Its easy to make fun of Sarah Palin. She has been thrust into the spotlight and asked questions she is totally unprepared to answer. Add to that a nervous tendency on her part to keep talking long after she has finished saying anything of substance. Did McCain really ever expect his VP pick to be able to do any better than she currently is?
I doubt it. The man is an old fashioned sexist. He likes his women young, conservative, pretty, and silent. They should listen to their men, do as they're told, and never challenge the power structure.
So McCain did not pick Governor Palin for her qualifications or her intelligence. She may very well be intelligent. But he picked her for her good looks, her youthfulness, her inexperience and her compliant conservative stance. He wanted someone he could control, someone he could keep under his thumb. He wanted a VP who would tow his party line, not challenge him, not outshine him but make him look good. In other words, he wanted a trophy VP.
Trophy wives are rarely what they seem. They play a role and fulfill a request in exchange for benefits they deem valuable. They are often much more intelligent and much more aware than their husbands would like to believe. They are victims of exploitation but they are also agents of their own survival in a society that values women's looks and sexual and reproductive capacities over their intellects. They are clever women who seek to circumvent the reality of women getting paid 75 cents to every dollar a man gets paid. They bypass the glass ceiling which keeps women out of the highest paying jobs and the most powerful political positions in this country by appealing directly to those in power.
But trophy wives, despite their agency, are victims of sexist exploitation because in a sexist society, all women are victims of patriarchal control to some degree. And thus we must recognize that Governor Sarah Palin is a victim of sexism despite her agency.
We should be critical of her but we should be more critical of John McCain. Its just easier to criticize her. She is an embarrassment to women (and especially to feminists) precisely because she is a woman and because she has gotten closer to power than any other woman thusfar. Even those of us who aren't Republicans never wanted to see a woman fail so terribly in the public eye.
Because while those of us who are feminists know that electing a woman to public office is not necessarily a feminist move, and that the mere possession of a vagina does not make a person pro-woman, much less a feminist (Sarah Palin is neither ), as feminists we understand that the public failure of any woman fuels sexism and impedes the advance of feminism.
But Palin's failure should not surprise us. McCain, as a sexist man, would never chose a highly intelligent, independent-thinking woman to be his Vice President. He picked her to provide his candidacy with an ornament. He thought she would make him look good, make him appealing to women, and ultimately leave him and his ideas in peace. He also hired her to be a distraction from himself. As long as she was making news, people would overlook him. When he wasn't shining, she would shine. That is what trophy wives do. The men who have them are rarely much to look at at. They lack the good looks, charm and allure that their trophy wives bring to the partnership. Likewise Governor Palin brought charisma to John's campaign. John McCain is neither good-looking, young, nor charming. He has no charisma. He is not inspiring. She is...or was until she started granting interviews.
Now, Sarah Palin has become John's fall guy. Everybody is so busy criticizing, mocking , and laughing at Palin, it is easy to overlook McCain. It seems unlikely at this point that McCain will do anything that will disappoint and shock us as much as Palin's recent gaffes on the economy and foreign policy. But lets not let him make Palin his fall guy. Lets follow these recent revelations back to their source: John McCain's sexism.
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Monday, September 29, 2008
Posted by Jennifer Lisa Vest at 5:44 PM