Sarah Palin resigned as governor, and my mouth hangs agape.
But part of me responds - that inner part that knows enough of life to know when a woman might just be tired of fighting a never-ending tidal wave - oh yea, I get it. I look at my 12 year-old daughter, and think, is my fight, my principles, my wish to do good, more important than your childhood, and our happiness and survival as a family? Do I really need to put us through hell for me to prove I can do things as a woman?
I think sometimes you have to make hard choices, and this might be one of them. I know that certain skeletons in my closet keep me from trying to run for office because I don't want certain family members' past actions brought to harsh limelight, when those actions have been dealt with and amends have been made. Are my ambitions worth the price my family would pay in media glare to sell some newspapers?
Maybe. But maybe not.
So maybe Sarah has had enough of her family being smeared, her state being smeared, and maybe she is thinking that it's time to walk away from this fight, so the state can continue its business without CNN and every blogger who can create an avatar reigning insults down on them. Maybe if I was facing that much hit-piece work, that much smear, that much attack on my family, and felt my state was getting trashed because of it...well maybe I'd ask if it was so important to cleave to my career by staying on this track, and destroying my family's chances at any sort of life because of it. I might ask if there were a better place I could do my bit to change the world, a better platform to operate off of, where my family is more shielded, and my charge (Alaska, in her case) were able to operate without a million judgmental journalists looking on.
Yea, maybe I'd walk away to live to fight another day too.
I don't know that this is actually what she is doing, but reading her speech, it feels like it.
Something else comes to mind as I read opinions of what she's doing, mostly fabricated by media trying to find a reason to justify its banal existence by putting out spin pieces which have little to do with actual events, but everything to do with propagating as much judgment as possible. So here we have op-ed replacing actual journalism, and no one seems to have noticed, but everyone's now converted. But I digress. I am thinking of how in this supposed post-modern, post racial, post feminist age, the image of two particular politicians, as constructed in the media, have supplanted the reality of the people themselves, and how disturbing this is to me, because it means that people can do whatever they like in the background, for good or ill, but their image is being constructed to do something else entirely. This is dangerous because while we are busy focusing on the image, we will miss the reality.
Let me explain a little.
People bought into the image of Obama representing the 'new kind of politics', being a different kind of leader, going against the status quo, etc. Many people, when listening to his speeches, felt he 'spoke to them' personally. He touched them. He'd accomplished little as a new US Senator, other than penning two memoirs, and running for President. No one seemed to have a problem with this, though they do with Palin leaving office early.
Yet, as president, Obama bailing out the enormous banks who backed him, with our tax dollars, while in this economy, many of us can no longer pay those banks for our mortgages and credit cards, though we still have to pay our taxes. The banks are getting paid twice, by us, in this case. How this isn't fraud, I don't know. Yet, there is virtually no reaction because, hey, Obama is going to save the economy. That's the image - it's why people voted for him in droves.
Obama's election and now presidental image is that he's getting us out of Iraq, he's closing down Gitmo, and he's our personal emissary to the Muslim world. He delivered the amazing Cairo speech, which ought to fix everything that nasty Bush did. This is the image.
The reality is that Obama is continuing Bush's policies in Iraq & upholding the Patriot act. The reality is that getting out of Iraq before they can really stand on their feet leaves them vulnerable to invasion by Iran, a longtime enemy. Obama, as our leader, decided to act as an apologist for the US to the Muslim world, and praised them for having achieved the height of culture (while they live in bombed out rubble today in a downward spiral of a fundamentalist religion that stultifies them).
He lets the Democratic Congress have its way entirely, so they can design Mega Stimulus Act II, while we have no way of paying for Mega Stimulus I, which hasn't proven itself to be working. To ease fears on the economy, he spins that we aren't losing jobs, nor creating them. We're saving them, though there is absolutely no way to measure this, and hence no way to say if he's been effective at saving them...or not. But it sounds good.
He nominates a Hispanic judge, who's stated that as a Hispanic female she has better judgment than a white male, which is essentially a racist statement. However, because we're all post-racial now, the image is put forth as a statement of enlightenment.
In a striking act of supporting feminism (NOT), after setting a new standard in misogyny by having his campaign malign and trash Clinton in the primaries, and Palin in the general, he tells the Muslim world that Muslim girls in our country have the right to wear the hijab, if they want to.
For this, he is hailed as the new Messiah.
Feminist love him. Liberalz love him. Europe loves him. He's The One.
That's the image.
Case 2: Sarah Palin
As a governor, she bucks corruption within her own party, and makes a deal with Big Oil to put money back into Alaskans' pockets. So...I rather like the idea of a governor protecting her state's assets this way. We all know corporations are going to exploit what they can where they can. Most governors take a payoff and turn a blind eye, because hey, it provides jobs, and we'll deal with the environment one day. No, she got that company to pay the citizens of Alaska for the right to exploit their assets. Smart.
