Palin Performing Gender

From Carrie Rentschler at Liminalities:

Sarah Palin makes visible a political form of right-wing “hetero butch” that amplifies, unlike most butch performance, female feminine coding rather than female masculinity. For many commentators trying to make political sense of Palin, her sporting and sexual body has become the grounds on which to figure her out—a political mystery to be solved at the level of sex and gender performance. Maybe it’s a northern Midwest thing, but I always assumed butch women came in all kinds of packages, and sexualities—at least they did in Iowa and Minnesota where I grew up. Straight butches, like lesbian butches, bear several of the overt signs of “butchness” or female masculinity as defined by Gayle Rubin and Judith Halberstam, but even more “feminine-appearing” women can belong to a category of “hetero butch.” In “Of Catamites and Kings,” for instance, Rubin describes butch as existing along a continuum of looks and sexual practices; I suggest these looks and practices cut across the borders constructed in our thinking between hetero- and homosexu-alities.

Read the whole thing here

via wood s lot

Clinton/Palin & the “Attractiveness” Catch

From Merritt Baer at The Situationist:

After the final presidential debate between Obama and Mccain, newsanchor Katie Couric asked Hillary Clinton, “Why do you think Sarah Palin has an action figure and you have a nutcracker?” Clinton replied that she didn’t know. But Hillary Clinton knows better than anyone that capturing the American audience as a woman is a balancing act.

The constant criticism dedicated to Hillary’s pantsuits culminated in the marketing of a “Hillary Clinton nutcracker,” in which her thighs serve as the nutcrackers (perish the thought of imagining what a comparable doll would look like for Obama…?) Meanwhile, Sarah Palin, who took a cue and opted for the skirtsuit and heels, became the subject of sexualized mockery. Interesting too that often, the originators of derogatory material directed at both Clinton and Palin were from the ideological left, a position we associate with progressive and tolerant views.

Read the whole thing here

Clinton, Palin & Feminism

Lydia Sargeant at Z Magazine on Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, sexism and feminism in the 2008 Presidential campaign:

The whole bait and switch from Clinton to Palin seemed so schizophrenic in a way. On one level, it was yet another act by the evangelical right to reduce any progressive feminist inspiration Clinton’s candidacy may have generated and to take back their power to define women—how they look and behave and what role they should play in their idea of the proper “order of things.” That is, the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is head of the church (Ephesians 5:22-24). To Falwell and the whole Moral Majority gang, and their future followers, the women’s movement was “a satanic attack on the home” (Falwell), “a philosophy of death” (Schafly).

This trend was made even more horrifying because it was on a national scale, aimed at the power of the White House, and it used a redefined feminism as a way to continue trying to move towards what the right wing’s Family Protection Act had tried (and failed to do) since it was introduced in Congress in 1981. Its proposals included: eliminate federal funding laws supporting equal education; require marriage and motherhood to be taught as proper careers for girls; deny federal funding to schools using textbooks portraying women in nontraditional roles; repeal all federal laws protecting battered wives from their husbands; ban federally funded legal aid for women seeking abortion counseling or a divorce; offer tax incentives to induce married women to have babies and stay home; a complete ban on abortion, even if it meant the woman’s death; censor all birth control information until marriage; revoke the Equal Pay Act and other equal employment laws; defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.

Ironically, this attempt may backfire a little. They must have panicked, these reactionary evangelicals, when a TV news program interviewed two evangelical youth. The young man quoted the Bible to support the view that women shouldn’t run for public office. The young woman, when asked why she supported Palin, given this biblical prohibition, smiled and said, “Well, I’m a sinner.” It would be redemption indeed if masses of young evangelical women started demanding equal participation—perhaps an overthrow of the Church gender hierarchy and sexist teachings—even at the expense of “sinning.”

