I’ve been thinking a lot about Sarah Palin lately, in that way that I read reports about her and cringe, thinking that she is actually being advanced as a serious candidate for the position of Vice President of the United States. I can’t help but view her as a gimmick, a last-ditch effort, not a genuine candidate, and it seems that a lot of people feel the same way.
Which brings me to a topic I have been hesitant to approach, which is the treatment of Sarah Palin in the media, and in blogs, including sites that I normally think of as pretty progressive. Because, quite frankly, she is receiving some unbelievably sexist treatment, and it infuriates me. It also infuriates me to see the Republicans just discovering feminism, and calling people sexist when they question her qualifications or making legitimate comments about her fitness to serve, because it makes it that much harder to address sexism about Palin in the media.
If you want to attack Sarah Palin, fine, have at it. There’s plenty of ammunition, from her lack of qualifications to her obvious corruption. I’m also fine with involving her family, since families are very much a part of the political arena, and she’s used her family as a political tool, which means that it is fair game.
But I am sick and tired of seeing Sarah Palin attacked because of her gender.
Calling Sarah Palin “Caribou Barbie” is sexist. Referring to her looks is sexist. Making fun of her hairstyle, accent, and fashion is classist, but it also smacks of sexism (e.g. “women in politics should dress/act more fashionably”). Depicting her in a sexualized relationship with McCain is sexist. Even referring to her as a gimmick, as I did above, is kind of sexist, although I argue that if the Republicans had chosen an inexperienced and corrupt male governor from a state with a tiny population, I would call him a gimmick too.
Clearly the Republicans are terrified of letting Palin out of their control, not so much because she is a woman but because she is clearly not ready for this. Inevitably, the tight control of Palin’s appearances has led to comparisons with a delicate lily or a shrinking violet, and some commentators have suggested that the Republicans are being sexist by keeping her from us. I don’t think they’re being sexist, I think they’re just trying to exercise damage control before this whole thing blows up in their faces, and that would be true of any clearly inadequate candidate chosen in a petulant fit by a nominee who has no self control and is known for impulsiveness. But the situation feeds the sexism, and the accusations of sexism from the Republicans as the media chafes at not being given any access to her.
Sarah Palin is about a lot more than her gender, although the Republicans certainly made a sexist decision in picking her as a candidate solely because of her gender. Yes, she appeared in beauty pageants. Yes, she has a figure which is considered conventionally attractive. But these things have no bearing on her ability to serve the United States.
You know what does? Her experience, her beliefs, and her politics. So stop calling her Caribou Barbie, stop making fun of her because she was a beauty queen, and start focusing on the real issues, like the fact that Palin has totally distracted people from McCain, and his very real, very scary, and very alive political views. Focus on the fact that she is part of a crazed Christian sect that performs baptisms to protect people from witchcraft. Focus on the fact that she is obviously clueless, at sea in a world she doesn’t understand, and barely keeping her head above water. And, yes, focus on the fact that she is next in line for the Presidency, and that if something happens to McCain, she is clearly not prepared to take control of Washington, which means that she is going to turn into a puppet president at the mercy of the GOP, which may be, cynically, everything the GOP wants.
Palin is going to get creamed on Thursday not because she is a woman, but because she isn’t ready for this. And that, in a way, is a huge shame for women in the Republican party, because it will make it that much harder for another woman to climb that high in the party ranks. Choosing Sarah Palin actually put women a step backwards. Far from shattering the class ceiling, it added an extra layer by creating a figure of ridicule and uselessness who is going to be blamed if McCain loses because she was a woman, not because she was a crappy candidate.