This was written by a liberal feminist about Sarah Palin and the election.
Feminists and the mystery of Sarah Palin
By Violet · Saturday, July 4th, 2009 · I don’t usually comment on other blogs; I have little enough time to keep my own gig in working order. But the other day I was over at I Blame The Patriarchy, where I was dismayed to find in the comment threads some of the same Palin-bashing that has become drearily familiar from the rest of the inner tubes. Now, IBTP is just about the best feminist blog going, with a genius proprietor and a thoughtful commentariat. Hence my dismay. Even here? I thought. Fortunately, some of the commenters there did try to set the record straight, though they got significant guff from others.
This is the comment I left, which I’m dragging back here to the smoking lounge for your perusal (the first bit in italics is a quote from Jill):
“Mang, when I wrote this post, I sure never expected it would result in blamer support for a skeevy antifeminist politician.”
It seems that some blamers know that the bullshit published about Palin (and unfortunately repeated here) was just that — bullshit. Palin considers herself a feminist, and except for the abortion thing, she’s more explicitly feminist than the average American. When a regular Jane with that kind of background proclaims her feminist sympathies, it doesn’t seem terribly productive to ridicule her or indulge in the misogynist slander put out by the political hacks running against her. I mean, sure, by the standards of pure feminism, she’s an enabling godbag. But so are most American women. On the other hand, by the standards of the Republican Party or evangelical Christianity, she’s Twisty Faster.
Pheenobarbidoll responded that abortion rights are a cornerstone too important to overlook, to which I replied:
Abortion rights are important. But it’s interesting that Hugo Schwyzer, a male “pro-life” feminist and former member of and financial contributor to Feminists For Life, is allowed into the feminist community. He even blogs at RH Reality Check, and has been befriended by Amanda Marcotte.
Schwyzer’s awkward pro-feminist/anti-abortion stance is the same as Sarah Palin’s, yet only Palin is reviled and ridiculed. How dare she call herself a feminist!
Someone else then loftily announced that Palin cannot be a feminist since she “believes in keeping children ignorant of the facts of their reproductive rights and responsibilities.” To which I replied:
She doesn’t believe that. She’s fully in favor of sex ed and contraception.
I imagine you consider yourself a feminist. What I’m wondering is why, if you’re a feminist, you don’t even give Palin the courtesy of finding out what she actually believes, rather than simply accepting the lies created by political hacks? This is bizarre to me. It’s really not difficult to google and discover that Sarah Palin is in favor of contraception and sex ed, that the whole “abstinence-only” thing is a smear spread by Obama supporters.
It’s a bit weird to drag all this back here to the lounge, but it’s the setup for the giant, rambling brain dump that’s about to follow. Sarah Palin’s surprise resignation has brought out the crazy again, and reading through the blogs I’m reminded of how much pure bullshit has been said and believed about her and continues to be said and believed. I’m reminded of how so many feminists seem possessed of a wholly irrational hatred for this woman.
This isn’t going to be the kind of post where I sketch out a pattern and then give you The Key To Understanding It All. This is going to be more like a stream-of-consciousness tiptoe through the violets of my reclusive thought processes. I’ve been puzzling over this stuff since last August. One reason I’ve written as many posts as I have about Palin is because I’m so baffled by the reaction to her. I can’t figure it out. It’s like quantum entanglement or dark energy: I make myself sick trying to understand it and worry that I’ll die before I get it sorted. (I know: Xanax.)
Of course, the first answer you’ll get if you ask feminists why they hate Sarah Palin is that “it’s because she ____” — and then fill in the blank with the lie of choice: made rape victims pay for their own kits, is against contraception or sex ed, believes in abstinence-only, thinks the dinosaurs were here 4000 years ago, doesn’t believe in global warming, doesn’t believe in evolution, is stupid and can’t read, etc., etc., etc., etc.
But none of those things is true. None of them.
Which brings me to my first puzzlement: why don’t people bother to find out what Sarah Palin really believes? I don’t mean people as in the usual sexist freaks; I mean feminists.
