For Jezebel’s 10th anniversary, we’re revisiting some classic posts from our archive. Here’s to the next ten.
I don’t like Sarah Palin. Maybe you noticed already! But I don’t like any politician who is diabolically anti-choice, who chases wolves down in aircraft only to shoot them when they tire, who supports tearing up the environment and increasingly privatized health care. What I’ve written on this site about Palin so far has been pretty restrained, considering what I feel for her privately could be described as violent, nay, murderous, rage. When Palin spoke on Wednesday night, my head almost exploded from the incandescent anger boiling in my skull.
And I’m not the only one! I had simultaneous IM conversations with many friends, who said things like, “she seems like a fucking monster” and “this feminist wants to murk that idiotic cunt.” The tone of the comments on our Palin acceptance speech live blog was pretty similar; in fact, this comment says it all: “I want to punch her in the face and ruin her shit. Fuck her for ruining this historic moment. THANKS SARAH, THE HOTTEST VP.”
And the question now is why? Why does this particular pitbull in lipstick infuriate—and scare us—so viscerally? Why does her very existence make us feel—and act—so ugly? New York Times columnist Judith Warner calls Palin’s nomination a “thoroughgoing humiliation for America’s women,” because “Palin’s not intimidating, and makes it clear that she’s subordinate to a great man.” Palin, who obviously is incredibly ambitious, masks that ambition behind her PTA placard and “folksy” talk. In the oft-replayed tape from earlier this summer, when asked about the Vice Presidency, Palin notoriously said, ‘”I’m used to bein’ very productive and workin’ real hard in an administration and we want to make sure that that ‘V.P.’ slot would be a fruitful type of position.”
I think what Ms. Warner is dancing around, but not saying outright, is that for a certain kind of feminist, Palin is a symbol for everything we hoped was not true in the world anymore. We hoped that we didn’t have to hide our ambition or pretend that our goals were effortlessly achieved (“I never really set out to be in public affairs, much less to run for this office,” the Governor has said.) We hoped that we could be mothers without having our motherhood be our defining characteristic, as it seems to be for Palin. We hoped that we did not have to be perfect beauty queens to get to where we wanted to be in life, that our looks, good or bad, wouldn’t matter. Whether or not you think it’s appropriate to comment on Palin’s appearance, the fact of her attractiveness exists, and is being used to her advantage by Republican sloganeers (“the hottest Governor in the coldest state,” et. al).
Keith Olbermann called Sarah Palin “Tracy Flick” after her speech on Wednesday, and I think that’s not a perfect parallel. Tracy, while completely ruthless (as Palin has shown herself to be so far with that nasty community organizer comment), never hid her ambition behind a polished veneer—it was as plain as the bows in her hair. No, I think the correct high school stereotype is of the homecoming queen.
For many of us looking back at high school, we can now feel a smug superiority towards the homecoming queen. Sure, she was pretty and popular in high school, catering to the whims of boys and cheering on their hockey games, but what happened to her after high school? Often, she popped out some kids and ended up toiling in some not particularly impressive job. We can look back and say, we might have been ambitious nerds in high school, but it ultimately paid off. What’s infuriating, and perhaps rage-inducing, about Palin, is that she has always embodied that perfectly pleasing female archetype, playing by the boys’ game with her big guns and moose-murdering, and that she keeps being rewarded for it. Our schadenfreude for the homecoming queen’s mediocrity has turned into white hot anger at her continued dominance.
The Mirrored Ceiling [NYT]