I've been really fascinated lately by the trend of some members of the female intelligentsia--especially popular feminist thinkers like Camille Paglia--to come out in defense of Sarah Palin as a positive female role model. I hear the point, loud and clear: on a subjective level, all Couric gaffes and mindless mudslinging aside, there is something to be admired about the rise of a woman who came from abject humble beginnings and could soon find herself leading the highest office in the land. I'm not buying the argument, though.
You can't separate Palin from the quizzically inane statements she makes, the corruption plaguing her resume, not to mention the lack of fundamental knowledge and intelligence that it takes to steer a nation through dire, near-apocalyptic conditions. Her success not only sets the bar low for women in office, it sets the bar low for all politicians. She is a complete and holistic icon of incompetence, not empowerment.
From a Paglia post on Salon.com:
The mountain of rubbish poured out about Palin over the past month would rival Everest. What a disgrace for our jabbering army of liberal journalists and commentators, too many of whom behaved like snippy jackasses. The bourgeois conventionalism and rank snobbery of these alleged humanitarians stank up the place. As for Palin's brutally edited interviews with Charlie Gibson and that viper, Katie Couric, don't we all know that the best bits ended up on the cutting-room floor? Something has gone seriously wrong with Democratic ideology, which seems to have become a candied set of holier-than-thou bromides attached like tutti-frutti to a quivering green Jell-O mold of adolescent sentimentality.
Oh I'm sure there was some real genius material on that cutting room floor. And I'm sorry, but anyone who uses the terms "bourgeois conventionalism and rank snobbery" is guilty of both. BTW proud to consider myself one such snippy jackass!!!
She goes on:
One of the most idiotic allegations batting around out there among urban media insiders is that Palin is "dumb." Are they kidding? What level of stupidity is now par for the course in those musty circles? (The value of Ivy League degrees, like sub-prime mortgages, has certainly been plummeting. As a Yale Ph.D., I have a perfect right to my scorn.) People who can't see how smart Palin is are trapped in their own narrow parochialism -- the tedious, hackneyed forms of their upper-middle-class syntax and vocabulary.
Where does the "urban" come from in "urban media insiders"? Is she insinuating that only the "urban elites" are savvy or learned enough to question Palin? Ivy League bitterness got ya down, Paglia? Having a tough time paying off them pesky student loans with your meager salary?
The hysterical emotionalism and eruptions of amoral malice at the arrival of Sarah Palin exposed the weaknesses and limitations of current feminism. But I am convinced that Palin's bracing mix of male and female voices, as well as her grounding in frontier grit and audacity, will prove to be a galvanizing influence on aspiring Democratic women politicians too, from the municipal level on up. Palin has shown a brand-new way of defining female ambition -- without losing femininity, spontaneity or humor. She's no pre-programmed wonk of the backstage Hillary Clinton school; she's pugnacious and self-created, the product of no educational or political elite -- which is why her outsider style has been so hard for media lemmings to comprehend. And by the way, I think Tina Fey's witty impersonations of Palin have been fabulous. But while Fey has nailed Palin's cadences and charm, she can't capture the energy, which is a force of nature.
I must say, I do agree that some of the emotion-tinged malice people have been feeling towards Palin is in need of strong feminist analysis, but apparently Paglia was too smitten with her performance at the debates to provide it:
...I was admiring not only her always shapely and syncopated syllables but the innate structures of her discourse -- which did seem to fly by in fragments at times but are plainly ready to be filled with deeper policy knowledge, as she gains it...
From this passage I'm not sure that Camile Paglia was watching the same debate as the rest of the nation. I think it takes a latent, idiosyncratic level of misogyny, a "soft bigotry of low expectations" to look at this incompetent politician as a symbol of female empowerment. Sure she is making firsts for women: she is the first woman to be used to blatantly pander to a female electorate dispirited by another female politician's loss. The first VP candidate used by a conservative party as an empty token of values advancing equal rights, yet promising none.
I do not disagree that, on a purely visceral level, the image of this tough-talkin', unapologetic, unqualified politician is somehow inspiring to American women out there unaccustomed to seeing this image: this fierce and assertive woman poised to become so powerful. But giving her credit for Palin's own insistence that she is somehow "breaking the glass ceiling" is a notion that only looks good on paper. Yes, like I said she is establishing some firsts for women, but I find it incredibly ignorant on the part of Paglia, Christian Amanpour and others to give so much credit to Palin in this arena. How long ago, really, was it that America was given a glimpse of the possibility of a strong, capable (I cannot emphasize this word enough) woman becoming a major head of state? Are we forgetting how far Hillary Clinton came? Geraldine Ferraro?
From what I gleaned from Paglia, the reason Clinton cannot be lumped into the same category as that "force of nature" that is Sarah Palin, is that Clinton didn't come from a politically-unenlightened, "Joe Sixpack" kind of background. And Clinton perhaps forfeited the feminine aesthetic that only a former beauty queen that likes to wink and flirt with the camera can procure.
Sarah Palin has done as much for the women's movement as Britney Spears--although, I don't know, Paglia may also have a warped argument just as unconvincing, that disputes this.
BTW nice touch, Paglia, calling Katie Couric a viper! The first time Couric has actually come out to expose her proverbial lady cojones since drilling George H.W. Bush about the Iran-Contra Scandal before live television in 1992, and you dismiss her as a snake! For shame!
--Don't miss out on reading this Paglia rant in its entirety, where she contemplates Palin's possible Native American ancestry as a means of explaining why she's so gosh-darn spunky.