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Yes, Bristol Palin is a Hypocrite. No, You Shouldn’t Slut-Shame Her.

Bristol Palin announced today that she’s pregnant with her second child, a month after canceling her wedding to Marine Dakota Meyer. Palin, who has earned a sizable sum of money as an “abstinence ambassador,” was thrust into the national spotlight in 2008 when her first pregnancy was announced during her mother’s campaign for the Vice Presidency.

In Palin’s announcement today she asked that people respect her privacy, stating, “I do not want any lectures and I do not want any sympathy.” Bristol, did it ever occur to you that nobody else wanted your lectures? You don’t want ours, and you don’t need them. You’re a grown-ass woman in a crappy situation, with even crappier expectations placed on you. But please keep this in mind next time you feel like lecturing others.

But this post isn’t really about Bristol. We all know that a lot of right-wing talking heads and politicians are hypocrites. That’s a boring talking point, even if it is a necessary one. Today, I want to preach to the progressive choir. Because already, I’ve seen “progressives” use this as a chance to score cheap political points and call her an idiot.

Can we please not do that?

Don’t get me wrong – we should all talk about hypocrisy! We should also talk about the ways that abstinence-only education harms young adults. But what we shouldn’t do in this particular case (or any) is slut-shame Palin for being a hypocrite. We shouldn’t call her an idiot, or stupid (both things I’ve seen on my seemingly-progressive Facebook feed). Palin is a byproduct of poor sexual education and a culture that puts unrealistic expectations of purity on women. And no, it doesn’t matter that she profits from that culture. That is irrelevant to whether or not she deserves to be shamed. In case you need to be reminded (and apparently you do), no one deserves to be slut-shamed. Hypocrisy is not an excuse for abuse.

Progressives, do better. If you’re concerned about the harm that abstinence-only culture does to women, then get involved in making sure young adults have access to well-rounded sex-ed programs. Donate to abortion funds. Support groups like MY SISTAHS that provide sexual education resources to young women of color (who, by the way, happen to be more adversely-affected by purity culture). But don’t use the mistreatment of women at the hands of purity culture as an excuse to mistreat women. Otherwise you’re no less of a hypocrite than Bristol Palin.

Featured Image by Gage Skidmore
Courtney Caldwell

Courtney Caldwell

Courtney Caldwell is an intersectional feminist. Her talents include sweary rants, and clogging your social media with pictures of her dogs (and occasionally her begrudging cat). She's also a political nerd, whose far-left tendencies are a little out of place in the deep red Texas.

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18 Comments

  1. June 26, 2015 at 12:55 am —

    I don’t care that she had babies. I don’t care that she had sex with whomever, however many times…or has had how many partners. Let me be clear: I don’t care what she does with her own body.

    I do care that she is misinformed, misguided, and uses her privilege to spew nonsense.

    I am interested in being sensitive to your viewpoint; however, I am still now sure how calling her an imbecile for her views constitutes slut-shaming.

    • June 26, 2015 at 7:31 am —

      “Imbecile” on its own is not a gendered insult, but when used against a woman because she holds views we don’t like about sexuality (misguided as they may be) I don’t think it’s a far cry from misogyny.

      Should we be working to fix her misinformation? Should we be upset when she uses her privilege to spew nonsense? Yes. But this isn’t a simple fact of someone simply being ignorant. This is someone who is as much a victim of her views as she is complicit in them. Would you point and laugh at an anti-vaxxer who was dying of a preventable disease? I hope not.

      We should be compassionate when she is the victim of those misinformed views, even if she was willingly complicit in them. And yes, we can criticize compassionately – but that’s not what I was seeing online when I wrote this piece.

      • June 26, 2015 at 7:58 am —

        I generally agree with you. I wouldn’t slut-shame Palin because I don’t slut shame. Not my bag. On the other hand:

        “We should be compassionate when she is the victim of those misinformed views, even if she was willingly complicit in them.”

        Exactly when does Bristol Palin take responsibility for what she’s said about other women? After all, she is an adult.

        Palin has been raised in privilege and with every opportunity to learn about the world. That she never took the time to inform herself before becoming complicit in the continued oppression of others does not make her a victim.

        I am neither scornful nor sympathetic towards Palin. She is an adult and wealthy enough to care for her children. If she has children or not is none of my concern. Private citizens choose to have kids or not every day. Those decisions are private and no one else’s concern.