On another level, the Palin candidacy served to reveal how much mainstream feminism has become a benign politics of difference, rather than a revolution to overthrow a system of patriarchy embedded in and perpetuated by the Church, the family, the workplace, and so on. The politics of Men are from Mars, Women from Venus posits the problem between the genders as one of communication between beings from different planets, a difference solved by better communication and understanding of what each gender wants. Like the right-wing gender agenda, it too claims the right to define each gender’s looks, brain functions, and behavior. Hillary Clinton did not fit the Venus profile, Palin did. She seemed part of the “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man” so-called feminism. Perhaps her lipstick came from Revlon, whose one-time commercial promoted “a revolutionary make up. We’re changing the world one face at a time.”

Read the whole thing here

The entire December issue of Z Magazine is available online here

Note especially “Neoliberalism and Bottom-Line Morality: Notes on Greenspan, Rubin and the Party of Davos” by Edward S. Herman

and “Obama’s Economics: Which Will Emerge? Obamanomics 1 or Obamanomics 2?” by Jack Rasmus

Oops, Palin

For all those who thought that the electorate mopped the floor with Sarah Palin, to all those who believe she doesn’t appeal to a single f’ing American soul:

One day before the runoff election between Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin, the GOP will be pulling out its biggest gun yet — the party’s newest star, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Palin will be at four Chambliss rallies this coming Monday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The runoff is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 2. Today, another of the Republican Party’s big draws, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was in Georgia campaigning for Chambliss.

Here ya go

And of course, there’s what John McCain says:

Former GOP presidential candidate John McCain denied Tuesday that political considerations — a desire to appeal to Clinton supporters — played a role in his selection of running mate Sarah Palin, calling her “an energizing factor” and telling reporters the Alaska governor has a “very bright future in a leadership position in the Republican Party.”

“She did a great job of energizing our base. I’m very proud of her,” he said at a press conference in Phoenix, his first since losing to Barack Obama three weeks ago. “It’s one of the great pleasures I’ve had to get to know her and her family, and I think she has a very bright future in a leadership position in the Republican Party.

“….I knew that she would be an energizing factor, because she energized me,” he added. “Our base, and most Americans, viewed Governor Palin as a breath of fresh air.”

So folks, when ya call Sarah Palin an airhead and a ditz, what are ya sayin’ ’bout the peeps who love her?

On the “Bitch” & the “Ditz”

From Amanda Fortini at New York Magazine:

In the past few weeks, Sarah Palin has been variously described as a diva who engaged in paperwork-throwing tantrums, a shopaholic who spent $150,000 on clothing, a seductress who provocatively welcomed staffers while wearing only a towel, and a “whack-job”—contemporary code for hysteric. Worse, she was accused by a suspiciously gleeful Fox News reporter named Carl Cameron of not knowing Africa was a continent, of being unable to name the members of NAFTA, indeed of being unable to name the countries of North America at all. (“But she can be tutored,” Bill O’Reilly told Cameron, as though speaking of a small child.) More significant than the dubious origins of these leaks, or the fact that the campaign that cried “sexism” at every criticism of its vice-presidential nominee was engaging in its own misogynistic warfare, is the fact that all of the allegations were so believable. After all, Palin had earned herself a reputation as, in the words of one Fox News blogger, “something of a policy ditz.”


It’s hard to get too worked up on Palin’s behalf, of course; she was complicit in her crucifixion. But it is disappointing to watch what some have called the “year of the woman” come to such an embarrassing conclusion. This was an election cycle in which candidates pandered to female voters, newsweeklies tried to figure out “what women want,” and Hillary Clinton garnered 18 million votes toward winning the Democratic nomination. The assumption was that these “18 million cracks in the highest glass ceiling,” as Clinton put it, would advance the prospects of female achievement and gender equality. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way.

