Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Thoughts on Palin

I see that no one else on the Handmirror has posted anything on John McCain's choice of Vice-Presidential candidate so I thought I might as well add some thoughts.

I actually feel a bit conflicted on the whole thing but not for the reasons that you might assume. On one hand I think it is terrific a woman is on the ticket of a major party and has a chance of becoming Vice-President or even *gasp* President. But on the other I feel a bit disappointed that the parties still need to make a big a deal about selecting an XX candidate and seem to expect us to give them a cookie for finally getting around to selecting a woman for executive office. It seems really patronizing especially when many of the people who feel like this selection is some sort achievement often have a penis.

But one thing I haven't been so conflicted about is seeing and hearing the same old sexist garbage leveled at Palin that have been used on just about every woman who has ever stood for office. And what better place to start than her appearance because we all know that women candidates shouldn't be judged on their abilities and what they stand for. Of course the left aren't the only the only ones immune to this sort of crap:


For those who didn't see American Pie, explanation is here and yes the website is real.

But I suppose the appearance stuff is eventually going to get boring in which case her role as a mother will provide plenty of fodder for pundits and the conspiracy theorists. The authors of this despicable post and the follow-up clearly forgot to engage their brain or any form of compassion when they hit 'publish.' It is one thing to attack a candidates policies and experience, it is another to sit there and pass judgment over a candidate's pregnant body and it is a new form of low to do so against her teenage daughter. Truly vile.

I'm sure the authors of the post are feeling vindicated that the allegation was half-true and 17 year old Bristol Palin is pregnant with her own baby while many other so-called 'progressives' will be frothing at the mouth to hold the teenager's pregnancy up as a great example of how abstinence-only sex education does not work. Again I ask that they show some compassion and STFU. We all know that being a teen parent is unbelievably tough. Instead of support from the community they often a criticism and ridicule for having got themselves into that predicament. This teenager is lucky to have support from her family and the father however that criticism and ridicule from community has been infinitely amplified by the American Presidential campaign swirling around her. So let's cut this kid a break and leave her to live her life just as we would any other pregnant teen whose mother isn't running for office.

Yes I know if a daughter of a democrat happened to get pregnant or undergo an abortion she'd be up for heinous attacks. But that's the annoying thing about political principles, they only mean something if you stick by them when they are inconvenient.

31 comments:

Hugh said...

I was wondering if this was going to happen. I stand by my comment earlier that McCain's selection of a female running mate has all the character of a sick joke.

I'm not sure if your saying it's one thing to attack a candidate on their policies is an invitation to do so, but I'm going to anyway.

Palin opposes granting polar bears endangered status.

Palin opposes abortion in all cases except where the life of the mother is in danger, including rape and incest.

Palin does not believe global warming is caused by humans.

Palin supports the continued occupation of Iraq.

Palin supports abstinence-only sex education.

Palin supports the death penalty.

In conclusion, Palin could do a lot of damage to the USA and the world were she to play a role in American policy making, particularly if she were to follow McCain into the Presidency.

The ex-expat said...

I'm not disputing her politics are vile and they are certainly worthy of attack.

But I do think that some of the crap she is dealing with from so-called 'progressives' is appalling.

Hugh said...

I'm unable to pass judgement on this crap she's having to deal with - one of the links only talks about how she'll probably face this sort of thing, one mentions Joe Biden saying she's attractive (call me sexist, but I don't think that's inappropriate, particularly as I notice the rest of his speech goes unreported and presumably he didn't just say he thought she was hot and go home), and one link is broken.

The idea that politician's personal lives should not be discussed even when they blatantly contrast with their declared policies is a laudable one but one that I have not noticed in great evidence here. Would you be equally contemptuous of the media for drawing attention to the fact that an anti-abortion, pro-marriage male politician had encouraged his mistress to have an abortion? Somehow I doubt it.

