I have to admit, I have never understood why Sarah Palin causes such antipathy among liberals, and especially liberal women. And, like the Washington City Paper's Amanda Hess, I think she's leading too many liberal women astray.
I have written ad nauseum and seemingly ad infinitum since Palin's VP nomination that it's still ugly sexism when directed at conservative women. David Letterman's "jokes" about Palin's daughters — which, as Rachel Sklar pointed out today, Barack Obama suggested people stop doing last September — struck me last week as pathetic and gross. Just because he said it was supposedly about Bristol — you know, 'cause she's obviously "slutty" or something — doesn't make it ok. Just because you don't like Sarah Palin or think she's using it to score political points with her base doesn't excuse the jokes in retrospect. On this point, Anna and I vociferously disagree — I think it's pretty easy to defend Sarah Palin because I don't want those jokes told about the Obama girls; because I've commented repeatedly on how shitty it was when Rush Limbaugh and John McCain made them about Chelsea Clinton; and because I come from a family and a background where you just don't stand for people insulting your family or your friends. Maybe she's playing it up — she is, after all, a politician and every politician is going to try for a homer on an easy pitch like Letterman handed her — and maybe she's pissed (the fact that Todd Palin said anything after months of basically being told to keep his trap shut is, to me, telling) that Letterman went there, sexually with her daughters. Either way, I still think it's gross and indefensible.
According to Hess, she and I apparently have far more in common with conservative columnist (and, full disclosure, former Glamocracy colleague) Amanda Carpenter than we do with the Huffington Post's liberal Katharine Zaleski. Having "worked" with Carpenter, that's a phrase I honestly never expected to write. Hess writes:
Carpenter, of course, took Palin's side, arguing that the comment was unacceptable, and further, that Sarah Palin had bolstered her women's issues cred by taking a stand over the comments. "It's hard for women in general when accusations like this are made, dirty jokes and things. There's always a conflict of-do you turn your head, or do you make a statement about it and push back? And even when you make a statement, you're accused of manufacturing outrage," Carpenter said.
Which, of course, is what many people accused her of doing when she showed outrage at the "joke." Carpenter added that quite a lot of women — i.e., those Middle America soccer moms that voted for Obama that the GOP would like to feel alienated from the Democratic party — were happy to see Palin stand up and say it wasn't right. And that I don't doubt.
Hess breaks down Zaleski's argument like this:
1. Obama's girls are off-limits, but Palin's are fair game: "If she really wants to make this an issue, she won't make this about herself and her family all the time, her family who she persistently trots out there, and her daughter who she made a statement about on Thursday."
Read: "Some girls deserve it."
2. Palin started it by making comments about Barack Obama (who is also off-limits), which is why her daughter especially deserves it. "She stood there and watched people as they screamed ‘kill him' at Obama and ‘terrorist.'"
Read: "She was asking for it."
3. "I challenge people like Sarah Palin, like people you talk to on Fox News, to really condemn the language that's greater, this really reprehensible language, that's not just about Bristol Palin but that's about hate speech that's basically leading to actions which happened on Wednesday. That's what's disgusting."
Read: "Rape is not a real problem. You're exaggerating."
4. Letterman claims he had intended to make the joke about Bristol Palin, and we take David Letterman at his word.
Read: "Officer, I didn't know she was under 18."
So, basically, because some people said stuff about Obama at a rally six months ago and because Palin allows her daughters to be photographed and interviewed, Willow and Bristol Palin's sexuality is not off-limits; a news organization over which Palin has no control says worse things; and entertainer David Letterman's word that he didn't mean it like that is better than Palin's word that she was offended. Great.
And if that's not all bad enough that the situation makes too many of us look like hypocrites about sexism and statutory rape and gives the conservative movement a reason to say that, it also gave Obama-hating P.U.M.A. Amy Siskind yet another opportunity to bloviate about her self-serving, self-aggrandizing bullshit "4th Wave" of feminism that ignores all the issues the feminist movement has embraced except the end of sexism, sort of. It also ignores Katha Pollit's great historical analysis that shows the whole idea of "waves" is misapplied and kind of bullshit anyway.
How Sarah Palin Confuses Liberals Into Arguing Against Feminism [Washington City Paper]
Related: Pet Peeves [Charitini]
Todd Palin Is the Man for America Now [Esquire]
Letterman Quietly Ushers in the Next Wave of Feminism [Huffington Post]
Amber Waves of Blame [The Nation]
Earlier: Sarah Palin Thinks Letterman's Jokes About Her Looks Are Pathetic
Palins, David Letterman Continue To Take (Sometimes Cheap) Shots
Why Is It So Difficult To Defend Sarah Palin?
Sarah Palin: Feminist? Victim Of Sexist Smears? Or All Or None Of The Above?
Please, People: Stop Making Me Defend Sarah Palin
Which Came First: The Objectification Of Sarah Palin, Or The Mistrust In Her Competence?
Playboy On Conservative Women: "Castration Has Begun To Look Appealing"
Who You Calling A Bad Feminist?
White House Council On Women And Girls Is Subject Of Criticism