Macho Ma'am

Is Sarah Palin a "muscular feminist," or simply a dumb jock?


PAGE 1 / 2

THE NEW FACE OF FEMINISM? Sarah Palin (Photo: Photo courtesy of Jay Pendergrass)
Earlier this month, as the Hadron Collider was about to be revved up beneath the Swiss-French border, anxieties were high about the possibility of humanity being swallowed up by an apocalyptic black hole. To the relief of many, the particle accelerator has since been shut down. But in its wake another self-consuming, ever-expansive black hole has opened up right in front of our eyes. This self-engulfing vacuum is the state of feminist dialogue in America—a conversation tirelessly plagued with contention between second and third wave feminists—and relegated to absurdity by the 2008 presidential election.

Forget debates about power, ownership of one's body, equal wages, and a level playing field. This year, feminists were more concerned about whether Hillary Clinton should be referred to as Hillary or Clinton, Mrs. or Ms., while pundits with penises discussed whether or not she was showing enough—or too much—cleavage.

And now, thanks to a surprising little phenomenon known as Sarah Palin, things have gotten downright more stupider.

"Sarah Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna," Camille Paglia wrote in a recent Salon column, thus adding another shovelful of vapidity to the conversational void. (Grab onto something secure, Camille. Your legs are dangling. Don't get sucked into the black hole.)

"She [is] somehow able to seem simultaneously reassuringly traditional and gung-ho futurist.... A feminism that cannot admire [Palin's] bravura ... isn't worth a warm bucket of spit," writes Paglia.

We know that "feminazi" Hillary (your words, Camille) always represented the "prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment." But come on. Palin? A big step forward in feminism? Really? Really?

AIM HIGH, SARAH Palin visits Kuwait in 2007
The NRA-supporting, pro-life, pitbull-in-tattoed-lipliner, who's ironically too gun-shy to be interviewed by anyone with more gravitas than Katie Couric? The same Sarah Palin who can—and probably will—make a total fool of herself in tonight's debate only to discover an America that relates to her all the more? (As Amy Poehler points out, Palin only gets more adorable when cornered.)

Does the phrase abstinence-only education set off any red lights, Camille? And what about Palin's stance on banning abortion, even when a teen has been raped by her father?

Does the image of this Marge Gunderson-wannabe shooting wolves from a helicopter, her ample cleavage jostling in the wind, get you that pumped up, Camille? Will you soon begin chanting, blissfully: USA, USA, USA?

Okay. Paglia has a proclivity for being controversial, and sometimes she's contrary to the point of obstinacy, but upon closer inspection might she have a point about Sarah Palin? Paglia's the first to admit that Palin's conservative credentials don't gel with her own, but she does raise a compelling question. Is the phrase "pro-life evangelical feminist" an oxymoron?

Whether you love or hate the proud, MILFy governor from Wasilla, Alaska, Palin certainly represents a new breed of feminism. (Can we even call it that?) Sure, she's a rapture-ready moron who thinks women should have to pay for their own rape kits. But she's also an ambitious, workaholic with five kids who finds time to kill caribou with automatic weapons when she's not promoting her high school band buddies to coveted government positions. Despicable? Definitely. A role model for traditional feminists? Absolutely not. But if we are to believe feminism is about self-empowerment and holding the keys to power, Palin fits the bill. If things go well for John McCain (followed by things not going so well for him) she could be our president for Chrissake!

Anyone who remembers the movie Bob Roberts will be familiar with Palin's type; the pseudo populist who subverts a progressive movement and co-opts it to fit his/her own image. Yup, that's Sarah. But the frustrating thing about the Bob Roberts and Sarah Palins of the world is this: they're typically most successful when the institutions they're co-opting are stagnating. And let's face facts: feminism has been suffering an identity crisis for years, and it's only gotten worse during the 2008 election cycle.

Take for instance Hillary Clinton. Whether or not they supported her, all feminists had something to say about the way Hillary was treated this election season. Second-wavers criticized the media for being sexist. You've treated Hillary unfairly, they shouted. You'd never accuse a man of whining. Third-wavers responded with a venom of their own. Stop playing the victim, they growled. Get some spike-heeled boots, Hil. Dig your heels into Joe Scarborough's fleshy neck. Make that beady-eyed Chris Matthews cry. And while you're at it, divorce your husband!

