Saturday, September 13, 2008

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid: Gender Politics and Palin Propaganda

By Sikivu Hutchinson

With her rifle on one hip and baby Trig on the other, Sarah Palin’s tabloid VP candidacy proves that only in America could a flat-earther who espouses antediluvian policies consigning women to second class citizenship be hailed as a feminist icon. The fierce cult of celebrity worship that has sprung up around the Palin nomination has displaced any serious mainstream critique of McCain’s lock step march with Bush-style imperialism. In her recent interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson Palin’s ignorance of the so-called Bush doctrine of preemptive defense and her reflexive get tough on Muslim extremists swagger was enough to inspire a run for Canada. While the heartland swoons for Palin, allegations of scandal, double dealing, racist slander, civil liberties infringement and bug-eyed Christian fundamentalism continue to bounce off Palin’s Teflon power blazers because unrepentant reactionary white femininity suddenly has fresh currency in national politics. Let’s break it down—the Palin choice was a transparently racist bid for the votes of white women enraged by the prospect of a black man in Hillary’s White House. When Palin burst onto the national scene proclaiming that “the women of America aren’t finished yet” she clearly wasn’t thinking about inviting women of color into her sister friend council because Black women are certainly not having it. Had it not been for the success of Clinton’s race-baiting appeals to hard working white Americans a white female candidate would not have been seriously considered for the Republican ticket. Thus far Clinton has remained muted in her criticism of Palin. According to Clinton insiders, she has no intention of directly addressing the implications of the Palin candidacy nor of urging her white female supporters to look past the sisterhood hype.

In a reality show besotted culture that fetishizes white female soap operatics in rags like Us magazine, People, and the National Enquirer it is not surprising that the Palin sideshow is playing big in Peoria. The GOP’s silence about Palin’s pregnant teen daughter’s departure from the traditional family values script highlights its racist hypocrisy. For, clearly, had the Palin family soap opera played out in the Obama household his bid for the presidency would have been gutted by right wing hysteria about promiscuous black welfare mothers in training and irresponsible baby daddies. For white folk though, the national narrative of family has always extolled the kinder gentler virtues of “tolerance” about life’s “circumstances.” Middle and working class white families that experience an unplanned teen pregnancy in the public eye garner sympathy and disease of the week prime time TV while families of color elicit policy screeds about immorality.

Having benefited from the women’s and civil rights movements while touting anti-choice policies and abstinence only education, Palin is a poster child for GOP-style affirmative action for white women. But the insidious reversals don’t end there. McCain has attacked recent comments Obama made comparing McCain’s policies to putting lipstick on a pig as a sexist slam of Palin. This from a candidate that has endorsed the Bush administration’s savaging of family planning, pro-choice, anti-domestic violence legislation and equal pay for equal work policies that support real women with families that aren’t blessed with the divine providence of oil dividends. The McCain-Palin ticket’s attempt to portray itself as a maverick change agent is akin to Orwell’s totalitarian metaphor two plus two equals five; that is, if we speak in tongues enough times to a captive audience in defense of the homeland it will be true, and Oceania has, and always will be, at war with East Asia.

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