Warning: If you like Sarah Palin, you might want to stop reading now because this post will make you angry. If you keep reading, please know that nothing you write in my comments section will make me like her any better. Comments that insult me for not liking her will be quietly deleted.
So. Sarah Palin is now on TLC showing us the beauty of her home state, the homespun appeal of her family, and how much we should all love her. And buy her book. And donate to her PAC. And eventually vote her into office again. Because this series is nothing but an 8-week campaign ad, if you ask me, and I want no part of it or the candidate it’s selling.
Few things in recent memory have had the frightening effect on my blood pressure that Sarah Palin has. From the moment she stepped onto the stage at the event where John McCain announced her as his VP pick and she made some simpering remark about the women of America not being done yet, I hated her on a visceral level. “The women aren’t done yet? I knew that already! Women have been fighting for two centuries, why would we have given up now?” I thought. “Fuck you, lady, you’re not the second coming of Simone de Beauvoir. And fuck you Senator McCain, if you really thought that everyone with a second X chromosome would tumble into your lap because you picked some obscure western governor with a baby and an up-do as your running mate.” I felt like my intelligence was being insulted.
Turns out I was right. Apparently there is a whole cadre of high-ranking people who think I’m too dumb to understand how history gets made and thought that maybe I’d buy a made-for-tv-girl-VP as a bona fide ground-breaker. The joke’s on them, though, because I paid attention during the part of US History when they taught me about women’s suffrage. I know that Susan B. Anthony was arrested for trying to vote in 1872. I know that it was 140 years after we declared independence from Britain before this country elected a woman, Jeanette Rankin (R-MT), to Congress. I know there wasn’t a female Supreme Court Justice until Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981 and there wasn’t a female Secretary of State until Madeleine Albright in 1992. I know the Democrats selected Geraldine Ferraro as a VP candidate in 1984. And I know damn well that Hillary Clinton didn’t lose the nomination because she was a woman. I also know that Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton, no Madeleine Albright, no Sandra Day O’Connor, no Jeanette Rankin, and certainly no Susan B. Anthony.
What angers me to this day is that Mrs. Palin is standing on the shoulders of giants but she never once looked down to see the giants’ faces. She seems to have no idea what it took to get her where she is. She isn’t the all-American story of a working-class, small-town, traditional-values, every-mom made good; she is actually is the story of women’s rights finally, FINALLY reaching a point where an empty-headed, pretty-faced politician doesn’t have to be a man to get ahead. Even a woman can be a publicly elected dimwit and not have it reflect badly on an entire gender. That’s progress, folks.
Mrs. Palin is a semi-educated former beauty queen with nerve. That’s not nothing. Unless you compare it to the resumes of those who came before her. And then it’s impossible not to realize what an empty suit she really is, with her notes on her hand, her inability to name what she reads, and her stubborn refusal to talk to reporters who might ask her the kinds of questions that show the massive gaps in her education. She calls herself a Mama Grizzly but she’s never fought for anything except her own advancement, unless it was earmarks for Wasilla. She claims the mantle of feminism but she’s not working on behalf of women, that I can see; she’s working on behalf of herself and enlisting women to support her in her quest for attention. She doesn’t talk about how to fight the fights of women, the battle of support for working families, equal pay for women, protections for mothers in the workplace, a health care system that doesn’t consider being female a pre-existing condition, safe schools for children, and care for the aging that free working women up to earn a living. And she doesn’t thank the women who have been fighting those fights for decades already.
Not to say a woman politician must make women central to her work. But it rubs me raw when women politicians don’t bother to look out for fellow women at all.
The adage “a woman must be twice as good to be considered the equal of a man” has long been entirely true. We have danced backwards, in high heels, for generations, just to be allowed on the same stage as guys who didn’t have our footwork or our rhythm. The women who made waves and made progress were rarely beloved (just Google the nasty things people said about Eleanor Roosevelt, another woman whose example Mrs. Palin fails to live up to, by the way) but they laid a foundation, brick by hard fought brick, to make a road to equality and respect that their daughters and grand-daughters could walk. Now, Sarah Palin walks it in her Naughty Monkey heels as blithely as if she had no idea what the women before her had to do. Because I strongly suspect she doesn’t even know their names. Or why she should.
Do you know who Bella Abzug is, Mrs. Palin? Emma Goldman? Margaret Sanger? Ann Richards? Sojourner Truth? Rosa Parks? Do you know who your sisters-in-arms are, Mrs. Palin? Do you know who the Women of America really are? Or do you believe that you are the only one who was pulling on your bootstraps to get you where you are today, that you weren’t helped by 200 years of female strength and determination?
This is America and even a girl from Wasilla can run for President. But this girl won’t encourage her by watching her show. Or reading her book. Or voting for her if it comes to that. I hope it doesn’t. I want the first female President to be someone better than that.