September 11, 2008

Don't Know Much about (Womyn's)History

The Los Angeles Times and numerous other outlets featured photographs of supporters carrying signs with Sarah Palin’s head superimposed over that of the iconic feminist symbol of Rosie the Riveter. I received countless emails and comments from outraged women in the last 24 hours.  The Feministing community posted a comment that expressed the reaction that so many of these woman, including myself, felt upon seeing this bizarre merging of images that are so diametrically opposed.

Any person that knows anything about womyn’s history knows full well that Sarah Palin does not embody the core beliefs and values that guided the fearless suffragettes during the first wave of feminism, the line workers during WWII or their feminist sisters of the second wave or any of the women that recognize their struggle within the larger stream of women’s issues that has persisted for centuries.

I find it outright insulting and appalling to see the face of a woman that is blatantly anti-women’s issues photo shopped on an icon that represents female solidarity and strength. Rosie the Riveter and the women that worked in the factories experienced new levels of freedom and independence.  Sarah Palin does not support the freedom of choice for women of any social supports that would bolster their success in the workplace.  The woman that Rosie the Riveter represents defied conventional gender norms while Palin benefits from feminism but seeks to reproduce and support all of the traditional gender constraints that have impinged on women’s ability to benefit in the ways Palin has.

The foundation of this country and the heart of feminism is freedom.  Plain and simple.  Palin represents the  repression of freedom.  The fear tactics the Republicans spew sends the mainstream public running for order.  As the woman were sent back into the home after the men returned from WWII, the gendered constraints tightened and provided order in an unstable war filled with foes, enemies, McCarythism and the Red Scare.

Sound familiar?

Most people don’t know the names of our fore-mothers in the endless struggle for women’s rights.  The icons and symbols are vapid and empty.  The Riot Grrls were co-opted by The Spice Girls and the collective movement was transformed into a meaningless slogan without solidarity or group force.

Girl Power.  Sarah Palin.

Vapid. Empty. An image/slogan that is sold to a public that has lost it’s sense of collective history.  A rich history that is mired in collective amnesia.

The only connection I can make between Sarah Palin and Rosie the Riveter is the fact that both images are propaganda.  Yes, Rosie the Riveter is a true icon but, at her inception, she was used as a tool to recruit women to work knowing full well these women would get the boot once they had served their purpose in the war cause.

Sarah Palin is a similar tool used to lure in votes and then kick those individuals to the curb once the right-wing agenda has been served.