What if Palin’s “straight talk” were not so darn pageant worthy?

I have to admit, I did not watch the entire veep debate. I was able to handle the entire presidential debate, partly because Obama (unlike so many poli-tics*), is a great speaker, a PROFESSORIAL speaker, which I personally (along with Female Science Professor) think is a very good thing.

Though I had the best intentions of watching the full debate, my stomach started to turn as soon as Palin asked the condescending “Can I call you Joe?” question to Senator Biden. This was of course a pre-meditated attempt to further that friendly, folksy, everyday moose-killing hockey mom image of hers. However, I was insulted – and think Biden had the right to be as well. To presume first name basis with someone you have just met, especially in a setting such as this, is downright presumptuous.

Then, as she launched into her “you betcha’s” and “joe-six packs,” my head began to throb in the way it does whenever I am exposed to GWs speeches. In fact, while she has been called Karl Rove in a skirt and likened to Dr. Laura, she is in many ways very much like a female version of GW, you know, the guy her ticket is trying so hard to distance itself from… Both of them exude that ‘true blue American’ image, promote ideas of “frontier justice,” rely on photo ops and staging rather than substance/smarts, and, neither of them can pronounce the word “nuclear.” Oh, and apparently, (as the Couric interview revealed) Palin shares Bush’s belief that reading the news is unnecessary …

But, the last straw came with the repetitive winks. With the first wink, I found myself in a state of disbelief. “No, she didn’t just do that did she? Surely not during the debate… Maybe those designer glasses of hers pushed an eyelash into her eye…” But, she did it again, and again (four times in all, as this video here shows).

So, some 25 minutes in, I could watch no further. I decided to read up on the debate afterward in order to save myself from nausea. As I ruminated about being so repulsed by her performance that I simply could not watch it without either hurling a brick through my TV screen or hurling my dinner into the garbage can, a thought popped into my head: I feel this same way when exposed to televised beauty pageants. As I have done scholarly work in this area, I have sometimes HAD to watch pageants for research purposes. It is a truly painful experience. All the fake smiles, all the every hair in place gleaming white smiles plasticity, all the faux caring about the world sound bites… Aha, I realized, Palin’s performance irked me so much not only due to her inability to answer the questions or offer substantive analysis, but due to the fact she was acting like the debate was a Miss America contest.

As I began to read around the blogosphere, I found many others irked by her glittery performance. But, the person who captured my own reaction most closely was the wonderful Sara Benincasa at the beginning of her VLOG “THE BIG DAY!“:

“This is for the bathing suit portion of the debate.” Classic!!! Now, I realize that Benincasa’s portrayal mocks Palin as not all that bright and ultra shallow, but, well, she seems to keep affirming that these things are true. Not being able to answer what newspapers you read or name Supreme Court Cases? Doesn’t make you sound too bright there, Palin (no, I won’t presume to call you by your first name).  Turning “Maverick” into a logo, winking and aw-shucksing, buying a tanning bed for your governor’s mansion?!? Well, these indicate there is not a lot of substance (or at least not any kind of substance I would vote for) below all that thickly piled on style.

As Emily Bazelon makes clear in her article “The Un-Hillary: Why watching Sarah Palin is agony for women,” Palin’s gaffs are particularly troubling due to the paucity of women at the top of the political ladder. When she flubs up, or when she winks, it is more fuel to the fire of sexism.  Or, as Bazelon elucidates:

“…Palin’s gender is at the center of another set of reactions I’ve been hearing and reading among women who don’t support her ticket, filled with ambivalence over how bad she is. Laugh at the Tina Fey parodies that make Palin ridiculous just by quoting her verbatim. And then cry. When Palin tanks, it’s good for the country if you want Obama and Biden to win, but it’s bad for the future of women in national politics. I’m in this boat, too. Should we feel sorry for Sarah Palin? No. But if she fails miserably, we might be excused for feeling a bit sorry for ourselves.

Palin is the most prominent woman on the political stage at the moment. By taking unprepared hesitancy and lack of preparation to a sentence-stopping level, she’s yanking us back to the old assumption that women can’t hack it at these heights.” (read the entire piece here)

Indeed. And her playing into the “I’m just a regular old hockey mom” role further entrenches outmoded stereotypes rather than breaking them. She is like an Ann Coulter wet dream.

