So, did you hear? Sarah Palin was a beauty queen. I figured I’d offer a reason why going after her on beauty queen grounds is bad on more than just for its sexism. And due to contractual terms here at EoTAW, I’ll nerd it up for you!
Let’s be clear. It’s sexist. It isn’t analogous to calling Bush a frat boy, both because ‘frat boy’ is understood in response to Bush’s petulant attitudes, and because being in frat alone wasn’t tossed about as a disqualification. It isn’t just about her being a lightweight either, because nothing about her being a lightweight with no political experience has anything to do with her pageant experience in 1984, any more than her being basketball captain in 1984 makes her fit to lead. (And, o Internet bloggers, what were you doing in high school….? Is that more relevant than what you’ve done in the years since?)
It’s pretty much pure sexism: she was attractive, so she must be a bubblehead. It’s a cheap and easy shot. And it’s not a good message to send to young women. Especially following the primary campaign where Clinton’s problem was often described as being too ball-busting, and not feminine enough.
But the hell with worrying about that, we wanna win, right? And, there’s only maybe, like, three PUMAs.
So, the hell with principles. Practically: I don’t think this line of sexist attack is likely to work.*
Consider that as Palin’s background is being presented, she’s pretty much a TV character. She’s one exotic eye color away from a Mary Sue who has it all. Career, husband, looks, children, ambition, whistleblower, disabled son. (The last is straight outta bad high school writing.) People who go up against Mary Sues lose. People who don’t like Mary Sues because they are pretty end up being their best friends by the next episode, won over by Mary Sue’s intelligence and kindness. Or they end up put out the airlock.
The media run on narrative. They don’t want to report the truth; they want to be the ones writing the climactic double episode. Do not be the bad guy in the climactic double episode. The November sweeps will eat you.
So, how to go after Palin? Change the narrative. She’s not there because of her accomplishments.** She’s only there because McCain, like all Republicans, has to take his orders from Friar James and his band of merry eschatons. She’s there because McCain is desperate. McCain, who is 23 years older than her state, hasn’t even bothered to get to know the person who will likely be taking over for him. Etc. Be creative.
*It also feeds into an old line of attack against feminists. We want everyone to be hairy-legged and ugly because we’re not as pretty as conservative women. They can be accomplished and pretty and get men; we can’t, so we’re out to destroy families and high heels.
**I actually don’t think she’s all that underqualified, really. I think what speaks to McCain’s poor judgment is not that he picked a newbie governor, but that he didn’t seem to be concerned with anything about her.