Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Political Rant

Friend of TC, Rutherford, posted a blog on the sexualization of female politicians over here . And I just spent long enough on my reply to decide to reprint it. I know some of our readers are not as "libbed out" as I might be, and I respect your opinions, of course, but what the hey, this is our blog, so I'll speak freely. And welcome your comments:

Excepted from Rutherford:

we have entered the age of the female political sex symbol, haven't we? Here is The National Review's Rich Lowry's now famous assessment of Governor and VP nominee Sarah Palin:

Palin too projects through the screen like crazy. I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Hey, I think she just winked at me." And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America. This is a quality that can't be learned; it's either something you have or you don't, and man, she's got it.
via The Corner on National Review Online

This must be driving any self respecting feminist crazy that after all the struggle to gain legitimacy, women are to some extent right back where they started, sex objects. I can't put my finger on who is to blame. Ms. Pfotenhauer, besides smiling a lot, certainly does not play up any sex angle. The same might not be as true of Ms. Palin who goes "cutesy" quite often. But if women follow the model of Hillary Clinton, strong, assertive, keenly intelligent, they risk being called a shrew.

And my reply:

It's painful. Viscerally painful. However - here's the thing - Bill Clinton, by any metric, was a charismatic man. Those who have met him personally would attribute that not only to a spoken, projected confidence, but to some level of physical attractiveness, albeit not of the baywatch variety. Pheremones, or whatever it may be, the man is attractive - and thus compelling. And to think that this never factored in his election - or that of JFK, or any other attractive male (including Obama) would be ludicrous. What bothers me is not that Palin is pretty. She's adorably cute, and that's just fine. I can't judge her for being pretty. And she dresses conservatively enough that I can't say she's "showing off any assets." What bothers me is that she's willing to introduce her cuteness into the conversation - through the winking, primarily, but more generically, the flirtatious behavior with the audience. I often compare it to myself - I'm a career woman, in the business world. If I chose to wink and flirt with my colleagues as she does with the world, I would be reprimanded immediately and dismissed rapidly. That behavior is unacceptable. And it introduces sexuality into the workplace, which is precisely what we've been trying to combat for years. But people seem to forget - the presidency is a WORK ENVIRONMENT. I think that's the disconnect. We forget that our politicians need to be held to the same or higher standards as our CEOs, our doctors, and our lawyers. But, our election process is a popularity contest. No one would fill any of those other jobs with a popularity contest - but this one, in fact, has degraded into that. My junior high school selected cheerleaders by popular whoop, a process by which you performed your routine for the entire student body at an assembly, and the level of noise it generated was your score. Fuzzy, at best, but more importantly, straight-up popularity contest. And it encouraged more... provocative.. behaviors. Our election is the same type of process these days, so it is not at all surprising that a few winks are effective counter-points to a well executed tumbling routine.

1 comment:

rutherfordl said...

Lilac, since you commented in two places, I'll do the same. :-) Thanks for referencing my entry here. Sarah's "wow factor" was no surprise to me but when I saw the phenom extend to McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer, I started to wonder what the heck is going on. At this rate, we can expect a calendar on the market any day now called "McCain's Hotties", with Palin, Pfotenhauer, and Wallace, to name a few, featured with big glossy pics. Betty Friedan is spinning in her grave!