If she were anti-choice, pro-kill from helicopters, pro-war, pro-abstinence only education WITHOUT all the pageantry performance, that would be plenty bad enough. But throw in the tiara worthy smile, the flirtatious winks, the professional waves and camera hamming, well this makes her not only a horrible candidate for anyone who cares about reproductive justice and social equity, but also for anyone who cares about breaking down the stereotypes and beliefs surrounding women’s ‘special’ 2nd class, just a mom (or potential mom) status.

Further, her pageant worthy performance seems devoid of what Miss America calls “the platform.”  This “platform concept…requires each contestant to choose an issue about which she cares deeply and that is of relevance to our country.” What is, in fact, Palin’s platform? Supposedly she is an expert on energy policy, but I have seen little evidence of this. Her platform seems about as empty as Miss Teen USA’s infamous answer to the question “Why can’t 1/5 of Americans locate the US on a world map.” In fact, is Miss Teen USA’s answer really that different in quality to some of the answers Palin gave during the Couric interview? Sadly, I think not. Watch for yourselves and see if Miss Teen USA’s speaking style reminds you of Palin’s verbal histrionics…

However, making links such like this is bound to 1)bring the trolls out with comments like “listen ugly feminist, don’t hate her just cuz she is hot” or 2)garner comments that I am being sexist by picking on Palin, one of my “sisters.” Over at Alas, a Blog, Jeff Fecke offers excellent analysis of this “pretty and female” stance:

“The right is fond of complaining that feminists and feminist allies hate Sarah Palin because she’s pretty. We don’t. She’s conventionally attractive, yes, but that’s not really surprising. Most politicians are on the pretty end of the spectrum, from Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton to George W. Bush to Mitt Romney. Not all of them, of course, but many of them.

Palin’s physical attractiveness is, for feminists, a null issue. She’s pretty? Fine, but will she be a good vice president? A good president?  She’s not going to be able to negotiate better with Putin because she’s pretty – but it won’t be a handicap, either. No, her mind is the part of her anatomy we’re most interested in.”

Yes, that mind that the satirical comic from DemocraticUnderground.com indicates labels the globe into us (#1) and them (evildoers, pussies, and people who do laundry).

As Fecke’s post argues, we should “have enough respect for Palin to argue for her on her merits as a leader” and “that her merits as a leader are wanting is no reason to reduce her to her sexuality.” I agree entirely, I just wish she would stop reducing herself.

*Jon Stewart breaks down the word in his joke from Episode 18, in 2008:Poli (meaning “many”) Tics (meaning “blood-sucking insects”)”


5 thoughts on “What if Palin’s “straight talk” were not so darn pageant worthy?”

  1. Sara Benincasa,
    You are so welcome! I love your hilarious vlogs!!! Although McSame and Pain winning would be HORRIBLE, the only one benefit I can think of is that you would have a lot more vlog fodder…

    As per her being GW with b&v (boobs and vagina), this would make a spectacular vlog. Would love to see you in the Palin get up and then reveal that underneath the hair and glasses, you are really GW in disguise…

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting and the absolute best of luck to you in your comedic career. Down with sexists like Chris Rock, up with thinking comics like Sara Benincasa!

  2. Yes, much agreed. Palin’s platform is Winking-and-smiling, and unfortunately some Americans are actually buying it. It was not supposed to be a beauty pageant, not a football game (“I’d like to give a shout-out to the folks back home…”)–it was the VP debate of all things, and she should have taken it more seriously. I heard that there are numerous blogposts out there, written by women who are raving about how cute Palin’s shoes were, the ones that she wore at the debate. Good grief.

  3. CulturePress,
    Your point about not supposed to be a football game made me realize that not only does Palin act like a pageant contestant, but like a cheerleader!
    I am disturbed, but unsurprised, to hear about the “cute shoes” blogposts. Geez, if women were not so good at demeaning themselves to appearance/fashion based concerns, perhaps we might be a bit closer to dismantling sexism…

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