Wednesday, June 8, 2011

On disliking Sarah Palin

I have sometimes complained to my friends about Sarah Palin's (Gov of Alaska, retired) critics. These complaints are often taken to mean that I like Palin (Gov of Alaska, retired) or that I think it is wrong to criticize her. I believe neither: her policies, such as I understand them, are ones I cannot support; her fitness and ability to be president is something I question; her populist demagogy I find distasteful.

I say the preceding just to be clear. My beef with her critics, especially those from the 2008 election, is the quickness to which they are willing to resort to some of the most invidious and condescending tropes possible. (I should also be clear here that I refer mostly to those critics who are friends of mine; I have little to say about the punditrocracy or strangers who criticize her.) Within days of McCain announcing her as his choice for running mate, I heard the following "critiques" of her fitness to be VP:
  • She had a special needs child. (One friend of mine actually said, and I quote almost verbatim, that "she needed to have an abortion.")
  • She speaks with a funny accent.
  • She is a mother.
  • She was in a high school beauty pageant (or maybe it was a post-high school thing).
Now, I admit that Palin (Gov of Alaska, retired) plays off of tropes that perhaps implicate the preceding: she paints herself as the poster-advocate for pro-life politics; she uses her accent in what appears to me to be a down-home style of "hey, I'm just like you"; and she trades in on her physical beauty. In a sense, then, her campaigning style makes her fair game for certain of the above "critiques" (although the abortion remark is over the top by any standard, I think).

Still, there's so much more to criticize, and at least some of the criticisms have a hope of actually commanding a respectful response from people who are otherwise inclined to support her. Instead, so many of my personal acquaintances have resorted to misogynistic, even hate-filled statements when they should be criticizing her policies.*

And just to be clear, I'll repeat something that I hope is obvious by what I have written, but at least a few of my friends have misunderstood me**: I do not claim that people dislike Palin (Gov of Alaska, retired) because she is a woman; instead, I claim that even though there are a lot of reasons to dislike and oppose her, my friends and acquaintances choose for some reason to resort to mysoginistic tropes to express their displeasure with her.

*For the record, I don't count Palin's (Gov of Alaska, retired) misstatements about Paul Revere as particularly cause of concern. If she wants to praise one of the principals involved in instigating an unjust war (imagine killing people over a tax on tea!), then she's on her own.

**To be fair, the misunderstanding has arisen at least in part because I myself have not expressed myself as clearly as I ought to have about why I disliked many of the criticisms of Palin (Gov of Alaska, retired) I have heard.

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