Read the rest here

Don’t Dismiss Palin’s Appeal

From The Situationist:

Regardless of policy expertise, is there reason to think that makes a difference whether Sarah Palin is a moose-hunting, “Joe Six-Pack” conservative Christian? Yes. Humans are fundamentally social and those distinctions matter – no matter which side of them you may be on. In fact, our affinity for those with similar backgrounds provides an important means of making sense of the world and strengthening ties with others. We have such a natural predisposition for “birds of a feather” to “flock together” that even groups formed with no prior connection among the members (or no meaningful connection at all) can demonstrate a preference for their comrades over those outside the group. Social psychologists call this the “minimal group” paradigm: Individuals randomly assigned to one group over another, absent any rational justification, engage in self-evaluation that favors their new group and strengthens their affiliation with its members. In cultural, family, or political groups, our affiliation with others can provide a comforting means of evaluating the immense, complex web of incomplete information with which we are presented in everyday life. Psychologists have even found that identification of a policy proposal as being from one’s own party can be more determinative of an individual’s approval than the actual content of the proposed policy.

Because our evaluation of policies and political candidates is not purely rational, candidates like Sarah Palin can invoke existing or imagined group affiliations to reframe the political landscape and override other, more rational considerations.

All of this matters because, regardless of who draws the lines in the sand, these tactics do not uniquely manipulate one segment of the country or one end of the political spectrum. Rather they impact all of us by contributing to a situation that alters our perceptions, incites prejudice, and affects behavior across the board. When political tacticians push small town Americans to claim moral superiority over the rest of the country, the resulting climate encourages liberal, college-educated Americans to ignore the complexity in regional and local politics in favor of their own self-serving views. In short, the idea that liberals are more rational or intellectual than conservatives perpetuates a simplistic, partisan view that precludes empathy and interferes with positive change.

Read the whole post here

Bill Ayers

Part of William Ayers’ response to his villification by just about everybody:

McCain and Palin demanded to “know the full extent” of the Obama-Ayers “relationship” so that they can know if Obama, as Palin put it, “is telling the truth to the American people or not.”

This is just plain stupid.

Obama has continually been asked to defend something that ought to be at democracy’s heart: the importance of talking to as many people as possible in this complicated and wildly diverse society, of listening with the possibility of learning something new, and of speaking with the possibility of persuading or influencing others.

The McCain-Palin attacks not only involved guilt by association, they also assumed that one must apply a political litmus test to begin a conversation.

On Oct. 4, Palin described her supporters as those who “see America as the greatest force for good in this world” and as a “beacon of light and hope for others who seek freedom and democracy.” But Obama, she said, “Is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America.” In other words, there are “real” Americans — and then there are the rest of us.

In a robust and sophisticated democracy, political leaders—and all of us—ought to seek ways to talk with many people who hold dissenting, or even radical, ideas. Lacking that simple and yet essential capacity to question authority, we might still be burning witches and enslaving our fellow human beings today.

Maybe we could welcome our current situation—torn by another illegal war, as it was in the ’60s—as an opportunity to search for the new.

Perhaps we might think of ourselves not as passive consumers of politics but as fully mobilized political actors. Perhaps we might think of our various efforts now, as we did then, as more than a single campaign, but rather as our movement-in-the-making.

We might find hope in the growth of opposition to war and occupation worldwide. Or we might be inspired by the growing movements for reparations and prison abolition, or the rising immigrant rights movement and the stirrings of working people everywhere, or by gay and lesbian and transgender people courageously pressing for full recognition.

Yet hope—my hope, our hope—resides in a simple self-evident truth: the future is unknown, and it is also entirely unknowable.

History is always in the making. It’s up to us. It is up to me and to you. Nothing is predetermined. That makes our moment on this earth both hopeful and all the more urgent—we must find ways to become real actors, to become authentic subjects in our own history.

We may not be able to will a movement into being, but neither can we sit idly for a movement to spring full-grown, as from the head of Zeus.

We have to agitate for democracy and egalitarianism, press harder for human rights, learn to build a new society through our self-transformations and our limited everyday struggles.

At the turn of the last century, Eugene Debs, the great Socialist Party leader from Terre Haute, Ind., told a group of workers in Chicago, “If I could lead you into the Promised Land, I would not do it, because someone else would come along and lead you out.”

In this time of new beginnings and rising expectations, it is even more urgent that we figure out how to become the people we have been waiting to be.

