Jezebel muses today on what it is about Sarah Palin that is so absolutely enraging. In particular, "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."
I think there's more to be said on this point: Palin's ascent and presentation is one that is thoroughly traditional, not feminist. Her career and views seem to be ones of an incredibly ambitious woman who has had to play by some incredibly confining rules set up by the boys for women like her. In other words, "Okay, we'll finally let women take leadership roles, but here are the rules, so you don't get out of control."
What are the ways in which Palin embodies these sexist rules?
- She's number 2, not the top of the ticket.
- Her very appointment is a testament to the paucity of women leaders in the GOP -- had there been more choices, perhaps McCain would have chosen someone with fewer drawbacks.
- She's a mother of 5 children, so her "woman" credentials cannot be challenged.
- She constantly downplays her ambition and her accomplishments, even though the ambition is oozing out of her ears.
- She dumbs herself down.
- She embraces the frantic mommy role, both literally, and figuratively for her leadership roles.
To me, Palin seems not like a trailblazing, hard-charging battering ram, but a gray fascimile of that ideal, and one that is neatly confined into the small allowed space for her to exist, completely controlled for the comfort of the men who created those rules.
The enraging part of her candidacy is that Republicans are trying to claim feminist points via this very traditional woman. This is yet another Big GOP Lie.
Palin is not a woman who worked to challenge the rules -- she is not someone who, for example, worked for the right and social acceptance of a woman not having children. Instead, she has embraced those rules and put her own personal political ambitions ahead of any concern for a longer-term greater good for women in general. Few can be faulted for this, and women are already chastized for thinking of themselves instead of others plenty, but she nevertheless has done this.
By obeying the GOP rules, she reinforces them. In a way, her appointment is a confining message to other similarly situated women: see, this is what you need to get to VP - a husband, kids, PTA mom credentials, a pretty face, self-effacement. etc.
By following those rules, she is co-opted into the patriarchal system that set them up and becomes complicit in their rigid enforcement. She hinders the long-term future opportunites for women of diverse lifestyles and choices, including possibly her own daughters. In fact, she harms those opportunities by allowing herself to become the posterwoman for these rules more than she would if she had rejected the VP offer and remained in relative obscurity. That makes her an Auntie Tom.