Of the four candidates running in this year's US elections, Sarah Palin is easily the most anti-feminist - she's worse even than McCain. And yet the first mention of her in a feminist blog is one expressing solidarity. That's worrying to me.

The ex-expat said...

Biden comment 'ohh isn't she pretty' is just another way of reinforcing the message that looks are what matters. 36 years in the senate and that's all he came up with. Jeeze.

There's a huge difference between your example and this one. First, she's living her politics no hypocrisy. Second, this is a child of a politician.

As for defending an anti-feminist candidate. Check out this post: How Feminism Works.

Hugh said...

I'm having difficulty reading the 'How Feminism Works' post because it keeps giving my browser conniptions. From what I have managed to read, it's addressing a strawman.

I realise that you feel women have collective interests and Palin's anti-women policies, or even her conscious belief she isn't part of that collective, doesn't earn her an expulsion.

But it seems you feel your obligation to defend the collective from sexism is greater than your obligation to defend the collective from anti-feminist policies, such as those Palin advocates. Hence the fact that this post came before any substantial criticism of her policies.

Now it's your journal and your right to post or not post what you want. I'm aware that, as a man, I'm a guest here and need to be mindful of that. Perhaps I'm judging you and your fellow bloggers in advance, and perhaps there is much substantial criticism of Palin's policies to come.

But even bearing all that in mind I felt a need to say something. Firstly, I think there's a strong need to point out how unsavoury Palin's policies are, loudly and often. Secondly, I think that the sort of response I'm seeing here is, to an extent, a desirable result for the McCain campaign and part of the reason Palin was chosen over a similarly politically aligned male Governor (such as Bobby Jindal).

And as a side note, I still think you're being unfair on Biden. The fact that some media tard only reported the 'she's hot' comment doesn't mean that that's all that he said, simply that that's all that he said that was newsworthy. Biden has, at least in terms of actual concrete achievements, a better record on women's rights than any of the four principles.

ideologicallyimpure said...

@hugh: The difference is between
"Sarah Palin is anti-abortion and pro-abstinence-only education, which has been proven not to work" and
"LOOK SARAH PALIN'S DAUGHTER GOT KNOCKED UP, HYPOCRITE HYPOCRITE HYPOCRITE, ALSO HOW CAN A WOMAN WITH A BABY BE VICE PRESIDENT? IS UNTHINKABLE!!!"

Julie said...

What id-imp said. Good post the e-e, I'd been holding off posting on this because I wasn't quite sure how best to approach it, and I'm glad I did cos you've done a great job.

Sure we need to defend Palin from the attacks she faces because she is a woman, but we will no doubt in future also criticise her because her politics are not all that pro-woman.

Tui said...

@Hugh: this is a specifically feminist blog. Palin's woman-hating policies are going to be covered, at length, by everyone - including male pundits - all over the liberal blogosphere, especially the NZ blogosphere. In NZ, Palin's positions aren't impossible, but they're certainly extraordinary and would never be openly admitted to by the #2 of National or Labour. (I also would be surprised if they were espoused by any of the women in Parliament, though I certainly can imagine them being held by some men.) Women and men are going to cover it; men all over the place will take the chance to say "Ooh, Palin's soooo misogynistic, aren't I a friendly liberal ally!"

In this media frenzy, pundits may feel excused by the fact that Palin is anti-woman to engage in a little misogynistic language themselves; more likely they will employ the language without even thinking about it. These media sexisms apply in exactly the same way to Palin that they do to Hillary Clinton. Deeply ironically, they come from the same place that some anti-Helen rhetoric comes from (which is pretty funny: "ugly dyke" and "hot Tory MILF" are about as far from each other as they can get, but are still hateful misogynies of the same family.)

Just as, even though I leaned towards Obama, some of the coverage of Clinton really bothered me; just as, even though I can't stand the Nats, some language used to describe Jenny Shipley or Sue Bradford bothered me; so, even though I think Palin is extraordinarily anti-woman, attitudes towards her bother me. Feminism is not something you can withdraw. I'm for equal treatment of women - ALL women, not just the ones who agree with me.