I don’t know what Bill Ayers did or didn’t do forty years ago, but I’m hearing him now.  I am frankly sick of people judging “the ’60s” and “the boomer generation” and finding it and them entirely wanting.  There were contradictions in what people were doing and in the results; but a lot of people tried.  Sometimes, I wonder why people aren’t doing now what they did then.  I try not to come up with “answers” that would blame another whole generation.  It’s worth looking at some of that history with a clear and critical, but fair, eye.  Someone might learn something helpful.  The ’60s was by no means a dead loss.  If the election of Barack Obama is recognized, at least in part, as the result of the struggle for civil rights undertaken by white and African Americans of that time, perhaps there was also something of merit in the struggles for civil liberties, peace, justice and economic equality both within America and beyond it.  Not that those struggles can be separated.

Bill Ayers’ full statement is here

UPDATE:  One day I’ll change my smelly socks and sandals, dye my grey hair another colour, pick up my saggy ideals and uncool slogans and respond to this piece of sloppy, ahistorical misunderstanding.

How They Talkin’

From Peter Haney at Linguistic Anthropology:

… a strategy of condescension occurs when someone at the top of a social hierarchy adopts the speech or style of those at the bottom. With such a move, the dominant actor seeks to profit from the inequality that he or she ostensibly negates. When Anglo politicians, for example, trot out a few words of broken Spanish on the U.S. campaign trail, they hope to benefit from the unspoken rule that political discourse here will occur in English. It is precisely that rule that leads some voters who identify with the Spanish language to see its use as a thoughtful gesture on the politician’s part. Although Palin’s campaign persona represents an extreme example of the strategy of condescension, she was not the only candidate to take such an approach. Vice President Elect Joe Biden’s endless allusions to his childhood in Scranton, Pennsylvania and visits to Home Depot are also textbook examples. Note that for Biden, being an ordinary guy is all about consumption and style rather than labor. When President Elect Barack Obama said in his acceptance speech that the change he represented had been “a long time comin’,” he replaced the nasal consonant represented by “ng” in English spelling with that represented by “n.” In the U.S., this substitution connotes informality and is popularly associated with both White working class and African American vernacular speech. White middle-class liberal friends of mine have criticized Palin for her colloquialism and have expressed longing for a vice president who could, in their words, “prounounce a g.” Most of these friends render “ng” as “n” themselves in unguarded moments, of course, although few of them use her regionally marked nasalized vowels. They key difference here is that my friends believe that Obama can use the formal, standard register of English and that Sarah Palin cannot. I am less convinced of the Governor’s linguistic inflexibility. But it is clear in any case that those who mock her speech see her apparent lack of access to privileged styles as a sign of other, more serious deficiencies.


This is precisely the risk of a strategy of condescension. Bourdieu notes that a dominant actor who symbolically negates hierarchies must do so “without appearing to be ignorant or incapable of satisfying their demands” (1991:69). In her effort to play with hierarchies of linguistic competence, Sarah Palin failed to convince voters that she was above the game. Her attempt to present herself as plain folks failed precisely because people believed it. Joe Biden, by contrast, failed less badly because people, on some level, did not believe him. Another interesting contrast is the case of Senator Hillary Clinton, who was roundly mocked for aping the speech of audiences in the South on the campaign trail. In Clinton’s case, national audiences found her affected drawl so different from her usual speaking style that they doubted its authenticity. Palin inspired no such doubts, but this alone does not explain her failure. Remember that the current occupant of the White House is the scion of an elite New England political family who used language to convince the world that he was a Texas cowboy. His colloquialisms were as forced and robotic as Palin’s, and they succeeded equally well in giving him a common touch with the public. That both Palin and Bush convinced the country of their speech styles’ authenticity is clear from the work of comedians who satirize them. Tina Fey’s overrated Saturday Night Live parody, which recast the Alaska governor as a defanged, rustic ingénue, reinforced rather than questioning Palin’s “Wasilla hillbilly” persona. Similarly, the legion of comedians who lampoon Bush never show him letting the Good Old Boy act lapse while relaxing with Poppy. Belief was not the issue here. But few voters appear to have worried about Bush’s competence or command of policy until after the disastrous consequences of his policies and tactics became clear. These same voters would not give Palin a chance. What explains this difference?

