Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thoughts on Sarah Palin and Sexism

Relax. This isn't really political, except in the broadest sense.

Lots of ugly sexism out there. I've heard about the insulting T-shirts, but my focus is different.

I think it's fascinating the subtle, or not too subtle forms, that sexism can take, even from Gov. Palin's supporters. This stuff didn't happen to Hilary Clinton. Perhaps Sarah Palin attracts it because she's young and very pretty. Here's what I've noticed.

1. At the debate, when asked about his running mate, Senator McCain said he was proud of her. A little paternalistic, maybe?

2. Last week there was a flap about the un-retouched cover photo on Newsweek, which was supposedly evidence of the magazine's partisanship. (Never mind that the text of one of the articles clearly stated a point of view. Words are too difficult to read, perhaps.) Is Gov. Palin running for Vice-President or for Ms. America? Calling attention to the supposedly unflattering photo as though it were important is the insulting thing, not the photo itself.

3. And finally the most important thing: If, as seems likely now, Obama wins, Sarah Palin will sink into obscurity outside of Alaska. She's clearly an attractive, even charismatic figure to those who like her ideas, and she's done some good things as governor. But by pulling her into the national spotlight before she's ready to handle it, John McCain hasn't done her a favor. Quite the opposite, I would guess. What he has done is use her for his own purposes, apparently to "energize the base" and enliven his campaign. By doing so, he has made her such a target of ridicule from the left and an object of scorn for "intellectual" Republicans, many of whom will blame her for McCain's defeat, that any chance at a national political future is unlikely. So a man takes advantage of a woman. It's a new twist on an old story.

Maybe events will prove me wrong on this, but that's the role of the pundit, right?


Kim said...

You might be interested in Peggy Drexler's article on Sexism, Politics, and Equal Opportunity. It was written before McCain announced Palin as his running mate.

I'd never make it in politics - I hate pantsuits, pantyhose, polarizing punditry, patronizing populists, and personality pandering. Ha. Now, I'm going to sit back and mind my P's and Q's.

(I do hope that Palin said something to McCain about the 'proud' comment. I did feel like he was talking about a daughter and not a running mate... oops, I might be guilty of ageism.)

Anonymous said...

I cant really weigh in about US politics to any great extent - we do have coverage here but not about un-re-touched photos and such. But Mc Cain comment does sound paternalistic - i wonder though at his age whether he would have said the same about a younger male running mate - i suspect he might. I can't imagine Obama saying that about Hilary if she was his running mate - can't imagine Hilary standing for it either!

your second point is appalling but true- how absolutely insulting for her. I bet male candidates do not have retouched photos, nor such a brouhaha about their looks - it wouldnt even be an issue.

I also agree with your last point - political suicide on her part (or more like murder by running mate) she will be thrown under the bus if the republicans lose....and maybe even if they win. i dont know if/how the VP can change in US politics....but Id predict a reshuffle if it was here.

Anonymous said...

I especially agree she will sink into obscurity, win or lose. But wasn't she the one who accepted McCain's offer "without blinking"? Without a thought to how her family would be exposed and portrayed, without a thought to how SHE would reveal herself? The worst sexism was McCain's apparent belief that women will vote for just any woman running.

Saying she is "ready" for the job is as silly as Joy Behar's ["The View"] saying she's "ready" be an opera star. Joy said she has the desire, the chest, and the right connections; she just doesn't have the talent, no matter how "ready" she may think she is.

When you put yourself in a beauty contest, you lay yourself bare (literally) to the sorts of criticisms she receives. But Hillary never conveyed a public image other than dedication to, and studious pursuit of, higher goals. When she wept she was weak; when Dubya weeps he's sensitive. Hillary took a lot more heat than her male counterparts but I have a hunch she has the staying power Sarah Palin will never achieve.

Anonymous said...

Well said. One has to wonder why Ms. Palin would accept the invite in the first place and lay her family open to the media and public scrutiny.

Karen Dianne Lee said...

I wish I had something to contribute here but you've said it all and I couldn't add to it. Except to say - there's truth here and as a regular reader I appreciate your words and thank you for sharing.