I hadn’t been following the women’s movement all that closely since its relatively sedate days of “equal pay for equal work.” Yes, I knew that at some point rather long ago it had been taken over by a radical fringe on the Left with some zany ideas that had turned off the vast majority of women—and men—and had given the movement a bad name. But I had no idea.
Repeat, shouting: I HAD NO IDEA!
The nomination of Sarah Palin has acted as a sort of plaque discloser for the display of a fulminating rage which until now I had assumed was directed by these activists solely (and all too often inappropriately) towards the men they felt had oppressed, assaulted, and otherwise done them wrong. Now I observe the same sort of fury directed at other women—that is, at one rather slender self-described “pit bull with lipstick” from Alaska who happens to be running for the Vice-Presidency of the United States on the Republican ticket.
Now, I’m not utterly naive. I went to junior high school; I know how mean girls can be to each other. But that was small potatoes compared to the poisonous (and sexist) invective currently being spewed forth by women on the Left.
It’s not only women doing this, of course. But just as members of minority groups sometimes feel they can criticize each other in ways not allowed to outsiders, the women involved in sending forth this river of bile must feel it’s okay for them to say things towards another woman that would be grounds for their righteous indignation if uttered by a man.
Wilson’s piece is not a parody. Nor does it represent the isolated ravings of a person who has been driven over the edge by Sarah’s ascendance to national prominence. No, to judge from the myriad seemingly female (although it’s impossible to know for sure online) commenters writing the rough equivalent of “You go, girl!” in response to Wilson’s anti-Palin invective, there is a certain subset of women who are only to happy to agree with her.
Here are Wilson’s opening paragraphs to give you an idea of the—uh—flavor of the piece. The tone continues more-or-less unabated for a total of about 1400 steaming words:
Sarah Palin may be a lady, but she ain’t no woman.
I confess, it was pretty riveting when John McCain trotted out Sarah Palin for the first time. Like many people, I thought, “Damn, a hyperconservative, fuckable, Type A, antiabortion, Christian Stepford wife in a ‘sexy librarian’ costume — as a vice president? That’s a brilliant stroke of horrifyingly cynical pandering to the Christian right. Karl Rove must be behind it.”
Palin may have been a boost of political Viagra for the limp, bloodless GOP (and according to an ABC/Washington Post poll she has created a boost in McCain’s standing among white women to a 53 over Obama’s 41). But ideologically, she is their hardcore pornographic centerfold spread, revealing the ugliest underside of Republican ambitions — their insanely zealous and cynical drive to win power by any means necessary, even at the cost of actual leadership.
What is going on here, besides a particularly intense and sexualized form of Palin Derangement Syndrome? I submit that it’s an example of what can happen to the ideologue who so closely identifies with a special interest group that any member of said group who steps outside the boundaries of the party line becomes not just the Other, but an apostate.
There’s nothing “civil” about civil wars, is there? Such a betrayer must not only be shunned but verbally flagellated. In the olden days the person might even have been stoned.
This is happening because the Left recognizes that Sarah Palin is an effective politician who threatens to help defeat their favored candidate. But there’s much more going on.
Her personal rejection of abortion seems to be part of it. Perhaps she taps into the latent guilt and ambivalence many women may understandably feel about their own complex reproductive histories. But I don’t think the hatred of Palin would rise to its present level but for one simple fact: Palin is beautiful.
In a strange irony, woman who would eviscerate any male who for one moment suggested that a female dressing provocatively and walking in a dark alley late at night was “asking for it” feel free to remark on Palin as “fuckable,” and to refer to her selection by the GOP as their “hardcore pornographic centerfold spread.”
It’s synergistic; something about Palin’s combination of brains, charm, beauty, conservative viewpoints, and proletarian pastimes has brought out an almost unprecedented verbal viciousness in women who by all rights should be proud of her achievements as the second female Vice-Presidential nominee in history. Is this not a goal for which the woman’s movement has labored for so long? Apparently not—if she’s a conservative, and a charming and beautiful one at that.
This seems to be experienced by some as an almost unbearable dilemma, leading a few of Palin’s critics to deny Palin’s very identity as a woman even as they proclaim and deride it. This makes a certain twisted sense: if a feminist defines herself as being for women, and if Palin is a woman with unacceptable views who nevertheless is on the verge of achieving power, then it solves a knotty problem to declare her to be an unwoman.
Thus we get Wilson’s bizarre opening salvo,”Sarah Palin may be a lady, but she ain’t no woman.” Wilson and her sisters get to define the parameters of womanhood, you see, and to ban those who don’t meet their PC criteria.
Lest you think Wilson is an isolated example of this type of thinking, I submit a piece that appeared at the website “On Faith,” under the aegis of Newsweek and the Washington Post. It was written by Professor of the History of Religions Wendy Doniger, who teaches at the University of Chicago Divinity School, and it contains the following astounding line referring to Palin [emphasis mine]: “Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman.”
Thankfully, there are a few feminist voices who beg to differ. Camille Paglia is one:
Conservative though she may be, I felt that Palin represented an explosion of a brand new style of muscular American feminism… It is nonsensical and counterproductive for Democrats to imagine that pro-life values can be defeated by maliciously destroying their proponents. And it is equally foolish to expect that feminism must for all time be inextricably wed to the pro-choice agenda. There is plenty of room in modern thought for a pro-life feminism…
But the one fundamental precept that Democrats must stand for is independent thought and speech. When they become baying bloodhounds of rigid dogma, Democrats have committed political suicide.
Although I certainly don’t always agree with Paglia, here she has shown both great courage and keen foresight, acting as a Cassandra for the Left and for feminism. But Paglia might remember Cassandra’s sad fate: despite her power to predict the future, no one would heed her warnings.
[ADDENDUM: It’s international, apparently. Here’s another, this time from Canada: “No, she isn’t even female really….Palin has a toned-down version of the porn actress look favoured by this decade’s woman, the overtreated hair, puffy lips and permanently alarmed expression….]