Anna at DakotaWomen has an interesting post up in which she quotes Katha Pollitt to argue "no." My post is mostly in response to this quote. Pollitt writes:
"[Feminists for Life] aren't really feminists--a feminist could not force another woman to bear a child, any more than she could turn a pregnant teenager out into a snowstorm. They are fetalists."
Fetalists they may be - I think that's a fair label. But I don't think it necessarily follows that they aren't feminists. They may indeed not be, but I'm uncomfortable stating flatly that people who aren't pro-choice aren't feminists. This policing of the borders of feminism certainly makes it easy to determine who "we" like, as feminists, and all too often that has meant people who follow the core values (and there are probably more here than I can think to list at the moment) of popular feminism:
- the belief that pornography/prostitution always hurts and exploits women;
- the fear and loathing of transgender;
- the resistance to centering race in ways that decenter white women's experiences;
- the expectation that aborting fetuses with disabilities should be every woman's choice.
I know feminists who work in the sex industry; who are transgendered; whose conception of "women's issues" has little to do with glass ceilings; who see the decision to abort a fetus with a disability as an expression of intolerance (at best) for people with disabilities. I also know feminists who call themselves pro-life, and who spend their lives doing feminist work, teaching Women's Studies, doing work that benefits women. Do I think that forcing a woman to bear a child is a feminist act? Of course not. But I doubt that most pro-life women who call themselves feminists would interpret their actions in this way (nor do most of the pro-life feminists I've known work to actually prevent choice, which, to be fair, I believe Feminists for Life has done).
I don't want Sarah Palin in the White House anymore than I want McCain there, and I'm certainly not claiming her as a feminist. But I don't think drawing the label "feminist" more tightly around our shoulders will serve any purpose in preventing her election - it will only serve to divide feminists.
Instead of looking at the label, it might be more instructive to look at one's actions and at the impact of one's work on women. I'm pretty sure that Sarah Palin doesn't measure up, but I'm also pretty sure that there are some pro-life feminist sisters who do.