If you don’t think Governor Sarah Palin has been inundated with misogynistic attacks since the announcement of her candidacy, you may be on the wrong blog. (Hint: Having trouble thinking of something? Go here for an enumerated list). It is of a different flavor, perhaps, than many of the attacks leveled at Senator Clinton (more shameless linkage: Hillary Clinton Sexism Watch. If you’re going to try to deny that Clinton faced misogyny, then you’re REALLY on the wrong blog). With Clinton, one was more likely to hear cable newscasters wax paranoid about how she elevated their castration anxiety, whereas with Palin it’s more about how bangin’ she looks in heels, and do those legs go all the way up? Zowee, once you go non-contiguous state, you don’t go back! And so on.
That is not to say, of course, that it is impossible to speak negatively of Palin without it being misogynistic (contrary to what the McCain campaign would like to pretend). If, for example one says that being mayor of a town with <10,000 people is less compelling governmental experience than, say, a term in the Senate, that is not misogynistic. And of course, in this particular case, there are many, many, legitimate reasons to dislike Palin as a candidate, and they have been well-articulated in various media (at least in media that I read). And the reasons that I dislike her as a candidate have nothing to do with, say, her children, or history as a beauty queen, or _________. So, you’d think I’d be happy that being as far away from the Palin Bandwagon as possible is the new In Thing (even among conservative women!).
Am I happy? Well, not exactly. Let me clarify: the reasons for which I might, theoretically, be happy that people have her number have nothing to do with schadenfreude. I’ve actually felt pretty bad for her recently – her interview footage is like that of a train wreck in slow motion. But it makes me happy when large numbers of people agree with my political views, both because I feel slightly less like somebody standing on a street corner with a cardboard sign, and because people might actually vote the way I want for once in a blue moon. So, it should be music to my ears that people are calling her out on McCain’s support on economic deregulation, and the rape kit fiasco. It’s a far cry from, say, how almost half the country still believes Iraq was involved in September 11.
But. I can’t help but feel that the eagerness by so many to show just exactly how cracked she is is motivated by misogyny. So, even a point brought up that has nothing whatsoever with the observer talking about Palin’s ass or Down Syndrome baby or (ugh) pubic hair could very well be a result of sexism. Again, I’m reminded of Clinton’s treatment during the primaries. I think it’s obvious that many had a vested interest in establishing her as the unattractive, bitchy, evil, harpy, gussied up in an unflattering pantsuit, no matter how inaccurate (or blatantly bigoted) such a characterization was. And some people caught onto how transparent it was to object to a candidate solely on gender-related grounds, particularly people in more liberal circles. I mean, you can’t always SAY that you think Hillary sounds like your nagging wife! You might lose your credibility, eventually.
So then you had people who rarely, if ever, mentioned anything that could be construed as sexist, and criticized her solely on political positions. Which, just like with Palin, is perfectly legitimate – criticism of a female candidate is not, in and of itself, sexist. But what really set this commentary apart from others is the glee with which certain individuals expressed it. Like, some people actually did hate Clinton because of misogynist or misogyny-tainted reasons, but were astute enough to know they couldn’t actually say that (or perhaps didn’t even realize their own bias), so they would find a more ‘acceptable’ issue to harp on, thus using it as a proxy and outlet for their more base, bigoted, instincts. Rationalization, we would call it in the psych world.
And this is what I think is happening with Palin, in some situations. As I said, her ‘image’ in the popular consciousness is qualitatively different, but stems from the same flawed worldview of women always equalling the lesser.
Of course, the main question here is ‘where’s your proof?’ The short answer is: I have none. There is no way to look at or listen to a person’s argument and know the real cause of their fervency. There most definitely are people who are dedicated to the pursuit of equality, who abhor and fight sexism and discrimination in all forms, who have analyzed and scrutinized and have very strong feelings on certain issues that are the result of actual facts, not intolerance. There’s no way of knowing, (except perhaps by analyzing this person’s past statements on a candidate, past positions on various topics, etc.). And who are we to look a gift horse in the mouth, per se? If more people are fact-checking and thinking for themselves and being critical, isn’t that a good thing? After all, we’re all at least a little sexist, racist, homophobic, ad infinitum, just by virtue of having grown up in our current global climate.
I don’t have any good answers. The whole situation just makes me sad. I feel that I have more to say on the topic but am already running WAY over the limit of what people will actually read, so I’ll sign off for now and just invite any readers to leave their thoughts on the matter.