My point is: all the stuff you're talking about in re: Palin's misogyny will, inevitably, be covered elsewhere. The Ex-Expat's post is talking about something no-one else might talk about. Go, her.

Hugh said...

My point is: all the stuff you're talking about in re: Palin's misogyny will, inevitably, be covered elsewhere. The Ex-Expat's post is talking about something no-one else might talk about

I think it's unlikely no-one else will talk about this, particularly since they already have (witness the Salon article expat linked to). Similarly, I don't think critique of Palin's policies is nearly as inevitable as you seem to - perhaps I'm just unlucky in my perusal of local and US media, but I doubt it.

ms poinsettia said...

Hugh,

I don't think Palin has been hypocritical re: abstinence education. It's not her personal life it's her daughter's. Her daughter didn't go into national politics so she doesn't deserved to be used as fodder to attack Palin. Palin's actions, as far as we know, have been true to her political beliefs. Her daughter's actions are not Palin's.

And I think we do have to defend Palin from sexist critiques. There is a lot to criticise, as you point out above, including this policy regarding abstinence education. But we can do both. And I suspect this post probably beat critiques of her policy because it's so damn disappointing and discouraging to have lefty people (people who are more likely to be feminist allies) leaping to use sexist slights and insults to critique Palin.

Having feminist sites focusing on the sexism being aimed at Palin may be desirable for the Republicans, but we wouldn't have anything to say if people we generally consider our allies weren't so quick off the mark to call her a bimbo, a beauty queen, a bad mother and so on.

Deborah said...

This might help, Hugh. It's the tag on Shakesville - fab US feminist blog - each time they post another entry in the Sarah Palin Sexism Watch.

[Sarah Palin Sexism Watch: Parts One, Two, Three, Four. We defend Sarah Palin against misogynist smears not because we endorse her or her politics, but because that's how feminism works.]

That's exactly what Stef is doing here, calling out the misogyny and naming it, regardless of whether or not she supports Palin's policies.

muerk said...

"you feel your obligation to defend the collective from sexism is greater than your obligation to defend the collective from anti-feminist policies, such as those Palin advocates."

This attitude is why I don't feel comfortable considering myself a feminist.

I too am anti-abortion, I agree with young people abstaining from sex and I'm even anti-artificial contraception.

(Too be fair I want polar bears protected, I believe in man-made climate change, I am totally opposed to the death penalty and I want the occupying forces out of Iraq)

I don't think Sarah Palin is an anti-feminist, for a start she's a woman who has worked her way to the position of running a US state.

Hugh said...

I don't think Sarah Palin is an anti-feminist, for a start she's a woman who has worked her way to the position of running a US state.

Personal ambition on the part of a woman does not equate feminism.

There is a lot to criticise, as you point out above, including this policy regarding abstinence education. But we can do both.

Yes, I keep hearing 'we can do both' and 'we will do both', but I'm not actually seeing it. And it's interesting that my comment, which was 100% policy-oriented, was answered with "I do think that some of the crap she is dealing with from so-called 'progressives' is appalling".

we wouldn't have anything to say if people we generally consider our allies weren't so quick off the mark to call her a bimbo

So you wouldn't feel the need to defend her if she was only being attacked by Republicans? That seems entirely at odds with the 'How Feminism Works' primer.

But regardless, if you see Sarah Palin as a woman first and a neo-conservative second (or third or fourth or whatever), then perhaps you should be re-assessing the idea that progressives are your natural allies.

Anonymous said...

Hugh - advice from a male, on this blog and on this topic your current argument is winning you no friends or brownie points from either side of the political divide. I'm impressed with the response of 'The Hand Mirror' to selection of Ms Palin as candidate for Vice President.

This response suggest there is hope for discourse in the blog word rather than just the left right, he said she said, I'm better than you personality attacks.

By the way I normally use 'What would Hayek say' as an identity - I just don't have a google address set up.