PAGE 2 / 2

GOTCHA, SUCKER Next up: your reproductive rights
One thing is certain, when Hillary Clinton lost her bid for the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama, the decades-long dominance of second-wave feminism was officially laid to rest. Sure, the second-wavers, of which Hillary is a card-carrying member, had a good run. But her reluctance to step aside in the midst of incontestable defeat—not to mention the shrill, illogical protestations of her PUMA fan club—threatened to turn everything she'd once stood for into a shameful parody. The sore losers in Hillary's camp, mainly members of the old feminist guard, just came across as angry. As Chris Rock hilariously pointed out last week: "The Patriots got a lot of points, too, but they lost to the Giants!"

If Palin were a man, we'd call her a meathead. A bully. She wouldn't be a hockey mom, She'd be a dumb jock. But who cares about the issues? Let's just watch her flex. And I'm sorry, Hillary loyalists, anyone who votes for McCain/Palin out of bitterness in November, is putting all women at risk. McCain doesn't even support equal pay for women. Instead, he believes creating a level playing field for women would just "lead to more lawsuits." And with Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild—and other self-described disgruntled feminists—switching teams to endorse McCain, the conversational void is growing even larger. If McCain and Palin win, they are likely to replace that cracked glass ceiling with concrete.

Frustratingly, no clear leader from the third wave has emerged to lead women out of the void—beyond silly conversations about Palin and Clinton—and into the future. Generally, when one movement becomes obsolete, its younger progeny step in to take the reins. But seemingly, the third-wavers are lacking the vision to grab the keys to the throne. Sure, the Riot Grrrl movement kicked ass. And we all love Bitch, Bust, The Suicide Girls, and Jezebel. But more and more, the leaders of the third wave seem to keep saying the same thing. We get it: women enjoy sex just as much as men. Isn't there something more profound you'd like to promote?

For all of their flaws (and, in the case of PUMAs, their stubbornness this election season) at least the second-wavers fought hard for equality in the workplace. But when dealing with third-wavers, feminism is often relegated to the trite. Hookup culture. Candidly blogging about blow jobs. Isn't joking about date rape fun?!?

I'm sorry, but fighting for the right to enjoy MILF porn with some dude you just picked up at a bar is hardly self-actualization. It's not the stuff of which movements are made. And more often than not, it seems simply a ploy to get male attention.

And speaking of porn, I'll admit it, I like watching it. But at least I recognize porn for what it is: a guilty pleasure. Downloading "Teen Bukake Tryouts" isn't furthering the plight of women. Let's make a deal; if you ladies agree to stop saying porn is liberating, I'll agree to stop watching it. (Uh ... or at least cut back). As Female Chauvinist Pigs author Ariel Levy points out, "raunch culture is not essentially progressive; it is essentially commercial."

So it's in the presence of this black hole, that we're confronted with Palin, an idiot's feminist, all style and no substance, who has no patience with Paglia or Gloria Steinhem since neither believe that "dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth at the same time." "They're secular elitists," Palin would proclaim when hidden away in the backwards corridors of her fundamentalist church.

(Photo: Getty Images)
Paglia writes that "Palin represent[s] an explosion of a brand new style of muscular American feminism." And in Palin's case "muscular feminism" is really quite literal. Our potential president-in-waiting is a chaste dominatrix who wants to bully her way into your private life and declare control of your uterus. She may not be able to talk the "first dude" into trimming his nasty pubic-hair goatee, but she knows how to skin a caribou. She played basketball in high school. And who cares if she's opposed to a woman's right to choose? She can tear the still-beating heart of a moose from its chest, all without breaking a nail.

As Palin demonstrates, muscular feminism isn't about progressiveness, equality, or integrity. It's about proving you can talk tough, just like the boys, even if what you're saying is totally retarded. If she were a man, we'd call her a meathead. A bully. She wouldn't be a hockey mom, she'd be a dumb jock. But who cares about the issues? Let's just watch her flex.

And did anyone notice how pretty she is? A pageant contestant. Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, thinks she's hot. She polls 10 points higher with men!