Sarah Palin is only the second woman in the history of this country to run on a major party’s presidential ticket. That alone makes her, to me, a fascinating figure worthy of serious investigation. When McCain announced Palin as his choice for VP, I immediately tried to find out as much about her as I could. I wanted to know who she was, what she believed, what her politics were. It never occurred to me that this interest would make me in any way unusual among feminists, but apparently it did. Apparently most feminists — at least the ones online — are content to just take the word of the frat boys at DailyKos or the psycho-sexists at Huffington Post. That amazes me. Aren’t you even interested in who she really is? I want to ask. She’s only the second woman on a presidential ticket in our whole fricking history!
But even weirder is what happens when you try to replace the myths with the truth. If you explain, “no, she didn’t charge rape victims,” your feminist interlocutor will come back with something else: “she’s abstinence-only!” No, you say, she’s not; and then the person comes back with, “she’s a creationist!” and so on. “She’s an uneducated moron!” Actually, Sarah Palin is not dumb at all, and based on her interviews and comments, I’d say she has a greater knowledge of evolution, global warming, and the Wisconsin glaciation in Alaska than the average citizen.
But after you’ve had a few of these myth-dispelling conversations, you start to realize that it doesn’t matter. These people don’t hate Palin because of the lies; the lies exist to justify the hate. That’s why they keep reaching and reaching for something else, until they finally get to “she winked on TV!” (And by the way: I’ve been winked at my whole life by my grandmother, aunts, and great-aunts. Who knew it was such a despicable act?)
The only thing Palin is commonly accused of that is actually true is her anti-abortion stance, though, as I’ve pointed out several times, her political position is that “the will of the people” should decide the law. She has also expressed sympathy for women choosing abortion and has said that she is totally opposed to any woman ever being criminalized for it. I’m not pretending she’s anything other than what she is (an adamant “pro-lifer”), but I am trying to be as clear and honest as I can be about her actual stance.
The fact is, that stance alone is not enough to explain the kind of frenzied hatred and feminist repudiation that Palin has attracted. Notice the example of Hugo Schwyzer, who, as I pointed out in my comment at IBTP, is allowed to call himself a feminist and even cross-post at RH Reality Check — while Sarah Palin is endlessly ridiculed and reviled for having the same beliefs. Notice, too, that the Republican Party (and even the Democratic Party) is full of other “pro-life” politicians, none of whom have ever been crucified and slandered Palin-style.
Speaking of slander, that brings me to my next big puzzlement: what is it with the feminists who just freely make shit up about Palin? The lies had to start somewhere, and they didn’t all hatch in the bowels of the Obama campaign (though a bunch of them did). Some of them were incubated by feminists, particularly the ones about Palin being an anti-sex “purity queen,” the kind of batshit Christian who believes in Purity Balls and abstinence pledges and is opposed to sex ed. None of that is true.
When I first started investigating Palin, I was very relieved to discover that she’s not nearly as nutty as she might be, given that she’s a Christian. I was pleased to learn that she’s not one of those fundies who thinks wives have to submit or that Adam and Eve rode on dinosaurs. She’s not into that whacked-out purity or abstinence-only stuff. That’s good. It’s good that she’s not a nutjob. So…why aren’t other feminists also happy that she’s not a nutjob? Why do they, in fact, spread lies to make her seem worse than she is?
Are people simply confused about the differences between Christians? Do they think all Christians are alike? I doubt it. I’m no godbag and I personally wish that Christianity would evaporate from the face of the earth, but I still recognize that not all Christians are alike. I think most other people do, too. I think most people in this country understand that Tennessee snake handlers don’t go to Catholic mass, and that the Quiverfull people are not the same as the Episcopalians. Being a Christian, even a conservative Christian, doesn’t automatically mean you’re a young earth creationist in a calico dress with a purity ring on your finger.
Besides, I know for a fact that the feminists spreading the lies about Palin knew they were spreading lies. Not to tell tales out of school, but: they knew. They were supplied with the correct information, and they chose to lie anyway. Why?
Was it just about electing Obama? Were feminists simply willing to commit any slander necessary to elect the Chosen One? That’s a likely explanation, but here again: we’re talking about feminists. Feminists doing this — slandering a woman, and doing so in unmistakably sexist terms. After all, caricaturing Palin as a purity queen (Bible Spice, Sexy Puritan) is just the flip side of caricaturing her as a porn queen. As I’ve said before, it’s like the NAACP sponsoring a lynching. The mind boggles.
