For more than two years now many American liberal feminists have been suffering from a severe case of Palinophobia.
To an outsider it has been looking as though Sarah Palin had descended from the Alaskan tundra to disrupt their comfortable feminist world and to cast doubt on their most sacred beliefs.
Throughout, I have been trying to follow the cultural side of the Palin phenomenon on this blog. Which hasn’t been the easiest thing, given the pervasive Palinophobia in my neighborhood. For the file of my posts, follow this link.
Sarah Palin arrived on the national political scene in the midst of an election campaign. Thus, many of her detractors felt that they had to unleash the misogynist furies against her in order to help elect their Messiah.
Desperation makes people do strange things.
By now, cooler minds have begun to take over the debate, and some liberal feminists have made a separate peace with Palin. I have been at pains to acknowledge their cogent analyses.
This much said, I was somewhat taken aback yesterday by a Lizzie Wurtzel tweet. (FYI, famed author Elizabeth Wurtzel uses Lizzie as her Twitter moniker.)
Lizzie tweeted this: “Someone had to explain Sarah Palin, because everyone was getting it wrong. So I did--” She did it in the Atlantic. Link here.
I appreciate the author’s need to attract attention, but everyone has not been getting it wrong. In fact, much of what she says has been said before, on this blog and in other places. I confess to being disappointed that Wurtzel does not read this blog.
In Lizzie’s words: “… as a liberal feminist, it drives me absolutely bonkers that Palin is the most visible working mother and female politician in America, that she is the best exemplar of a woman with an equal marriage, that she has put up with less crap from fewer men than those of us who have read The Second Sex and marched in pro-abortion rallies and pretty much been on the right side of all the issues that Palin is wrong about.”
As always, we admire Wurtzel’s prose stylings, but there is no significant difference between what she sees in Sarah Palin and what I, to take a random example, described two years ago when I called Palin: “A Woman in Full.”
I do accept, however, that Wurtzel is the first to call Palin a riot grrrl. In truth, I do not even know what that is.
Wurtzel also places a special emphasis on Palin’s sex appeal, but that is, dare I say, old news. Not only did I, among others, point out its power, but I also expounded on the notion that conservative women politicians and commentators seem to be hotter than liberal women politicians and commentators. See my post called: “The Hotness Gap.”
But Wurtzel expresses her ideas in her own way, and, in itself, that is worth the price of admission: “The right wing, for whatever weird reason, has been much more receptive to outrageous and attractive female commentators who are varying degrees of insane or inane, but in any case are given a platform on Fox News and at their conservative confabs. Look at how great life has been for Megyn Kelly and Laura Ingraham and the assorted lesser lights. But there are no Democratic blondes, no riot grrrls on the progressive side of politics, no fun and fabulous women in the liberal scene who could pave the way for a Palin. Yes, there are women who are successful in the Democratic party, but none of them are successful because of their feminine wiles, none of them have played up their sex appeal the way Palin has.”
Wurtzel can claim originality, however, when she declares that this Alaskan scourge of modern feminism is, after all, just a normal woman. Sarah Palin is a powerful cultural influence, Wurtzel says, because she is just being herself.
In Wurtzel’s words: “Into this horror walks Sarah Palin, who is kind of a sexy librarian, kind of a MILF, kind of just crazy, and altogether does what she wants to do. This, actually, is normal behavior. But we are so used to watching other female politicians compromise in so many ways that there is not enough Vaseline in all of CVS to make the situation comfortable--so Sarah Palin seems completely strange.”
I’m not sure what Wurtzel wants us to do with the jar of Vaseline, so I will leave that to your imagination.
Sarah Palin is what she is. She is not trying to be something she is not. She is not pretending to be one of the guys. She is not toning down her feminine charms. Palin is not trying to twist herself into some unrecognizable shape in order to fit in or in order to conform to someone’s ideology.
Which leaves us all with the lingering question, the one that has animated Lizzie Wurtzel: how could it have happened that liberal feminists did not produce a Sarah Palin? Is there something about feminism that makes it impossible for feminists to be themselves and nothing but themselves, to flaunt their sex appeal, to be women in full?
The first step toward an answer is for women to turn their Palinophobia into Palinophilia… as Elizabeth Wurtzel has done.