“Palinization:” Does She Deserve It?

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I try to not get too political in this blog–that is, I try to be as objective as possible. But in the interest of full disclosure, if you haven’t already guessed, I’m a liberal. I am, like many liberals, conservative about some matters, but I don’t try to press my opinions, liberal or conservative, on the whole world. Then there is the issue of my being a Muslim. Most people would assume that that makes me conservative, but there is plenty of room for difference of opinion in Islam.

But that’s not what I’m here to write about today. Today I’m writing about the phenomenon of Sarah Palin, who is conservative to the bone. Newsweek put her on the cover of its November 23rd issue and its readers went wild. (Click here for the cover image and for Newsweek’s official statement regarding it.) Newsweek always shows graphs on its Letter to the Editor page about the response to its stories (and sometimes its covers as well). In this case, 99% of its correspondence was about Palin and 98.6% were critical of the folks at Newsweek for how they portrayed her. To show you that conservatives and liberals sometimes agree, here is the letter from David Stewart of the Prairie Region of the National Organization for Women:

“Your sexist cover offends not just Sarah Palin, but women everywhere. The efforts to reduce her to a cartoon are the same misogynist garbage thrown at Senator Clinton in the 2008 presidential campaign. You ridicule her, post offensive pictures of her, talk about her clothes, you do not view her as a serious person.”

While I didn’t expect–and wouldn’t want–NOW to rejoice about negative depictions of Palin, I was surprised to see her championed by a member of NOW. But then again, the writer is a man. (And then again, why do I assume that he’s a liberal?) Color me prejudiced, but I didn’t even know that a man could be a member of NOW, let alone hold a leadership position in it. And maybe this is a good example of why one shouldn’t be. He is bending so far backwards to be completely objective that he is not even noticing that Palin brings a lot of her negative publicity on herself.

Or am I just displaying my liberal (and Democratic) roots here? Well, then so be it. I can’t always be objective.

However, I think Julia Baird of Newsweek was attempting to be in her follow-up commentary in the latest issue: “The ‘Palinization’ of Palin.” {According to Baird, this term has been concocted to mean “being viciously attacked for being female and Republican.”) She agrees that sexism in the media “distracts from what is important. By perennially casting women as decorative, not substantive, it sidelines them from debates and trivializes their ideas.” This happens to conservative and liberal women alike, no matter what conservative pundits are asserting lately. (See video below.)

Media Matters, on whose site I found this video, decided to assess the Gretchen Carlson’s assertion that Nancy Pelosi doesn’t get much “scrutiny” because “if you’re a conservative woman, you get more attacks.” It found the following comments about Pelosi. If this is called “scrutiny,” I’d hate to see what nasty name-calling is.

  1. – On the November 10 edition of Fox and Friends, radio host Laura Ingraham said that “Pelosi basically did everything except sell her own body” to pass health care reform.
  2. – On Nov. 4 on the O’Reilly Factor, Dennis Miller said Pelosi had a “sub-reptilian intellect” and likened her face to a “lizard laying on a hot rock.”
  3. – On October 30, Fox and Friends laughingly re-enacted protesters calling for Pelosi to “burn in hell.”
  4. – On October 21, Bill O’Reilly mocked Pelosi, saying, “If there wan’t Botox involved, with all due respect, there might have been more expression” on her face.
  5. – On August 6, Glenn Beck joked about putting poison in Pelosi’s wine.
  6. – On May 20, Hannity guest Jay Thomas said, “I think if you waterboarded Nancy Pelosi, she wouldn’t admit to plastic surgery.”
  7. – On May 19, Dennis Miller called her a “train wreck” and a “shrieking harridan magpie.”

[Source: Feministing]

I, for one, would love to see a moratorium on all sexist attacks, on both sides. As Baird states, “Once we stop being distracted by fluffy Palin stories and start concentrating on what she says, you realize why we are so easily distracted.” Okay, I’ll say it: she has nothing of substance to say. I wouldn’t be surprised if conservatives were relieved that she gets this kind of attention because if the spotlight was on her leadership abilities or political acumen, she’d be less appealing. It’s easier to whine about how she’s been unfairly treated than to answer questions about her ability to govern or legislate, if she were to be elected to public office.

Maybe this is much ado about nothing. Maybe she doesn’t have any more political ambitions, but can’t bear to leave the stage. It’s heady stuff, being in the public eye. And as long as Palin keeps spouting her inanities, her admirers will still be lapping them up.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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