Katha Pollitt on Sarah Palin

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The rest of the world is watching us as our presidential election winds down. Der Spiegel, a foremost German news magazine, ran an interview on October 24th with Katha Pollitt, American poet, feminist, activist and columnist about her views on Sarah Palin. Here are parts of the interview:

SPIEGEL: For the first time in American history, both parties have had viable female contenders in their Presidential campaigns — Hillary Clinton ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination, Sarah Palin is now running for Vice President. Does that represent progress for women?

Pollitt:I can answer that in two very different ways. In some long-view world historical sense, I could say: We might look back in 500 years and realize that 2008 was the year that women began to come into their own in American politics. But right now I see it a little differently. Hillary Clinton was a candidate who represented a certain liberal feminism. If she had become president, our abortion rights would have been safe. Clinton would have made sure that the anti-discrimination laws were enforced, and she would have financed a lot of programs that are good for women.

SPIEGEL: What about Sarah Palin?

Pollitt:With her, we would get the opposite. Other than in terms of her “girls can do anything” image, I don’t see that her political goals will do female voters any good.

SPIEGEL: Sometimes even female politicians who don’t consider themselves feminists can provide a positive influence: Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a role model for many younger women who showed that women can wield power successfully.

Pollitt:Margaret Thatcher never said, “Vote for me because I am a wife and mother.” On the contrary, she didn’t present herself as relatable at all: She was the iron lady. Thatcher never made anything of her looks, she made very few concessions to conventional notions of femininity. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is all about those notions. She represents a very old image for America, the tough but beautiful frontier woman with a gun in one and and a baby in the other.

SPIEGEL: Still, Republicans are hoping to use Sarah Palin to attract female voters who were carrying Hillary Clinton’s torch …

Pollitt:I don’t think there are so many of these women, and I have looked pretty hard for them. You have a small group of Hillary fans who are extremely vocal. They really believe that Hillary Clinton was robbed of a nomination that was rightfully hers. These women have a whole narrative that puts the blame for Hillary’s loss on some combination of party skullduggery and media sexism. But most female Palin voters will be conservative white women who haven’t been paying a lot of attention to the race so far, and who identify with Palin. But they would have voted Republican anyway, if they had voted at all.

For the entire interview, click here.

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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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