In promoting a right-winged religious agenda and sacrificing her own daughter in the process, Sarah Palin has spent the past three years shoving girls and women backward in an effort to advance her own career. And in doing so, I think she has also contributed to abuse and oppression for women and children.
My own experience with the religious right and the serious damage it can do came from my extreme Mormon upbringing by a devout Mormon mother who zealously obeyed every church suggestion and mandate. When I was four years old, she took me door-to-door to petition against the Equal Rights Amendment because church officials had come out against the ERA. When my four-year-old brain couldn’t grasp the problem with having equal rights for women and I questioned my mom about it, her response was angry and automatic.
“Do you want to be forced to go to war and get killed?” She snapped, repeating the words she had been programmed to say. “Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen to you if this amendment passes.”
As a young child, I was taught that men had all the power and that it was our job as females to honor and support them. I was also taught that sex was evil unless I was doing it in order to have a child. In junior high, I was banned from attending sex education class because my mother worried it would make me promiscuous. And because women in the Mormon religion were told it was their responsibility to bring as many spirit children into the world as possible, my mother had children she couldn’t support with an absent father, and then rushed into an abusive marriage a month after meeting my soon-to-be stepdad in hopes of bringing at least one more child into the Mormon fold.
In my newly released memoir, Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story, I illustrate how extreme religious doctrine can set up a perfect storm: in my case, a religion and political/social climate (I grew up in Northern Utah) that gives men ultimate power and control over women and children, a stepdad who exploited the religious and cultural power bestowed on him to oppress and abuse my family, and a mother who so blindly followed the church doctrine that she felt powerless to protect herself or her children.
It takes only one look at the world around us to understand the horrific damage caused by extreme religious beliefs. How many more people need to die in the name of religion? How many more women and children need to suffer as a result of extreme religious viewpoints? One thing is certain: we don’t need women actively working to strip other women of their basic human rights and freedoms.
Bristol Palin might be able to ride her mother’s conservative religious coattails to bring in gobs of money for herself and her young son. But even so, I wonder what races through her mind at night as she lies in bed, thinking of the freedom and youth she sacrificed to take on the role of single mom. I also wonder about all those other young teenage girls out there— the ones who can’t secure five-figure speaking engagements—who might have been forced to keep a pregnancy and a child they weren’t ready to have because Sarah Palin used her pregnant teenage daughter to advance her platform.
Mostly, I wonder how Sarah Palin can sleep at night.
About the author
Ingrid Ricks is the author of Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story, a compelling true story about a feisty teenage girl who escapes her abusive Mormon stepfather and the suffocating religion at home by joining her dad on the road as a tool-selling vagabond —until his arrest forces her to take charge of her own life. Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story is available as an ebook on Amazon HERE.
For more information, visit www.hippieboybook.com