Way back in May, when I was thinking about Sarah Palin as a possible running mate for McCain, I wondered about how the electorate, the media, etc., would respond to A) a woman on the Republican ticket, B) a relatively young woman (by politician standards) on the ticket and C) a (let’s be honest) strikingly attractive relatively young woman on the ticket.
I don’t think every joke and jab at Sarah Palin is ipso facto sexism. I laughed at Tina Fey’s impression on SNL. But I think women do get judged on their appearance and attractiveness more than men do, and I think that people are a bit quicker to deem an attractive woman to be an empty-headed bimbo than they are to make similar assessments about handsome men.
So we’ve got yesterday’s Doonesbury, depicting the “Sarah Palin Action Doll”…
… and I’m not screaming bloody murder, I’m not pounding the table and howling in outrage. But there’s something about depicting a curvy Palin in a bustier that strikes me as… well, we didn’t see this aimed at Hillary, or Condi Rice, or Laura Bush, or Tipper Gore or Elizabeth Dole. I guess there’s an unwritten satirist’s rule that once the target is an attractive young woman, it’s okay to portray her as a Barbie doll. (Or a dominatrix, I suppose, or calling her, as Maureen Dowd did, “Veep in Go-Go Boots.”) I know Garry Trudeau mocks all Republicans, and George H.W. Bush was a point of light, and Dan Quayle was a feather, Newt Gingrich was a bomb, and President Bush was an asterisk. But I note those were mocking the target’s rhetoric, or intellect, or temperament, etc. Palin is good-looking, so the line on her is… “hey, look, Busty Barbie!”
Feminists would say this is objectification, trying to dismiss Palin by reducing her to a sex object. Between this and the Salon image linked above, there does seem to be response from certain quarters, ‘we can’t deal with Palin as she is, so we are going to portray her in a sexual manner.’
There’s no use getting riled up about it, but I guess I have my answer. Put an attractive young woman on a Republican ticket, and the response from more than a few quarters will be, “she must be a bimbo.”
UPDATE: The link to the Salon dominatrix illustration was initially broken… spurring a strikingly high number of e-mails informing me they couldn’t find the illustration.