Yes, it's in the presence of this void that Sarah Palin has risen from the flames of the second- and third-wavers. The torch has been dropped, setting the whole damn succession ablaze. In the form of Palin, a new phoenix of vapidity has risen from its ashes. She can see Russia from her front door and America can see how pretty she looks on their flat screens. Surely this means she's qualified. Because when real ideas about feminism are missing, being pretty is all it needs to be about.

Clearly, Ms. Paglia, your pretty lady from Wasilla is playing pinch hitter to a movement that needs to throw her out of the game. But for the time being, muscular feminism needs a boneheaded leader, and Palin is its perfect star.

10/01/08 11:05 AM
Related: Politics


Because Robert Lapham knows more about feminism than Camille Paglia.

Old article btw, written September 10. Hardly Fresh Intelligence.

Posted by: Sai1or on October 2, 2008 1:47 PM

On the same day that Camille Paglia contributed her usual insane drivel, which no one, and I mean no one should ever take seriously, Salon editor Joan Walsh went on t.v. to say that she, too "admired Palin's feminism."

The mass delusion is sickening and dangerous.

Palin is a "feminist" because she knows how to shoot semi-automatic weapons to hunt animals? Or because she is ruthlessly ambitious (although not even qualified to be head of the PTA.)?

Palin is a neocon, a member of gopac, a religious extremist, and a Creationist. As a pawn of the right-wing, who parrots everything Geroge W. Bush has ever said (verbatim, down to pronouncing the word "nu-cu-lar",) she is opposed to anything pro-woman other than using her phoney "sassy, feistiness"...i.e., repeatedly winking at her audience during the VP debates to attempt to garner votes for her running-mate.

If elected, she and McCain would try to overturn Roe v Wade, prevent pay increases for women, and, as Palin has done in her own state, decrease funding for special needs children, force rape victims to pay for their own rape kits, and "counsel women to choose life." Perhaps Palin would also urge McCain to promote the witchdoctor priest who performed an exorcism on her (casting out her "witches") to public office. Poor, middle and working-class people (disproportionately females) would become even more disenfranchised, with the rich becoming mega-rich. The cost of the human suffering? Incalculable.

But the feminist tag is merely a smokescreen.

She is an ultra-right right neocon, and their agenda is her agenda. Anyone who gets distracted by her bogus persona is just thinking with her little clit.

Just as Margaret Thatcher functioned as Ronald Reagan's lapdog (or...pitbull), so would Sarah Palin in a McCain/Palin administration.

There are several things about her I would like answered:

WHY did she go to six colleges in six years to obtain a BS degree? Was it that she was incapable of getting along with anyone, or did she constantly flunk out?

How could anyone with a journalism degree be so incapable of forming a literate English sentence?

Is someone who holds a journalism degree from a mediocre college qualified to possibly become president?

Will Palin's numerous scandals (Troopergate, collectinging her travel per diem while staying at home) be investigated? And if she is found guilty/culpable, will that affect her ability to hold public office?

Is it true that "Sarah and Todd accepted Bristol's pregnancy? Or did they, in fact, send her to live with her aunt during her pregnancy, and to attend a high school 25 miles away from her home?

Why is her oldest son deploying to Iraq? Is he avoiding a jail sentence for his repeated theft of public property which he would then use to buy Oxycontin?

Why can Sarah Palin not be interviewed by as many journalists as any other candidate? She should be compelled to be interviewed by newspaper reporters, and do all the requisite Sunday morning talk shows.

The double standard of simultaneously treating her like a delicate flower ("Biden can't be too aggressive with her!") and her describing herself as a "pitbull" (and certainly behaving like one) says it all...If she is a "feminist" she should be capable of holding her own against Big, Bad Katie Couric or ""Charlie, Charlie, Charlie" Gibson.

Two more questions:

Where is PETA?

Why is Angelina Jolie still "undecided"? Is she, contrary to her assertions, still influenced by her father,a McCain supporter? For her to be "undecided" equals a McCain endorsement.

Posted by: Matahar on October 4, 2008 7:26 PM

Sarah Palin is just another crooked republican and she goes for the jugular vein , don't ever under estimate her . I think she would do anything to become vp . I hope they are watching her .

Posted by: dyanamite on October 8, 2008 5:11 PM