November
13th 2008
The last Sarah Palin post ever (we hope)

Posted under: American history, Gender, women's history

Did you hear the one about how McCain campaign advisers said that Sarah Palin is so dumb that she thinks Africa is a country?  Didja? 

Smell the truthiness (via Rye and Patriotism)!

Which just proves, once again, that one can serve up absolutely any $hit sandwich about Sarah Palin and our misogynistic political culture will swallow it and say, “thanks, that was scrumptious!  May we have another?”  I suppose it’s nice that both the right and left wings in this country agree on something, but I had hoped that the post-partisan unity schtick would involve more than just gynophobia.

The sad thing is that the whole “she thinks Africa is a country” gag is an old gag by the king of the Masshole comics of the 1980s and 1990s, Jimmy Tingle.  I heard Tingle tell that one in a club in Cambridge back in 1996, only it went, “Europe:  excellent country!”  You’d think that the clowns running FOX, MSNBC, and other cable news channels would have checked the source out before running with the story.

Well, we can all look forward to lots of prominent feminist women in key positions in the Obama administration who will change the way we look at women in power.  Just look at the women he’s appointed to manage his transition:  Rahm Emanuel and John Podesta, for example.  And all of the women who have been named as possible Treasury Secretary picks:  Lawrence Summers, Jon Corzine, Robert Rubin, Paul Volcker, and Timoth Geithner.  That’s a bunch of high-powered broads for you!  You show ‘em, girls.

13 Comments »

13 Responses to “The last Sarah Palin post ever (we hope)”

  1. GayProf on 13 Nov 2008 at 8:59 am #

    Hmm — Palin is complicated. I agree that she faced the same type of sexist coverage in the media as Clinton. Unlike Clinton, though, she was clearly uninformed (seemingly willfully so). I would also suggest that Palin had intentionally positioned herself through some pretty retrograde notions of gender (“Hockey Mom” rather than “Ambitious Career Politician”). So, to me, pointing out her failings and lack of engagement with the world is not sexist per se (Although, I grant it is hard to disentangle them from the larger framing of women in power). The idiocy about her wardrobe costs, on the other hand…

    What has been of more interest to me recently is the way that Michelle Obama has been positioned by the media. While she had a remarkable career in her own right and has shown herself to be a savvy campaigner, she has clearly been relegated to being “just a mom” or a “clothes horse.” Even I have contributed to the latter, but became really concerned when both the NY Times and the LA Times ran full articles about her dress on victory night. So, basically, her only position is as a mannequin. Hey, 1960, welcome back!

  2. Historiann on 13 Nov 2008 at 9:13 am #

    I have never said that any criticism of Palin is sexist.

    I have said that the constant obsession with her body, clothing, sexuality, sex appeal, reproductive history, and leaking amniotic fluid is out of bounds, but who listens to Historiann, eh? My point here is that the preceding coverage of Palin–like the coverage of Hillary Clinton in the 1990s as a scary feminist monster–conditioned the media and the public to believe without verifying the source that “Palin is so dumb she thinks Africa is a country.” After all, she’s just a blow-up Republican sex toy, a Caribou Barbie, Governor Gidget, so who needs the facts? We can just mock and laugh women politicians, and there are no consequences. (Well, except for their careers, and the careers of other women who aspire to authority in their fields.)

    But who cares about them, right? I mean, who cares about us?

  3. wendy on 13 Nov 2008 at 10:00 am #

    I was bothered by how she chose to present herself to the American public post election in her interviews with the Today show and Fox by appearing prominently in her kitchen cooking dinner. I realize this is a sensitive issue for me as a woman who has always resented attempts to position me squarely in a domestic space, but it seemed to be a deliberate attempt to emphasize traditional gender roles. Sure, she’s a politician, but she can still make a mean moose stew. It all seems very 70s to me. Haven’t we already had this conversation?

    Which is not to say that sexist attacks or assumptions are okay. A recent discussion in a women’s history class reminded me once again how complex feminism is, and I think this speaks to that.

  4. Historiann on 13 Nov 2008 at 10:21 am #

    You don’t know that she “chose” to present herself like that. The camera crew probably followed her around all day long, but what did the media choose to show? Yes, she chose to allow them into her kitchen and to film her there, but I don’t think that was necessarily a bad move. Look at how Hillary Clinton is still being pilloried for a crack she made about “staying home and baking cookies” 16 years ago.

    The problem is not Palin’s “choices” about how she’s presented. The problem is that there are so few prominent women in politics that they get overanalyzed to death and objectified beyond belief. I bet if Joe Biden let a camera crew into his kitchen to show him making pancakes for his grandkids, it would be an “awwwwww” moment. Whatever men do is okey-dokey. Whatever women do is leapt upon as evidence of their monstrous ambition (if they present themselves as too serious) or of their ridiculous ambition (if they’re pretty, young-ish, and/or show themselves at all in a domestic role).

