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Dressing Up for Game Day

Watching Sarah Palin’s appearance at the Republican National Convention reminded me of a ritual my sister had to go through repeatedly in high school. Like Palin, my sister was an athlete. She lettered in every sport she played all through high school. On game days, she and her teammates were expected to dress up, preferably in skirts or dresses, but at minimum, they were supposed to put on heels and hose. The boys’ teams dressed up on their game days, too, but more was at stake for the female athletes. Many of their peers didn’t take them seriously as athletes because they were girls, and because they were athletes, their gender and sexuality were questioned, too. Dressing up for game days didn’t change many hearts or minds.

Based on how pundits have been spinning Palin’s story, things have changed a little. Not only does a tough gal get some respect, the boys want her on their team. Palin is the Republicans’ spitfire who cleans up real good. They want voters to know that she is capable of leadership, but that she doesn’t let that get in the way of her roles as mother, wife, woman.

Their ability to present her as a human being stands in sharp contrast to their confused smears of Hillary Clinton. One day they would brand Clinton an ice maiden; the next they said she was too emotional to lead the country. (To be fair, Obama’s supporters did this, too.) But lately, Republicans have been acknowledging, even celebrating, Clinton’s historic run for President. Palin herself acknowledged Clinton’s feat, but her nomination shows an effort by Republicans to smooth over the 18 million cracks Clinton’s supporters made in the proverbial glass ceiling.

The only change Palin would bring is that Republicans would have the first VP in a long time whom they’d want to show off. “See,” they could say, “we don’t discriminate.” They’d be a little bit right but so, so wrong. Palin’s place would be second place at best. They might let her think and speak for herself now and then, perhaps not realizing that she probably wants to voice her own ideas rather than merely serving as a Republican megaphone.

I don’t doubt that she is strong. Regardless of how some have dismissed her accomplishments, to govern a state requires strength. However, it’s a kind of strength I don’t admire. She believes that women shouldn’t have the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. She advocates for the energy industry, willing to allow the destruction of her state rather than protect its natural resources and wildlife. These decisions may please some, most, or all Alaskans, and she very well may know how to manage a sparsely populated fraction of the country, but I don’t find in her record evidence of thinking about the country’s best interests, nevertheless our country’s place in the world, or — how dare I be so idealistic — the greater good.

For the sake of full disclosure, I acknowledge that I am a liberal faggot who willingly rails against what many would deem as good, right, and natural. Which is why I’m interested in the Republicans’ choice of Palin. She wields masculine power — yes, the same war-mongering, instant-gratification-oriented masculine power wasted by teenage boys and wielded by men with money, most of whom have almost everything but gender in common with Palin. Yessiree, she can wield masculine power as convincingly as any of the boys in the club without mussing her updo, and the Republican base loves it.

By contrast, as voiced by Rush Limbaugh, they suggest that Palin is “twice the man Obama is.” Feminizing the male opponent seems a risky move when trying to win over female voters. It suggests that masculine ways are better, even for women.

Considering they have a woman running for VP, why not support feminine leadership? Even better, why not support a blend of masculine and feminine views and traits, regardless of the leader? Wouldn’t that be good for a country whose population is pretty evenly split in terms of gender categories? Maybe s/he would wield the kind of power that many of us admire, the kind of power used for organizing communities rather than taking a photo op with a dead moose. That man/woman would offer a balanced kind of power and might consider the needs and opinions of the people s/he is supposed to lead.


One Response

  1. Somewhat related, but not entirely: have you seen this? http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/9/2/1613/27485/447/581295

    I found it very interesting to see the figures side by side.

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