Probably my first and last post here but as I commented on Deborah's blog once - I enjoy the writing, keep it up.

Finally Hugh my wife's response to your points would be in terms such as "fine", "whatever", "if you think so".

Danielle said...

if you see Sarah Palin as a woman first and a neo-conservative second... then perhaps you should be re-assessing the idea that progressives are your natural allies

I'm afraid I must play the arse card on that assertion. By noting sexist attacks (from all sides) against her *rather than attacks on her ridiculous politics*, it's the *attackers* that are seeing her as a woman first. Not *us*.

Hugh said...

Danielle, people on the right are making sexist remarks about Palin? I don't suppose you could provide a link?

My impression has been that the right think she's the best thing since sliced Barry Goldwater.

The ex-expat said...

Hugh see here.

Danielle said...

GAH. The point is not which 'side' is making the sexist remarks; the point is that no matter which 'side' makes them, and no matter which 'side' Palin is on, as feminists we should not be endorsing *any* sexist remarks. Attack her based on policy; her 'hotness' should be totally irrelevant.

ms poinsettia said...

"So you wouldn't feel the need to defend her if she was only being attacked by Republicans? That seems entirely at odds with the 'How Feminism Works' primer."

My disappointment does not decide what I defend. Sadly, I expect retrograde sexism from many Republican quarters so it's not so much disappointing as predictable. I am disappointed by the comments from so-called progressives. And given that Republicans are unlikely to slander their own candidate, if some Democrat blogs weren't attacking her on sexist grounds feminists would be needing to defend her.

Your point re: feminists saying they will do both but not seeing it is quite unfair. There has been one post on THM, Palin has been the VP candidate for about two days. Gotta give the bloggers here a chance!

RE: seeing Palin as a woman first and a neo-conservative second. What Danielle said!

Hugh said...

There has been one post on THM, Palin has been the VP candidate for about two days. Gotta give the bloggers here a chance!

That did occur to me. Obviously there's no time limit by which criticism must be provided.

But I can't help but think that if McCain picked an anti-abortion, pro-abstinence candidate who was a man, we'd have had something denouncing him by now.

Tui said...

@Hugh: yes, probably, because *he wouldn't have been the target of misogynistic rhetoric.*

Tui said...

Although, that being said, has THM blogged about McCain's position on abortion? How about Obama's?

ms poinsettia said...

I was thinking about this statement this afternoon:

"But it seems you feel your obligation to defend the collective from sexism is greater than your obligation to defend the collective from anti-feminist policies"

I think they're no so much anti-feminist policies as anti-woman policies. And in that regard those policies and the sexism being aimed at Palin are one and the same. What is the difference between criticising a woman of a young baby for going back to work and supporting policies that make it hard, if not impossible for women to combine work and motherhood (e.g. vetoing the Lily Ledbetter bill, not supporting state support such as maternity leave etc, being anti-abortion etc). Sure, the the former is implying women should stay at home using cultural pressure while the latter is attempting to actually force women to stay at home through not providing support. But the latter doesn't happen in a vacuum: it needs to be sustained by a cultural belief that new mums should be at home.

The second thing I was musing on (apologies to THM's excellent bloggers - I realised this morning I made it sound like you ladies should blog on Repub policy) is that this isn't an American site, so American politics hold less interest for many, particularly when - would you believe! - a Republican candidate is anti-abortion, doesn't believe in global warming, pro-abstinence education and so on. This is just more same old, same old so is perhaps not so interesting or newsworthy to blog about - you know, 'did you know the sky is blue' type territory. Democrats pulling out the 'bad mother' canard to attack a Republican - rather than attacking their policy positions - is however unsettling for the reasons I talked about before re: allies.

Hugh said...

@Tui. So you're saying that when somebody is the target of misogynist rhetoric, the need to critique their policies recedes?