Even more mind-boggling are the attacks that don’t even bother with false claims about policy or beliefs, but just go straight for free-floating misogynistic rage. Ridiculing her hair, clothes, makeup, voice, body, womb. “Sarah Palin is a cunt” — good one! Calling her a bimbo — good one! Calling her a fucking whore — good one! Fantasizing about her being gang-raped — good one! And all this from feminists. Forget the NAACP sponsoring a lynching; this is like the NAACP ripping off their masks to reveal that they’ve been replaced by white supremacist pod people.
Think back to the reactions to Sarah Palin’s speech at the convention. Remember the gal at Jezebel whose head throbbed with hate blood as she listened to Palin speak? The one who said she wanted to “murk that cunt”? What the hell is that? I cannot figure it out. I look and look, and it’s like trying to see someone else’s hallucination. No matter how hard I squint, I can’t see whatever it is they’re looking at. What is so horrifying?
My own reaction to Palin’s convention speech was the polar opposite. I can honestly say that, aside from Nixon’s resignation speech, Sarah Palin’s address at the convention is the only Republican speech I have ever enjoyed. Or even been much interested in. I don’t agree with Republicans on politics — not by a long shot — but as a person, I found Palin charming in a Harry Truman, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Erin Brockovich kind of way. How could you not? Especially after the goons had spent the previous weekend in a misogyny fest of lurid speculation and grotesque sexual insults about her and her family. I was proud of her for her courage, as well as for her personal accomplishments as a working-class regular person who went into politics and succeeded.
Her speech also delivered some welcome punctures to the national gasbag known as Obama. And that’s another thing: it has not escaped my attention that many of the things Palin is accused of, falsely, are actually true of Obama. This is a guy who, as a U.S. senator from Illinois, didn’t even know which Senate committees he was on or which states bordered his own. (And don’t even get me started on Joe “The Talking Donkey” Biden, who thinks FDR was president during the stock market crash and that people watched TV in those days.) I’m not saying Obama’s a moron, but he’s sure as hell no genius. People say Sarah Palin rambles; excuse me, but have you actually heard Obama speak extemporaneously? As for being a diva, surely we all remember the Possomus sign and the special embroidered pillow on the Obama campaign plane. The fact is, Obama is an intellectually mediocre narcissist with a thin resume who’s lost without a teleprompter and whose entire campaign had all the substance and gravity of a Pepsi commercial. Yet people say Sarah Palin is a fluffy bunny diva.
So: are we back to Obama after all? Is this a transference thing? Are people subconsciously frustrated by the fact that Obama is an empty suit, and are they transferring that rage to Palin?
As you see, I don’t have the answers.
Awhile ago I came up with what I think is the most plausible explanation yet when I said:
Sarah Palin is the Designated Hate Receptacle for self-described feminists. They know they’re not supposed to hate other women, but they do anyway because their feminism is not quite as strong as their patriarchal brainwashing. Sarah Palin is the culture’s designated Hate Receptacle.
I’m not entirely satisfied with that, but it’s the best I can come up with. If we add to that the subconscious Obama resentment-transference, perhaps on a kind of sliding rheostat thing, we may be getting close to a solution.
What’s alarming is that the need for a female Hate Receptacle exists, even with feminists. But that would explain why Palin haters are so reluctant to give up hating her. It would explain why they’re so resistant to the truth. They don’t want to find out that the lies are lies; they don’t want to be disabused. They need a hate receptacle, and so they need Palin to be the sum of all things they fear.
One other observation, and then I’ll quit: it is striking to me how much of the political discourse in 2008 revolved around people who don’t exist. The main players last year, if you recall, were Obama, the genius messiah whose perfection and purity would save the planet; Hillary, the evil racist lesbian who killed Vince Foster with her bare hands before plotting the Iraqi invasion and then attempting to have Obama assassinated; and Sarah Palin, a crazed dominionist who hates polar bears and personally arranges for Christian girls to be raped by their fathers just so she can charge them for their rape kits.
None of these characters are real, of course. Yet, weirdly, people were much more interested in these fictional beings than they were in the real individuals who were vying for political office last year. There were times in 2008 where I felt that the entire national discourse had become one of those scripted faux-reality shows, where nothing is real and the producers edit everybody into barking stereotypes. And the people at home just watch and point and snicker. We’re actually having an election here, I kept wanting to say. These are the people who want to run the country. Don’t you want to know who they really are?