Monday, September 15, 2008

Identity politics indeed

Ezra Klein at The American Prospect has a piece up about "Sarah Palin's Retrograde Gender Politics" that's really worth reading for its parsing of her political language. A sample:

And, in perhaps the most offensive display of her "wimp factor" agenda, she attempted to discredit community organizing by feminizing it. She sarcastically told conventioneering Republicans (along with millions of Americans watching on television), "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities." It was an eerie echo of what oblivious men in positions of traditional power have been saying for centuries: that the work of community building -- whether it be child-rearing, elder-caring, teaching, nursing, social work, or, yes, community organizing -- isn't really work at all. That, despite being the backbone of our economy and the heart of our civic life, it doesn't count because it doesn't involve power suits and bottom lines. What makes this ridicule of community-building even more ironic is that the GOP is simultaneously glorifying Palin's role as caregiver of her own sprawling family.


Men are, first and foremost, protectors in Palin's antiquated world. McCain is "not afraid of a fight;" he will "defend America." She assures the American voters that there is "only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you," discounting with one pithy line the 35-year political service of Joe Biden (many of them spent specifically focused on foreign relations) and all the ways in which Obama has tried to fight for the security and safety of this country, including his role in nuclear non-proliferation policy. The Palin worldview is clear -- real men are warriors and the rest of 'em are wimps.


Palin is standing by her new man, McCain, in the sugary-sweet manner of a '50s pop song. Sure, she's a little feisty, but only in the service of making her war hero look manly and her own heroics look momly. She was strategically chosen as the sidekick who can call Obama a sissy without fearing the repercussions, and sway disappointed women voters in the process.

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