And AFAIK neither Obama nor McCain's policies on abortion have been blogged on here (not that I am up for sifting through the archives to check, 2bh), but I would presume that's because both Obama's and even McCain's are demonstrably less offensive than Palin's.

Obama trims to the Clintonesque "safe, legal and rare" policy, which is a dogwhistle to the right. McCain wants to overturn Roe v Wade. But Palin goes further than either - she supports forcing women to keep babies even in the case of rape and incest. Short of forcing women to get pregnant, I don't think it's possible to get more extreme.

@msPoinsetta: I don't mean to accuse you of splitting hairs but to me I don't see a big difference between anti-feminist and anti-woman policies. I agree with most of what you're saying, which comes down to the point that Palin is both a victim of sexism and a sexist herself. Not a surprising scenario, but I simply feel that the first aspect is being allowed to eclipse the second.

An American blogger said today that Palin's nomination to the Vice Presidency is very similar to Clarence Thomas' appointment to the Supreme Court - attempting to blunt leftist attacks on a highly conservative politician by making them a groundbreaking minority appointment. I wouldn't be surprised if in 20 years time a gay economic conservative is being chosen for a similar role.

glosoli said...

Sarah Palin is clearly an idiot but the gender-related issue I feel conflicted about with her is this feeling that she shouldn't have exposed her daughter to this situation. If she knew that her daughter was pregnant, it seems that making the decision to go ahead would put a huge amount of pressure on the girl, especially if this blows up to the extent that it damages the campaign. The question I keep asking myself is would I have this response if a conservative like Mike Huckabee was the VP candidate and it was his daughter??

glosoli said...

One more thing... Obama himself has been the subject of plenty of appearance-related commentary! Check out this slightly disturbing piece: http://mediamatters.org/items/200801080002

Craig Ranapia said...

Hugh:

What "solidarity" am I expressing with Sarah Palin by saying that her daughter's womb, or her youngest child's disability isn't the issue?

This is similar to the time I defended Ann Coulter (and felt suitably squicky about doing so), after her nasty little homophobic f-bomb on John Edwards -- to the delight of a squealing right-wing audience of Ann-droids. While it's perfecty legitimate to call Coulter out on her bigotry and rather distant relationship with the truth, it somewhat undermines your credibility when you're doing it in terms like "that c*** deserves to be raped", "she should be put down like the dumb animal she is" and "she's ugly like a drag queen".


WTF!

Heine said...

Ahh Glosoli "Sarah Palin is clearly an idiot"..

Where did that come from?

Apart from Stefs well reasoned post, I have a sneaking suspicion that if Palin was a Democrat we wouldn't be hearing HALF of the attacks against her. She is obviously a threat to Obama - why else would there be more media "investigative" reporting on her than even Obama and his past?

If she ran as a Dem then I am sure then the attacks would come from the other side too - but it is a little strange that some feminists are joining the choruses against her now when I know well they would be happy if she was not from the GOP.

glosoli said...

I think she is an idiot because of her politics; I really think she is the most anti-woman of the four candidates (McCain, Palin, Obama, Biden). What her candidacy is doing, with this focus on the individual not policy, is creating a lovely diversion for the GOP from the issues of economic disasters, a failed war etc.

I find it really odd that I am expected to embrace this candidate just because she is a woman and tiptoe around the fact her politics are awful. Sarah Palin is not my sister!

ms poinsettia said...

Glosoli,

"expected to embrace this candidate just because she is a woman and tiptoe around the fact her politics are awful"

Who is expecting you to do that? Noone around here.

Anonymous said...

I think the "but you have to vote for her, she's a woman" comments come mostly from the right wing. There's been a fair bit of "you complained that you wanted more women and we gave you one but you're still not happy" type nonsense. To a degree that's valid, there's a lot of Idiot/Savant style nose-counting around that's based on the sexist premise that the gender of a politician is more important than their voting behaviour. But I haven't seen that being called out by the right except when they have someone like Palin around or (more commonly) when they're under attack for stacking up the DWM.

Moz