Is Sarah Palin Ready for Her Close-Up?

“Former Beauty Queen, Future VP?”

That’s the title of today’s article at The Huffington Post about the former city councilwoman, small-town mayor, and current Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, who is McCain’s pick as VP. A wide range of people seem to be surprised and fascinated by the fact that, back in the day, Palin was a beauty queen and a runner-up for the title of Miss Alaska in 1984.

Let me make my position clear. I most assuredly do not think that Governor Palin is ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, and I’m no fan of her policies and positions on major issues including reproductive choice (she’s a “pro-life” feminist), conservation of the environment and wildlife, gay rights, and the war in Iraq. Clearly, on these issues and others, her positions align her with the conservativism of President Bush and her running mate, Senator John McCain. Even if I were not an Obama supporter (which I am), I wouldn’t even dream of going near that ticket on election day! [Wondering what pro-life feminism is? Check out Ruth Rosen’s excellent article on AlterNet.]

Despite my objections to Palin, the reaction to her from some quarters strikes me as unfair and/or inappropriate. Some bloggers are writing about how “hot” or “smoking” Palin is–objectifying her sexually in shockingly disrespectul ways. Others–including some femininsts–are making snarky comments about the fact that she was a beauty queen, as though this fact in and of itself illustrates why she could not possibly be a good running mate or possible Commander-in-Chief.

Which brings me to main point of this post, which is much bigger than this debate about Palin. As a feminist and a self-identified femme, I’m tired of the ancient cultural stereotype that brains and beauty are mutually exclusive catagories in women. It creates double binds for women which I would like to see femininsts interrogate, not reinforce.

3 Responses

  1. I can’t even tell you how much I love your blog! Thanks for the smart, up to date commentary!

    I have been on tour, too busy to pay attention to the news, so I haven’t heard this scuttlebutt about her being a beauty queen, but it’s not at all surprising.

  2. Thanks, Maggie–and I can’t even tell you how much I’d love to see you perform! How was Philly??

    She was Miss Wasila, I think. Not exactly a big name in the pagent world. What’s most important, from my perspective, is that she’s stunningly unqualified to be VP. McCain’s decision to add her to the Republican ticket in an effort to score female voters is an insult to American women.

  3. It also enforces that OTHER ideology about brains and beauty- when people AREN’T totally surprised that a woman can have both, and have instead moved on to *expecting* a smart woman, if she wants to get ahead, also be attractive. It’s ok for a man to be smart and good looking, or just smart, to be successful. A woman is still judged on her looks- it’s ok for her to be smart and good looking, or just pretty (cause ‘some man will take care of her’), but she can’t really be just smart- she’s likely to be dismissed or at least mocked.
    Hillary was mocked for being unattractive (not that she is), and now Palin’s catching misogynistic shit for being attractive. Women cannot win.
    Sorry for my long and slightly incoherent rant, SF.

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