        However, Palin’s role in slut-shaming and oppressing other women IS my concern.

      • June 26, 2015 at 8:49 pm —

        Thank you for your reply.

        In this case, I don’t think it’s her actual views that have earned her so much criticism, In fact, we now understand that she probably doesn’t really even hold those views, as evidenced by her own sexual behavior. What has earned her so much criticism, and rightly so, is her hypocrisy, and the fact that she has made a lot of money by “slut-shaming” other women. Who is the real misogynist here?

        To your point, using a non-gendered insult toward a woman is no more inherently misogynistic than using the same insult toward a man is misandristic.

        Regarding criticizing her with compassion, I agree with the gist, but not the entire context. There are times when compassion is useful and other times when it’s not. From the standpoint of her being a victim of her own views, I would agree that this aspect deserves compassion, and that without compassion you are really not likely to influence her views anyway.

        If she were a true champion of her views, who hadn’t been caught in hypocrisy, it would be an entirely different ball of wax. However, we now know that she has been intentionally duplicitous — deceitfully spreading inherently misogynist views, using her influence for financial gain, while seemingly ignoring the collateral damage she causes many other women. This conduct is egregious and deserves harsh criticism. While “idiot” and “imbecile” have specific meanings, they also have an acceptable colloquial meaning of disdain. Perhaps they aren’t the most intellectual insults, but they are popular–and widely understood–ones. Truly, the self-serving, narcissistic actions of Ms. Palin deserve all the disdain (eloquent or not) that they are receiving.

  2. June 26, 2015 at 12:55 am —

    /now = not

  3. June 26, 2015 at 7:44 am —

    Luckily PZ is on the case, being as progressive as you would imagine
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/06/25/bristol-palin-pregnant-again/#comments

    It’s sad that nobody ever needs to have empathy ever for anyone else, and we get to hold the high moral ground while sinking the Doc Martens into the side of anyone we ever disagreed with. Sadism is officially the default position in politics. Let me tap out, please.

  4. June 26, 2015 at 9:34 am —

    Calling those you disagree with “imbecile” (or dumb, stupid, crazy, loony, etc.) is terribly ableist whether it is slut-shaming or not (which I believe it is in this case since it is aimed at sexual behavior).

    When you label the misguided or manipulative as mentally “less than” you further the incorrect assumption that only the neurotypical can be “correct”. That is not only statistically full of shit it is harmful to those who are not neurotypical and unhelpful in addressing the actual issues involved. (The same goes with physical disabilities, but since “imbecile” is at issue here we’ll set it aside)

    One need not look any farther than the media’s rush to label racial terrorist Dylann Roof mentally ill instead of dealing with the actual causes of his hatred towards persons of color. Addressing the toxic racism that still exists in this country is hard, figuring out how to keep lethal weapons away from those who show proclivities towards using them for hatred would piss off those who hold the purse strings, and explaining the roots of the type of beliefs that foster this sort of thinking as based in religion would be seen as an attack. It is much easier to “explain away” this behavior as being abnormal and therefore nothing for “normals” to worry about than to doing the hard work of changing the culture.

    Calling Britol Palin an “imbecile” for being unexpectedly pregnant again punishes her for the awful crime of being uninformed even though the culture she lives in forced that ignorance upon her. Yes, she furthered that ignorance for political and religious reasons which is sad and should be pointed out but is doesn’t mean she is a bad person for following her natural urges or that she should be shamed for the inevitable consequences.

    tl;dr If you only argument boils down to “my opponent is stupid” you should probably keep that terrible point to yourself.

    • June 26, 2015 at 10:19 am —

      “tl;dr If you only argument boils down to “my opponent is stupid” you should probably keep that terrible point to yourself.”

      This is particularly egregious when the opponent in question is so obviously hypocritical and their argument/position is so easy to refute.

      In any case, Palin isn’t cognitively challenged. She’s lazy and intellectually incurious. She has never bothered to learn or see the world beyond her prejudice even though she has more privilege and opportunity than most to do so. That is worse than a low IQ.*

      *Which, by the way, is what “imbecile” means; a person with an IQ between “moron” and “idiot”. It is not a reference to a mental illness or disability. FYI.

