She Sold A Million Books. Should We Be Afraid?
In Sunday’s New York Times magazine writer Lisa Belkin discussed in her essay “Why Women Can’t Let Sarah Palin Go” the reasons many women—especially smart women and women who consider themselves liberal, Democrat and/or feminist (and the two groups aren’t necessarily the same or mutually exclusive, as Belkin quotes a frustrated, smart Republican woman at the start)—love to hate the former VP candidate. Why? Well, there are the obvious reasons Belkin cites:
“…what many object to are her political stands — her belief that a teenager who is raped should carry the baby to term; her rejection of government bailout money — while others are troubled by her political games like riling crowds with accusations that her opponent was “palling around with terrorists” and leaving office suddenly, apparently to write her book.”
But she also touches on issues women who take issue with Palin are confronting via their hatred: that life, says Belkin, may be a lot like high school, where
“today’s educated, ambitious women, on both sides of the aisle, are the student-council presidents and the members of the debate team — taught that if they work hard and sacrifice something along the way, their smarts will be rewarded. This makes Sarah Palin the head cheerleader. (Though, in reality, she was the captain of the basketball team.) Pretty and popular, with no apparent interest in studying, she’s the one who industrious girls were tacitly promised would not succeed in the real world. Whether we voted for Hillary or not, we weren’t about to let Palin breeze in, with her sexy librarian hair and her peek-a-boo-toed shoes, conforming to every winking, air-brained stereotype, and sashay to the front of the line.”
And yes, we were pissed off. Palin’s politics alone present many problems for feminists. But for any woman (or man), the most basic problem is that she’s simply not smart. Here’s an excerpt from Calvin Woodward’s recent AP story about the lies Palin puts forth in her bestselling book:
“She depicts herself as a frugal traveler on the taxpayer’s dime, a reformer without ties to powerful interests and a politician roguishly indifferent to high ambition.
PALIN: Rails against taxpayer-financed bailouts, which she attributes to Obama. She recounts telling daughter Bristol that to succeed in business, “you’ll have to be brave enough to fail.”
THE FACTS: Palin is blurring the lines between Obama’s stimulus plan — a $787 billion package of tax cuts, state aid, social programs and government contracts — and the federal bailout that Republican presidential candidate John McCain voted for and President George W. Bush signed…
PALIN: Says Ronald Reagan faced an even worse recession than the one that appears to be ending now, and “showed us how to get out of one. If you want real job growth, cut capital gains taxes and slay the death tax once and for all.”
THE FACTS: The estate tax, which some call the death tax, was not repealed under Reagan and capital gains taxes are lower now than when Reagan was president.”
All this—the crazy ultraconservative politics (e.g. pregnant rape victims must have the baby), the stupidity, the amount of money she devoted to her wardrobe and makeup while campaigning—makes Palin easy to dismiss. But that might be a big mistake. She’s sold a million books in two weeks. One million books. Belkin writes that women are “pleased to see her fail” (in politics, if not publishing…) because then we feel the world is right-side up again, that hard working, smart, nose-to-the-grindstone women are, really, the ones who will succeed. Certainly they are the ones that should succeed.
But life rarely works the way it ought to… and sometimes the women who succeed, for better or worse, are the pretty ones winking into the camera. Belkin ends her piece this way:
“Palin gets Oprah, Barbara Walters and the best-seller list. But she doesn’t get respect. And she doesn’t get the job.”
But what if she does? Despite the untruths, despite her profligate ways during the campaign, her disastrous media interviews, her lack of knowledge in so many areas, she was, in fact, a vice presidential candidate. And lines snake around bookstores now, with people waiting to catch a glimpse of her, hear her speak, have her sign their book–which they will read and believe, no matter how inaccurate the information contained within. She is a public relations and marketing juggernaut, she is charismatic, and she’s pretty. That’s a dangerous combination—the packaging is so nice, you forget that when it’s unwrapped there’s nothing inside. So, sure, we say, trying to reassure ourselves. She will never be a viable candidate for president. But what if we’re wrong?