This weekend I couldn't stop thinking about why Sarah Palin, a woman I've never met, upset me so viscerally. I was appalled from day one by the way she used her motherhood as a leadership credential but, after seeing Palin's face splashed on several tabloid covers, it hit me: Palin is just another link in the Brangelina chain of fetishizing motherhood. It's not enough to be successful as a woman. No, it's never enough to just be successful. You must procreate, because as Us Weekly editor Janice Min once said to the NY Observer, "It's almost un-American at this point to say you don't want children, especially from an image perspective. It's almost like saying you're a Communist."As Dodai noted last month when discussing the rash of unformed infant faces staring out at us from every tabloid corner, "I hate, HATE the predisposed notion that the lack of a Y chromosome means I must involuntarily drool at the sight of an infant. Cute babies are cute, but some of them look like undone suckling pigs that need to go back in the oven." Which sounds angrier, but reminiscent of, what Sylvia Plath wrote in the Bell Jar when fretting over the fact that she wanted to be a famous poet instead of "devoting myself to baby after fat pulling baby": "I smelt a mingling of Pablum and sour milk and salt-cod stinky diapers and felt sorrowful and tender. How easy having babies seemed to the women around me! Why was I so unmaternal and apart?" Plath wrote almost fifty years ago. And what I'm wondering is how is it, in 2008, that things seemed to have changed so little when it comes to the mommy game. How did motherhood become the only acceptable expression of female power? The message that Sarah Palin gives when she spends the first 50% of her Vice Presidential candidacy acceptance speech talking about her role as wife and mother is the same message that tabloids give off when they go absolutely bonkers about star spawn: you might be successful in your given field, but all that means nothing unless you've given birth. (And then dieted down back to pre-baby weight within weeks.) And it's why Palin is ultimately so much more palatable for many people than Hillary ever was: her continued fertility is in our faces 24/7. Allegra Maud Goldman is a coming of age novel that takes place in the 30s. The eponymous main character is about 12 years old, and her cousin Sonia informs her that she'll never really be happy until she has a baby nursing at her breast. "What a disgusting notion," Allegra says. "You mean, because of being female nothing else will ever make you happy?" And Sonia replies, "Not really happy. Not in the same way." How sad for us that in the aughts, that still seems to be the prevailing pop cultural notion of female satisfaction. Allegra Maud Goldman The Bell Jar Earlier: Why Sarah Palin Incites Near Violent Rage In Normally Reasonable Women Sarah Palin Joins Angelina, Jamie Lynn, As Cover Moms With Probs 'Us Weekly' Editor: Shunning Kids Makes You A Communist I Am Fucking Sick & Tired Of Baby Bumps
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Didn't Sylvia Plath have children, though?