      • June 26, 2015 at 10:45 am —

        Yes, which is an intellectual disability.

        It literally means weak minded, and while it does not imply mental illness it surely refers to mental disability and at one time even to moral failings. In fact it was one of the “categories” that were targeted by eugenics proponents in the US. It doesn’t change the harm done to the disabled and it doesn’t make one’s argument stronger.

        The fact remains, if all you can say about you opponent is they are stupid then your argument is crap (and also textbook ad hominem). As you pointed out, the arguments against Palin are easy to put forth, numbers alone should work for the intellectually honest; not that those arguing on the other side are intellectually honest.

        • June 26, 2015 at 1:36 pm —

          Okay. An intellectual disability but not a mental illness.

          We are in complete agreement.

  5. June 26, 2015 at 11:24 am —

    Yeah, so, fuck that. Pointing out the fact that Bristol Palin is an idiot based on the fact that she got paid to be an “Ambassador for Abstience” but is now going to have a 2nd kid from two different guys isn’t slut shaming. I don’t give a shit that she was having sex. I wouldn’t care if she had sex with 12 dudes in the same night. I don’t care. What I DO care about is that she was p aid a quarter of a million dollars to claiming to be something she’s not. Pointing that out isn’t slut shaming.

    I love how she said “I don’t want to be lectured”. Of course she doesn’t. She just got put on front street. To everyone. For the second time. She was paid to be a hypocrite. She just showed the world, for the second time, that she has no code whatsoever about how she lives her life but she’ll act a certain way if there’s money involved. She is THE example of what is wrong with most of the crazy ass people on the right. “Do as I say not as I do”. It’s pathetic, and defending her is buying into her bullshit. And it’s all bullshit. She’s the exact same as people who preach about family values but get caught having affairs. She’s the same as people who are anti-gay who end up fondling little boys or having sex with men in random bathroom stalls.

    NO ONE should be defending Bristol Palin. She is the epitome of a privileged idiot.

    • June 26, 2015 at 1:54 pm —

      Wow, it’s like you didn’t even read the post but decided to comment anyway. 10/10, great work!

      • June 27, 2015 at 1:50 am —

        I read it, and I have to agree.

        Of course she shouldn’t be SLUT-shamed. But you don’t actually address any case where that’s what she is being shamed for. Surely, if this is happening all over the place an example or two might be included?

        Because all I’ve seen is her being shamed for being a hypocrite–full stop. Part of that may be that people are pointing out that she has failed to follow her OWN expressed standards (which include HER making clear that premarital sex makes one a slut) but that’s just specifying her hypocrisy, not slut-shaming. The progressives pointing this out aren’t in any way agreeing with, endorsing, or otherwise affirming her BS standard–they are just applying it back on its author. Because that’s the litmus test for hypocrisy.

        That would be fair if she were a man. It’s fair if she’s a woman. And it’s fair regardless whether the standard is sexual in nature, is puritanical, or an echo of the “purity culture.”

        So let’s not obfuscate an already fraught issue like slut-shaming by confusing it with outright shaming. She had a little humiliation coming. Like the anti-gay Congressman who gets caught propositioning men in an airport bathroom, or the “three-strikes” anti-drug crusader who gets caught drinking buzzed at a highway patrol checkpoint. The real sin isn’t what you did. It’s the fact that you ruined other people’s lives, but when you made the same choice, you somehow thought you should be spared the same consequences you insisted others be forced to face.

        And for that, you deserve to be taken down a peg or two.

        • June 27, 2015 at 2:00 am —

          It blows my mind that seemingly-rational people would be in so much disbelief that a woman in the public eye could be the subject of gendered insults. I won’t speculate as to why that is, but instead I’ll address your point (as I’ve already done in the comments section for others).

          As I’ve already stated, calling her an idiot, or stupid, on its own is not a gendered insult (though I think it’s probably the least-helpful form of discourse). However, when used against a woman because she holds views you don’t like about sexuality (misguided as they may be) I don’t think it’s a far cry from misogyny. There are plenty of ways to criticize her hypocrisy, without stooping to this level, and if you read the post, I encourage that.

          Lucky for you (I guess?), if that is still something you think is morally okay and you’d like to see some of the more extreme examples you can simply type “Bristol Palin Whore” or some variation into the Twitter search bar.

