If you make your bed you best lie in it. Sarah Palin, leader of the teabag wing of the Republican Party (and nominal leader of "Real America") is plying her new found role as a victim. I thought it was only "liberals" and "minorities" who played the "victim" card?
From Palin's fitting interview with Oprah Winfrey (a professional confessor and emotional surrogate to soccer mom's everywhere), to her new book--a project closer to historical fiction than political autobiography--Palin has been rewriting months old history. Apparently, confused, manipulated, and possessed of the best intentions, Palin was actually used for political gain by the McCain campaign, horribly treated by the evil mainstream media (damn those questions about magazines and reading habits!), and tarred as a scapegoat for the failed Republican 2008 presidential bid. Now it seems that Sarah has been made a victim of sexism. Right Wing Populist People's Evidence number one: the cover of Newsweek.
I will not wade into the muddy and murky waters of defining "sexism" as either deed, act, thought, ethical system, or belief. For my purposes, what is irony heaped upon irony is that Palin, the standard bearer for Conservative Feminism (read: by most definitions her policy positions are anathema to the interests of women as most commonly understood) has now discovered "victimhood." Doubly ironic that Michelle Maulkin, noted defender of women's interests that she is, has stepped up to the plate to defend Palin with the late discovery that unlike the Yeti, gender discrimination against women may in fact exist...but only when Republicans are "victimized." Contrary to this position, I would suggest that Palin's picture on the cover of Newsweek is not sexist precisely because the sexualization of Sarah Palin is ultimately of her own doing.
In much the same way that Palin decried the politicalization of her family after she herself used them as a campaign prop, Palin's all-American shtick was certainly based on her "beauty" as there is no realm of reason within which Palin's appeal could be based on intelligence, experience, or gravitas.
As many have noted, the Leave it Beaver, soccer mom narrative that Palin fulfilled as a culture warrior for Red State America is based on a type of perverse balance between female submission and male domination. Within this imagination, the traditional, obedient wife knows her rightful place in the home. She is to obey her husband and follow his lead while fulfilling his emotional and physical desires. With a 21st century feminist twist, Palin is also a superwoman--she supports her family financially all the while never usurping a husband's authority as rightful head of the family unit. Contrary to many a song, verse, and story that comprise black popular culture, it isn't black women who are the "strong" ones. Oh no, it is conservative wonder moms everywhere, the Sarah Palins of America who bring home the bacon from Walmart, take care of the kids and grandkids, and still manage to look sexy for their husbands when they come home after a long day of hunting and mudding.
The sexualization of Sarah Palin fits perfectly within the Right, neo-fascist Populism to which she is heir. As we saw in Nazi Germany, the Lost Cause/Redemptionist fantasies of the Post-Civil War South, and fascist Italy, women are symbols of the state to be protected while always being subservient to men. Here, women have agency as long as it serves the goals of men. Women and their sexuality belong to their husbands. By implication, in the conservative imagination, the sexuality of women is something that all men are obligated to protect. As also found in the most traditional and politicized veins of radical Islam--a neat parallel given the "war" between Christian Nationalism and the Muslim world--there is an odd attraction and aversion here that borders on misogyny. Women are coveted, dominated, wanted, and sexualized, while serving simultaneously as perpetual threats to the moral rectitude and strength of men.
From the Virginity Balls of Red State America where young evangelical, Conservative, Christian teenage girls "pledge" their virginity to their fathers, to Palin's strategic use of her MILFish qualities to inspire the masturbatory fantasies of young Republican activists everywhere, sex is central to the Conservative political impulses that nourish Palin's base. In total, the marketing of Sarah Palin is dependent upon her performing the role of Red State virgin/whore. Simply put, if there was a Christian Domme version of Playboy, Palin would most certainly have been centerfold of the year.
Bonus: Given that Sarah Palin is an object of lurid desire and fantasy, it is fitting that she is now part of the proud tradition of "slash fiction" with the website Sarahpalinerotica.com
Here is an excerpt from a debauched Sarah Palin themed story to start your day and titillate your desires. Enjoy.
What Sarah likes most about skirts is that they fall just far enough above the knee to catch a man’s attention. If she’s learned anything living in the world of men, it’s that a woman must always catch a man’s attention because without a man’s attention, a woman has nothing. She is nothing. What makes Sarah happiest right now is that she has the attention of a great many men. If her favorite thing is telling herself she will be the next president of the United States each time she passes a reflective surface, her second favorite thing is to sit in a conference room full of men in their crisp, slightly sweaty dress shirts and designer slacks with their earnestness and condescension and turn away from the table just enough to slowly cross and uncross her legs. She’ll allow her eyes to crinkle, the corners of her mouth turning up slightly and she’ll lean forward just enough for her blouse to part. She’ll watch them and the predictable way their eyes follow the toned muscles of her calves up to her breasts. They’ll clear their throats and adjust their ties and shift uncomfortably in their seats. She knows what they’re thinking—they’re thinking if they play their cards right, they too could be fucking the next president of the United States.
If her favorite thing is telling herself she will be the next president of the United States and her second favorite thing is toying with boys in conference rooms, then her third favorite thing is to read the things people say about her. When she’s flying between cities and the men in suits are buzzing around planning the future of the world, she loves to sit with her laptop, alone, reading about her inexperience and right wing politics and the tanning bed in the Governor’s Mansion which, it must be known, is one of the few places where she can have a moment to herself, and as such is a crucial part of the gubernatorial process. The caustic barbs and Photoshopped images and conspiracy theories about the maternity of her youngest don’t bother her. They’re a turn-on. They are talking about the next president of the United States, she thinks. And they just don’t get it. I could give a shit about reproductive health or alternative energy or tax cuts because when the old man kicks it, sooner than later, I will be fucking in the fucking East Wing.
One of the GOP aides who’s been assigned to Sarah is an eager young man with an earnest, serious haircut named Conor, with one “n.” He is tall and handsome in that uptight, muscular manner unique to Republican men whose bodies have not yet given way to too much bourbon, too much red meat and too many cigars. Conor recently graduated from one of those elite East Coast schools that the Republicans love to criticize but always attend. He has not been out of school long enough to realize that a degree in political science teaches one exactly nothing about politics and this ignorance is somehow endearing to Sarah. Conor is not very bright but he is good at getting things. He always knows the location of her phone, husband, glasses and suit jacket. He also knows how she takes her coffee and maintains custody of a pack of Marlboro Reds at all times. These are not inconsequential skills.
On those nights when Sarah is alone, when Todd is back in Alaska looking after their brood, Sarah is not really alone and it is not a well-kept secret. Amongst her staffers, it is not Trig Palin’s maternity in question but rather, the boy’s paternity. Some time after midnight, after she’s slipped out of her suit and set her glasses on the night stand, and she’s watching the image of a late night talk show host flicker silently on the TV screen, she’ll hear a soft tap at the door. She’ll wait for a second knock, and then she’ll open the door and let Conor in because in addition to getting things, he’s also fairly adept at giving things. He’ll look both ways, making sure the hallway is empty because he doesn’t yet realize that there are no secrets on the campaign trail. When he thinks the coast is clear, he will slide past the door and lean against it as it shuts. He’s always wearing jeans and a t-shirt and Sarah enjoys seeing the boy out of uniform.
“Madame Governor,” he’ll say, shivering because Sarah likes to keep her hotel room frigidly cold. It reminds her of home.