Sometimes I get lazy and let other people speak for me
…for a certain kind of feminist, Palin is a symbol for everything we hoped was not true in the world anymore. We hoped that we didn’t have to hide our ambition or pretend that our goals were effortlessly achieved…we hoped that we could be mothers without having our motherhood be our defining characteristic, as it seems to be for Palin. We hoped that we did not have to be perfect beauty queens to get to where we wanted to be in life, that our looks, good or bad, wouldn’t matter. Whether or not you think it’s appropriate to comment on Palin’s appearance, the fact of her attractiveness exists, and is being used to her advantage by Republican sloganeers (“the hottest Governor in the coldest state,” et. al).
Man, I couldn’t have put that any better if you locked me in a room for a week with only a typewriter and a thesaurus. And then one of her commenters goes and puts it even better than that.
You must be pretty, but not showy or god forbid “slutty” about it. You must be a mother, doting on a pod of children. You must pay lip service to feminism, while working to undermine every gain women have made. You must not be “strident” but rather “feisty”. You must constantly mention your children, your motherhood, babies and kids. You must be defended against even the mildest criticism by sexists claiming that you are the victim of sexism. You must have gotten into politics “for the children”. You must prove you can run with the boys by killing things and posing with carcasses. You must smile all the time. You must be religious, deeply and devoutly so. You do not need to be educated or well-informed. You don’t need to have experience or well-thought out opinions. You don’t need to be able to articulate yourself with “clouds of rhetoric”. You should speak simply, humbly because you are lucky to be here…girl.
When John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate, initially I was surprised, then amused. It seemed like such a transparent ploy to draw female voters who were either undecided about Obama or still disappointed over Hillary Clinton’s loss in the Democratic primaries. It didn’t seem all that alarming to me, particularly when the news about her daughter’s teenage pregnancy came out. I felt certain that the controversy, the inevitable flack they would catch from McCain’s conservative Christian supporters would send her the way of Thomas Eagleton, so that a new, more suitable candidate could be brought in as a replacement. Then, in one of those moments where I become convinced that I really am taking crazy pills, I see that after her speech at the Republican National Convention, one in which she seemed more intent on bashing her opponents than discussing issues and her qualifications as a potential vice-president, suddenly Sarah Palin is a star. Everybody loves her, she’s a brilliant pick for VP. John Mc-who? It’s Palin Time, baby, she’s where it’s at.
And now, the more I read about her, and more importantly, the more I read about how people are reacting to her, I’ve come to realize, indeed, I am developing an intense dislike for Sarah Palin, not quite one that leaves my laptop screen covered in spittle, but it’s getting there. While she may not be the Devil incarnate (that would be our current vice-president), she could potentially make a whole lot of people’s lives very difficult if she’s elected. In short, the first woman elected as vice-president could be the worst possible thing to happen to American women in a very long time.
I’m not even talking about her hardline pro-life stance, the damaging effects that would have on women is obvious. I’m talking how she is, at this very moment, redefining what it means to be a feminist, or at least, the male perception of it. Finally, Sarah Palin is making it all right to be a feminist, to be a working woman–just as long as you’re still able to squeeze out a bunch of kids, enjoy traditionally male activities such as hunting and watching sports, and ultimately, in the end, defer to a man, all while still looking soft and pretty, wearing skirts and heels. Sarah Palin: Dream Wife. It sends me into a near-murderous rage when I read that Hillary Clinton just couldn’t connect with potential voters because she wore pants more often than skirts. Because she wore pants. I mean, holy fuck, what year is this? Did I step out of a time machine into a society where a woman’s value as a woman still comes down to the “skirts vs. pants” debate? Seriously? Seriously?
Another reason my dislike for Sarah Palin is steadily building into seething detestation is that “I’m just a smalltown gal with smalltown values” horseshit. As I’ve mentioned before, quite a few times actually, that’s one of things I found most disgusting about George W. Bush’s campaign, his insistence that he was just regular, hardworking folk like the rest of us. I’ve had more than my fill of this “small town=good, big city=bad” crap. Just as not every person who comes from a large city is an elite snob who doesn’t care about the little people, not every person who comes from a small town is a virtuous, hardworking salt of the Earth citizen. I know, I graduated high school in a town with a population half that of Wasilla, Alaska, and I can tell you that this media-romanticized image of the small town as being like a big fucking potluck dinner where everybody knows each other and has each other’s best interests at heart is a laughable myth. Small town people tend to be as small-minded and provincial as anyone else. Growing up in Dogpatch doesn’t make you any more inherently “American” than growing up in Los Angeles.
Finally, let me make myself about as clear as I can possibly get: just because I am a mother does not mean that Sarah Palin “speaks for me,” and quite frankly any time I hear a woman say she’s going to vote for her and McCain because “she’s a mother and understands what we go through,” I want to take a rolled up newspaper and swat her over the head with it. Other than giving birth, Sarah Palin does not understand what you go through. Let me repeat that: Sarah Palin does not understand what you go through. She does not understand not being able to afford to take time off to go see your child appear as “Elf #2” in her school’s Christmas pageant. She does not understand having to deal with derisive comments from co-workers because you had to call out to take care of a sick toddler. She does not understand having to chase down a wayward parent for child support. She does not understand the feeling of sorrow and disappointment of not being able to fulfill a Christmas list. She does not understand having to choose between a new pair of sneakers for your son or paying the phone bill. At least as long as her children have been alive, she has lived a life of nothing less than privilege. She does not understand what you go through, she is not going to be your representative, she is not a heroine of working mothers everywhere. She is a construct, a conservative male ideal of what a “real woman” should be. She’s not like you. She’s not like me. She is a fantasy woman who can do real damage to real women everywhere.