She fights smears against her family, stands up to liberal media Boyz (aka, Letterman), works across party lines to get things done in Alaska, and had an off-the-charts approval rating. She's appointed a pro-choice judge to the Alaskan Supreme Court, thus showing that her personal politics don't get in the way of who she thinks is best for the job.
Her image is that of a weak, know-nothing, barbie-doll that can't form complete sentences. But is it weak to tell the press off when they're basically doing the British tabloid dance of making up news, or pitching gossip as 'news', or hunting celebrities, even political ones, to death?
The media has this sort of laissez faire love affair with Obama. Praise him, worship him, assume that he is The One, question nothing, and everything will be heaven soon. With her, they assumed a witch-hunt stance from the get-go, and nothing she does, no matter how innovative, tough (such as standing up to them and calling them on their crap) can ever be seen as anything other than 'she's a stupid cunt'.
She seems to have achieved the feminist dream of 'having it all, baby'. She's got a family, a gorgeous supportive hubby, and she looks good. She's a kind of embodiment of the feminism that first existed on TV in the 70's, with Charlie's Angels and Police Woman. These were women who looked hot, kicked butt, and lived life on their terms. For some reason, because Palin was this kind of woman, feminists went into mental vomit spasms across the country. Not all, certainly. But the ones most often open-minded to Palin were the same ones shocked at the witch-burning antics aimed at one extremely bright and talented woman who also had ambitions of national office: Hillary Clinton. You can find these feminists at sights like Reclusive Leftist, the Confluence, and No Quarter. For those feminists, Palin was a woman to be supported as an empowered woman, not as a pro-lifer, or Republican. The details of political position didn't matter. These feminists got it that we need to actually get to the place where Republican women can argue with Democratic women because they are both competing on the same stage for the presidency. Right now, women can't even get on that stage to compete, and it doesn't matter what party they're in. But for the vast majority of feminists, Palin was the Anti-Christ to Obama's Messiah figure, and they constructed an image and narrative so strong that even Tina Fey lines (I can see Alaska from my backyard) began to be attributed to Palin, and couldn't be disputed, no matter that an actress playing Palin had said them, and not the woman herself.
The image being constructed of Palin became more important and real than the actual Palin herself.
She speaks like a real American to real Americans, lives a kind of embodied survivalist Alaskan life to the extent that she hunts and eats what she skills, and doesn't bother with trying to sound clever, or pretend she has all the answers. So we have to spin this to cleave to the image of bimbo, carribou barbie, and ignoramus.
Do you see how this works? No matter what Obama does, he is Enlightened, The One, The Savior Who Will Fix Everything. The man could jerk off in public and people would find some way to say he was spreading holy seed or something.
No matter what Palin does, she is the Anti-Christ, the Anti-Feminist, the Ignoramus, the Ditz, The Bimbo You'd Like to Hate-Fuck, and the family values bitch that can't manage a family. She could be running the most prosperous well managed-state in the Union, adopt little black babies aka Madonna and Angelina, attain a PhD, win a Nobel Prize....and she'd still be a Cunt. The image is more powerful than the reality.
In short, I feel that we are in a major decline in Patriarchal organization, with Obama becoming the new God-image, while witch-burnings for Palin (and Clinton and Ferraro before her), are the new norm for politically ambitious women. The intent is clear. The methodology is to craft an image for men that exalts them, and an image for women that renders them incapable of being human. These constructed images completely eclipse the truth of the woman Palin is, and how she really does represent a new kind of politics, including stepping out of her office because the media is so busy doing hit jobs on her, and throwing mud at her and her state, that she doesn't feel she needs to put her family or her state through it any longer. The image of her as bimbo carribou barbie has completely supplanted the reality of the woman she actually is.
Obama and Palin are inverse mirror images of each other, with her living the reality of a new kind of politics and being damned for it, and him speaking the fantasy of the new kind of politics, and being hailed as actually embodying it...even though he is actually a very old-style Chicago politician. In both cases, the greater audience is not perceiving the truth, but is content on letting the images stand as reality. In fact, the image has become more real...than...the reality of either Obama or Palin.
Believing in the image is the cultural norm, and so it becomes very easy to manipulate the image to achieve one's ends, to put propaganda practices into play, and control people. Or attempt to annihilate them, as was done to Clinton and Palin.
This is bigger than just feminism, or women in politics, though the key to seeing how images supplant reality is easily done just by using the particular lens of what happens to women in national politics versus men. I think we'd better wake up soon to how much our image-celebrity culture could be masking some very dangerous activities, because the people behind the image can move about undetected, in Obama's case, or scrutinized and beaten down, in Palin's case.