Dear Ms. Scovell:
I am writing in response to your post entitled “Their Struggles: Bristol Palin & Malala Yousafzai’s Memoirs, Compared” published by Jezebel on October 17, 2014.
The last time I checked, I held a clear assessment that feminism is about creating and supporting choices for women and shifting stigmatic and ostracizing labels and judgment. However, in the decades since my early activism and more recent years working on gender rights, I continue to observe an undeniable wave of limited definitions as to what those choices and actions should be, by women for other women.
In your post, you chose to target and negatively assess a young woman whose brain is arguably not even fully developed regarding inhibition around risky behavior, and hung her 17-year-old self out to dry, while again kicking her while she is down, based on recent media reports. You further chose to use a recently named Nobel Laureate as a pawn in your assaultive game of shame.
In one section of your comparative chart of the two women, Ms. Palin is called out as “accused of being a “slut” versus Ms. Yousafzai, as “accused of being “secular,” while another compares experiences of a “trauma-induced amnesia.” For the sake of what did you compare these two young women? You berated Ms. Palin’s mother for making positive comments about her daughter in public, while lauding Ms. Yousafzai’s mother for remaining largely out of the public eye, a characterization, which would be a challenge for any politician, in my assessment. So we now have multigenerational comparisons of women at hand, to say nothing of the potential reach of such messages to Ms. Palin’s child.
You do not honor one woman when you compare her to another, with the intent of shaming the other. Comparison more often then not, is the death catalyst to creative ideas and self-actualization, and sustains division among women. In what way do these comparisons contribute to the betterment of women? What is your message? Do you assess that it is somehow in alignment with Ms. Yousafzai’s message?
We generally (those of us at an age by which our brains are fully developed) live from a place of perceived response to possible life situations. How we will respond, how we will be impacted or what our capacity will be in a given situation is shaped by many factors. Until such experiences, we hold conceptual actions, outcomes and values around potential scenarios. When we judge those who do not respond as we have envisioned or how we have lived our lives, we reflect our own fears.
Your seeming intention to invalidate Ms. Palin’s life experiences, pain and struggle reflect only a space of judgment. Pain is pain and struggle is struggle. When a woman claims something to be her most painful experience or defines her struggle, it is her journey to live and express, and at any stage of her life.
You judged this young woman based on a capacity that she clearly does not have and a standard by which, in your comparative approach, the majority of the world population falls short in terms of the accomplishments of a 17 year old Nobel Laureate. I am curious as to how your own hidden shadow dances may have played out in the public arena. How might you want your own parent or champion to support you in public? How might you support a child of your own in such a situation?
Through the effects of shaming and bullying we have witnessed abuse and self-destructive behavior, including the deaths of young women. In my assessment, your projections onto Ms. Palin are more similar to the very limitations against which Ms. Yousafzai is fighting on behalf of young women than anything in your comparative chart.
We are not disconnected in this world, and words are generative. Our intent and energy is exponential in terms of doing harm or contributing to the well being of others. Let us not use the life of a young female Peace Prize winner for the purpose of a targeted attack on the life of another young woman.
We are all living expressions of our socialization, circumstances, neurology, psychology and soul codes. Public ridicule of one woman’s expression over or against another is simply repeating an old paradigm, perpetuating the shame game, and is not original material.