EMILY's List Counters the 'Mama Grizzly' Meme


EMILY's List, the feminist organization that works to elect pro-choice, Democratic women to office, has launched a campaign countering Sarah Palin's "Mama Grizzly" shtick, which the former governor has used to promote conservative women candidates. But because the group's response blurs the line between parody and rebuttal, its messaging is mixed.

In July, Palin released a YouTube video touting the term "Mama Grizzly" to refer to conservative mothers who've taken a stand against the recent Democratic agenda. "It seems like it's kind of a mom awakening in the past year and a half," Palin narrates in the video, "where women are rising up and saying, 'No, we've had enough already.' Because moms kind of just know when something's wrong." The ad expertly launched Palin's endorsement season, in which she's thrown her weight behind several female candidates in high-profile and so far successful races (as well as a few that have failed).  

Traditional feminists were confused by the Mama Grizzly theme and struggled to find a way to rebut it. Palin managed to cull some of the core tenets of feminism -- suffrage, sisterhood, the rights of working mothers -- and use them to further an agenda that undermines many of its victories, most significantly abortion rights. Hanna Rosin wrote an excellent piece for Slate in May about how the Tea Party movement has become one of the most prominent outlets for women in today's politics.

Months after it became clear that Palin and the Tea Party were dominating gender rhetoric this election season, EMILY's List realized it had to defend its turf. So this week, the organization launched a website called SarahDoesntSpeakForMe.com. Today, it held a press conference and unveiled a YouTube response to the Mama Grizzly video that is part parody, part serious rebuttal.

Women in bear costumes with awkward-looking face paint simultaneously mock Palin's folksy metaphors and attempt to co-opt them for their own purposes. Look how stupid this Mama Grizzly analogy is, they imply -- but, while we're on the topic, be assured that pro-choice feminists are the real grizzlies.    

While funny at times, the ad's convoluted logic struggles to counteract Palin's already entrenched message. To use the frame of this year's midterm elections, the respectably established EMILY's List is yet another beleaguered incumbent fighting off the insurgent Palin and her pack of grizzlies. The incumbent has the financial and political infrastructure, but the insurgent has the momentum.

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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