Check this out for the answer

via wood s lot

Palin Porn

From Cara at AlterNet:

Via Sociological Images — a truly great blog I discovered recently — comes this story about a Sarah Palin lookalike contest held at Vegas strip club (oh, sorry, “gentleman’s club”). Lots of bikinis, sexualized use of guns and sexism abound. You can view more photographs of the event here.

The saddest thing is that it’s not the most offensive display of sexualized misogyny that has been directed a Palin. The sex doll came close, but I’d say that award goes Naylin’ Paylin,” the Larry Flint pornographic film starring yet another Palin lookalike, the existence of which all of us should have seen coming. 

There are two problems with both the porn film and this strip club contest, and neither one of them is about porn and stripping in general. The first issue is consent. Sarah Palin did not consent to having her image used in this way. Portraying her sexually like this without her consent is a violation — and contrary to what many people apparently think, existing as a woman in public is not the same as consenting to use of your body as public property. This isn’t satire or parody; it’s just sexist and degrading. 

Which brings us to the next issue. The entire reason that anyone gets to hide behind the parody and “all in good fun” arguments is precisely because portraying Sarah Palin sexually is intended to be mocking towards her. It’s taking a powerful woman and working to make her non-threatening by turning her into a sexual object. And it’s the very opposite side of the coin as calling Hillary Clinton ugly and denying her sexuality. Both reinforce the ideas that women exist to sexually pleasure men, and that sexuality is the only power we have (or should be allowed). Whether revoking or affirming that “power,” the result is an attempt to render the woman inferior and powerless.

We still live in a world where women seemingly cannot be seen as sexual and at the same time be taken seriously. We still live in a world where sexuality itself is seen as degrading to women. That is the purpose of these types of exercises — to debase Palin by reminding everyone that she (presumably) has a vagina and is therefore only good for fucking. I truly believe that if sex was not still viewed as inherently degrading to women, we wouldn’t be seeing these sorts of displays at all.

Read the whole thing here

Edited to repair a link

The ’60s Were GOOD!

Gary Leupp at Counterpunch:

Three years after McCain was shot down over Hanoi while on that bombing mission, [Bill] Ayers by his own admission participated in a bombing of a New York City police station, and went on to bomb the Capitol and Pentagon in the next two years. Each action came in response to a specific escalation of the Vietnam War. There were no casualties, and Ayers was never convicted of a crime. He denies that the bombings were acts of terrorism and points out instead that the war in Vietnam was a war of terror. (During this time, by the way, the 11 to 13 year old Obama was living in Indonesia and Hawai’i.)

Bill Ayers like many of his generation was a follower of Martin Luther King before joining the SDS then some of its spin-offs which (like many in the New Left) parted company with the doctrinaire non-violence they perceived as ineffectual. But consider his background. While studying at the University of Michigan in 1965, he joined a picket line protesting an Ann Arbor pizzeria’s policy of refusing service to African-Americans. (18 years later, when I studied at UM, such racist exclusion was unimaginable. How the world had changed because of people like Ayers!) He participated in a draft board sit-in, punished by 10 days in jail. He worked in progressive childhood education. These are the kind of rebellious activities that enraged the white supremicists (then far more respectable and mainstream than now), the kneejerk anticommunists, the reactionaries terrified by rock ‘n roll and the youth counterculture. But what’s there to damn here, for those who aren’t misled by a washed-up generation of racist uptight bigots?

People over 50 remember that period very well, and many much younger people view it with envy and fascination. After all, today’s youth listen to the Beatles, Stones, Doors, Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead, considering them their own. (We in the ’60s rarely listened to the music of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.) College students flock to courses on the ’60s, viewing that decade as one of turmoil, excitement, and progressive change. The verdict’s in: the war was wrong, segregation and all racism was wrong, sexism and homophobia were wrong—and the limited social progress as we’ve seen since the ’60s is largely rooted in the tireless efforts of the activists of that decade.  The ’60s were good!

Read the whole thing here

h/t wood s lot