you find distasteful – it’s her, personally, which goes to show that you look down on the very women you are claiming to champion. The Journal correctly notes that “class is emerging as one of the factors that separates Gov. Palin from other politicians”:

She is by many measures one of the least-pedigreed politicians to be on a national ticket. While Hillary Clinton appealed to female working-class voters this year, she also attended Wellesley College and Yale Law School.

“If instead of the University of Idaho Sarah Palin had a degree from Harvard, would we look at her differently?” asks Peggy Lehner, a homemaker from a Dayton, Ohio, suburb who also serves as a part-time city councilor and is a Republican activist. “If she had two kids instead of five? If her husband were the CEO of a major corporation based in Alaska?”

And yet, unworthy as you think she is, Palin has accomplished something that few women leaders around the world have – she got where she got without “a family connection to a politically powerful male,” according to Pamela Paxton, associate professor of sociology and political science at Ohio State University:

“In many countries with traditional cultures, women are easily seen as ‘stand-ins’ for their father or husband,” said Paxton, who is co-author of the book “Women, Politics, and Power: A Global Perspective” (Pine Forge Press, 2007) with Melanie Hughes from the University of Pittsburgh. Often, women leaders achieve power when their male relative dies, is martyred, or otherwise is forced to leave office. …

“Hillary Clinton followed a typical model by following her husband, Bill Clinton. I had expected that the United States would be less traditional, and have a first woman contender who arrived in politics independently.

“Sarah Palin is certainly unusual in a worldwide context in that her political path has been hers alone,” Paxton said.

You thought you were denigrating Palin when you characterized her as “Phyllis Schlafly, only younger,” but Palin and Schlafly figured out something you still haven’t – how to “have it all” without resorting to abortion:

“People who don’t have children, or who only have one or two, don’t comprehend what it’s like to have five,” said Schlafly.

“I had six children,” Schlafly said. “I ran for Congress. An organized mother puts it all together. The time management mother uses the older ones to help with the younger ones. You should read that old book ‘Cheaper by the Dozen.'”

We are Sarah Palin. And Ms. Steinem, you will hear us roar on Election Day.

cc:  Andrea Michell; Sally Quinn; Susan Reimer; Judith Warner

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog, chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).

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