          • June 28, 2015 at 5:05 am

            So I did just as you suggested and typed Bristol Palin Whore into Google.

            Number of results from progressives calling her a whore (or otherwise slut-shaming her) in relation to her second pregnancy in the first three pages of results I looked at? Zero.

            Couple of hits for right wing sites claiming that LOADS of left wing sites were doing this. But of course, but I give those the credence they deserve: none.

            Lots of links about some heckler calling SARAH Palin a whore a while back.

            Even one MRA slut-shaming the hell out of her, but MRAs are the opposite of progressives.

            But not seeing a lot of evidence of progressives slut-shaming her.

            And I absolutely believe women (and men) can be attacked with gendered insults. But again, you’re not giving any evidence of this; you’re just claiming that it’s happening and condemning it.

            If you want to condemn such things in a general way because they happen all the time, hey, I’m totally with you. But saying that it is happening in this case specifically when it really isn’t is doing us a disservice because it undermines the times when it actually IS happening.

            So if you have specific examples, PLEASE post them and address them specifically.

            Otherwise, you’re doing damage by giving MRAs and others an example of us “feminazis” taking offense at imagined slights.

          • June 29, 2015 at 8:08 am

            I typed “Bristol Palin Whore” into the Twitter search bar and got 24 hits that were after her announcement.

            There were earlier, historic hits for it from last year that included the word “whore”, but unrelated to this issue and, sadly, common for any public woman (ie. you have a vagina ergo someone on Twitter is calling you a whore). Of the 24, there were a couple hits for Bristol, England, although I assume those are tourism tweets with the word “whore” in a comment later on.

            So the actual Bristol Palin tweets included the following:

            Brian614, who is an Obama supporter but uses gendered insults in political arguments (so liberal but sexist) wrote:

            “oh bristol palin is having another child out of wedlock? Hows sarah palins christianity holdin up for you?”

            smexy’s sidekick asks:

            “Why is it okay for Bristol Palin to have kids out of wedlock but every other single mother is a ‘whore?'”

            Which obeys the letter of the search, but perhaps not the spirit as she’s not actually calling Palin a whore.

            Manophere.com tweeted a link to their article:

            “Sperm Jacking whore…Bristol Palin Announces She’s Pregnant”

            Which. I mean. Yeah. I guess it’s all that sweet support she’s getting from loser dad #1 that drove her to get pregnant again.

            There is a tweet from Felicia D. Murphy complaining that feminists didn’t come out in support of Palin being called a whore, which again doesn’t reflect the spirit of the search (but certainly supports your position).

            One tweet called her a “fame-whore” which is a bit different.

            If you take “whore” out of the search, you get way more hits (of course). Many are non-committal, news article links. Some people call her a fraud. Amanda Marcotte’s linked article suggests that Palin is a hypocrite. Everyday Sexism wrote:

            “On Bristol Palin’s Pregnancy Announcement: I don’t feel even a little bit like making jokes. I just feel really sad.”

            A link to a sexist Bill Maher quote but he didn’t personally tweet on the topic and Dan Savage pointed out how this would be different in the media if it was Obama’s daughter, rather than Palin’s.

            “God” congratulated Palin on her second immaculate conception. But no whore talk.

            Top Conservative Cat pointed out the hypocrisy with Britney Spears lyrics, reworked for the occasion.

            But, to be honest, the vast majority of posts focused on her hypocrisy and/or sympathy for her and this child, who will be entering the world as a sort of punchline.

            So. Still not sure you’ve made your point.

            Palin is a hypocrite. That’s not even news. The fact that she’s female does not shield her from criticism of her hypocrisy. It shouldn’t be gendered, and call that out when you see it, but your article and follow up comments suggest that we shouldn’t hold Palin to a reasonable standard (don’t be a hypocrite) because of her upbringing. I think you’re over-stating the argument there.

    • June 26, 2015 at 2:29 pm —

      How is being pregnant the same as being a pederast?

      I know you were going for the hypocrite angle but you missed it by several degrees. Equating a young woman getting pregnant with a crime is disgusting, and right in the middle of the definition of slut-shaming.

      If you stick to how she is simply wrong about abstinence-only and steer clear of the shitty metaphors and ableist slurs people will take you more seriously.

  6. June 27, 2015 at 12:14 am —

    YES. Thank you so much for this post. You said it perfectly.

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