  5. ej on 13 Nov 2008 at 10:30 am #

    No, she chose to have them there as part of the interview. There were 2 separate segments, one where she talked one on one, and one where they did the interview in her kitchen. Why do we assume that she’s not calling the shots? Maybe during the campaign, but since last Tuesday, I think she’s in the driver’s seat.

    I liked Hillary’s comment-it was honest. And I would like to think that some things have changed since then, and women don’t need to be afraid of condemnation if they reject traditional gender norms.

    I do think that some women emphasize their femininity and adherence to gender roles to assure others (especially men) that they’re not “that scary”, and in doing so, I think they affirm the very gender roles that women are fighting against. I think we need to give Palin credit for being the savvy politician that she is-this stuff isn’t accidental-neither is the enormous Alaska pin on her lapel.

  6. Indyanna on 13 Nov 2008 at 10:40 am #

    Some of McCain’s advisors may think that Africa is a continent that’s always been filled with basically square-shaped nation state “countries” with capital cities and the present array of names. Rather than a complex geographical space carved into modernity by European imperialists in the so-called “scramble for Africa” in the 1880s A nice teachable moment, perhaps, which could be concluded by pointing out that the U.S. was still bogged down in those years paying off William Seward’s mortgage on Alaska to have scrambled along.

    I don’t watch much T.V. but the one sequence of post-election Palin coverage I did see was indeed set in the kitchen. But it was interesting to watch her answering the interviewer while basically keeping eye contact with the things she was doing in and around the sink and stovetop. My first thought was that not too many standard issue blue suit politicians would have been willing to violate media conventions about eye-contact and body language in such a situation. Plus, the First Dude was standing there, arms full of babes. So it wasn’t a TOTAL Betty Crocker or even a Donna Reed sort of moment.

  7. Notorious Ph.D. on 13 Nov 2008 at 1:43 pm #

    You know, I also wondered about the lack of attribution, and so it was a story that I indulged in a schadenfreudic chuckle at, but refused to pass on.

    At first I wondered why FOX would be so eager to throw the chum to the media sharks. Upon further reflection, I realized that it makes *perfect* sense: Our guy would have won… had it not been for trying to put a woman in a position of power. It’s her fault (for all the archetypal feminine reasons).

    As historians, we should recognize this: women in positions of authority can be used to explain the failings of a hero, or the fall of a dynasty. I’m no fan of Palin, but if “unity” is built on “we can all disparage women and discriminate against teh gayz,” then I’m a bit saddened.

  8. Gunner Sykes on 13 Nov 2008 at 1:59 pm #

    The notion that feminists cannot be feminine is ridiculous.

  9. Historiann on 13 Nov 2008 at 2:21 pm #

    Cherchez la femme, toujours, Notorious.

    I thought it was pretty hilliarious, and I laughed through my tears when I read at the end of the mutivolume tomes by Francis Parkman, France and England in North America, that it was “the fatuity of Louis XV. and his Pompadour that made the conquest of Canada possible.” Yes, “America owes much to the imbecility of Louis XV. and the ambitious vanity and personal dislikes of his mistress.”

    Well, I guess that clears everything up, doesn’t it?

  10. nicole on 13 Nov 2008 at 2:29 pm #

    When the right-wing pundits justifiably criticized the so called “liberals” who attacked Palin with undeniably sexist remarks I wanted to be hopeful, but, given their treatment of Clinton, I was mostly cynical. And I was right to be so…
    It is sad that McCain’s own people have said these things about her in an attempt to blame her for his landslide defeat.
    Sexism is indeed alive and well-
    And while the media or Palin herself probably did film her in the kitchen to send a message- I’m far less offended by that for a couple of reasons- firstly, many working mothers cook for their families and secondly, we’ve seen the ambitious career woman that she is.
    It is her politics that offend me and thus I reserve the same criticism of her that I do of Dobson et al.
    As for Obama’s administration- I’m waiting with enthusiasm till he announces his picks- and I really hope he doesn’t disappoint.

  11. ej on 13 Nov 2008 at 3:21 pm #

    Certainly feminists can be feminine, but not all women are feminists.

  12. hysperia on 13 Nov 2008 at 6:56 pm #

    For a very short time, Palin was America’s sweetheart to some people and an air-headed ditz to the rest. Once the Reprobates lost the election, the Reps and the right wing media turned on her in a manner reminiscent of the Democratic and “liberal” media of Hillary Clinton. I’ve not seen John McCain treated so disrespectfully. I’ve read articles that critisize him fairly. That’s what women deserve. Fair comment. I can hardly bear having to defend Palin because I dislike her politics. But I won’t stand by and say nothing while people attack her for being female.

  13. Historiann on 13 Nov 2008 at 7:39 pm #

    Right on, hysperia. That’s exactly where I’m coming from. I’m just imagining the next time (20 years? 30 years? I hope I live to see the day!) that we’ve got a progressive Dem woman politician who’s treated like a blow-up sex toy. How can anyone who sat by silently while Palin was shredded for having a uterus (too many children!) and breasts (too sexy, and we don’t want a sexy Prez!) then complain?

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