In my post Sarah Palin: Why They Hate Her Part 1, I discussed how the political hatred of Palin’s positions stems from the age-old conflict between the Eastern elites, who favor expensive land and cheap labor, and the Western populists, who favor expensive labor and cheap land. But there is something new, and personal, in the hatred of Palin, that is not political at all. It’s related to her personal life.
There’s been a lot of straight out hatred, directed at Sarah Palin, often from people who have not felt the need to unburden themselves of any particular issue relating to the Presidential election before her selection as McCain’s running mate. Singer Pink says Sarah Palin hates women and is not a feminist. Faded actress and sex tape entrepreneur Pamela Anderson says she can’t stand Palin and tells her to “suck it.” Forgotten movie critic Roger Ebert weighed in on Palin’s glasses, dress, and general appearance (he’s since taken it off his website). Forgotten cheesecake 1970’s actress Lynda Carter confesses her hatred and fear of Palin. “North Country” screenwriter Michael Seitzman lets us know how much he he also hates Palin for being ordinary and “stupid.”
Added to this are constant smears, insinuations, and lurid tales, about Palin’s pregnancy, her daughters, sons, husband, and marriage, from the most “enlightened” side of the aisle, the Left. Which is instructive. It is not just, or even mostly, her politics that some “liberated” women and men feel threatening. Rather it is her life itself that is the most threatening, and creates the most bile since that vitriol directed at first, Andrew Jackson, in 1824, and again in 1828, and Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Sarah Palin is a direct and pressing threat to the current model of female empowerment, probably best symbolized culturally by television’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Worse, Palin could actually slay Buffy’s model of female empowerment, just by example. Hence the venom.
Like Andrew Jackson, orphaned at 14, and from a poor family, and Abraham Lincoln, another poor and up from his bootstraps politician, Palin comes from a modest background (though not quite as poor as either Jackson or Lincoln). Her parents, like most “middle class” Alaskans, hunted regularly to supplement their food budget. While good money can be made in Alaska, high transport costs make it more like the Tennessee in the 1780’s or Illinois frontier of the early 1800’s. Hunting is not a mark of wealth and leisure, but a matter of economic necessity in a place where a jar of Skippy Peanut Butter can cost $12. Both Sarah Palin’s parents were school teachers who coached track on the side, but lacked money and connections for expensive schools like, for example, Occidental College, and then Columbia (where Barack Obama attended as an underclassmen and transfer, respectively). Like both Jackson and Lincoln, Palin steadily climbed the socio-economic ladder, working a variety of jobs, but that does not account for the rage directed at her. Americans are familiar with all sorts of politicians from modest backgrounds. Neither ex-Wrestler Jesse Ventura (of Minnesota) or celebrity-actor-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger generated this level of bile. Despite being larger than life, outlandish characters from modest backgrounds. Initially, most found them entertaining. No, it is not Sarah Palin’s modest beginnings and rise up the social and economic and political ladder that enrages her mostly non-political critics.
Rather, it is her choice of husband, and her decision to have five children, starting at an early age, that really enrages her critics. Who find that a dagger aimed right at the heart of the traditional view of female empowerment. Simply because people can see her advantages in her choices, and might seek to copy her path.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has five children. However, not only was she born to wealth and power (her father, Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr), was a Maryland Congressman and Mayor of Baltimore, but significantly, she married into wealth and power. Her husband Paul Pelosi is a wealthy businessman. Significantly, Todd Palin is not a wealthy businessman. Though a champion snowmachine racer, he remains blue collar in appearance and status, as a seasonal oil field worker and commercial fisherman. He even retains his United Steelworkers union card.
Unlike TV’s Buffy, Sarah Palin married her High School sweetheart. And not to a man resembling hunky TV-vampire “Angel” either, source of much misery mixed with romance and passion. Nope. Sarah Palin married “Xander.” Todd Palin’s Wikipedia entry may be found here and the actor Nicholas Brendon’s (Xander on Buffy) entry may be found here.
Whether it’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” or “Sex and the City,” or pretty much any female oriented television show, the model for female empowerment is pretty much the same. Have a boyfriend, but for heaven’s sake don’t get married young (Palin married at age 24). Make sure the boyfriend is powerful, or wealthy, or both. Don’t have children, particularly when you’re young (Palin’s first child was born at age 25). Since youth is best spent “exploring” in eternal adolescence. Above all, avoid supportive, steady men in favor of volatile, but high in status and power alternatives. Make sure your parents and family are kept at a distance, since they only limit your endless romantic life and professional growth. These are the rule of female empowerment, adopted by cultural consensus over the years.
Palin violates all those rules. Unlike TV’s Buffy (and also Sex and the City’s Carrie), she chose a supportive, steady man whose character and good points, flaws, and idiosyncrasies were well known to her. Rather than sacrifice career for family, she chose family first over career. Buffy, like most of TV’s empowered heroines (Xena, Veronica Mars, Carrie on Sex and the City), is often alone, between vampires boyfriends, and has no prospect of a family of her own. Even worse, the advantages Palin had over Buffy were obvious. Her husband was steady and supportive, not competitive with her own efforts. Though their family still had to hunt, as most Alaskans do, to supplement their food budget, Todd Palin’s financial and emotional support was critical to Sarah Palin’s advancement (much as Rachel Jackson’s emotional support was critical to Andrew Jackson’s political rise in the chaotic politics of Tennessee). Politics, particularly in the rough and tumble small town Alaskan variety, is not easy. Those most successful in it, usually need a supportive partner. The parallels with other career paths for women are obvious, and threatening.
Thus Palin committed three great “sins” against the conventional wisdom of female empowerment. She first chose to marry, not a powerful, “impressive” short-term romance that brings constant heartache. Buffy is often noting that love for her equals physical passion mixed with pain and misery, and reliably chooses men who will give her the heartache she craves. Sarah Palin compounds this by putting family first, starting hers early, when it’s much easier to conceive, and also care for, children. But even worse, she becomes a full adult, early in her life. Instead of age 35, or later. Trading testosterone and power for comfort, stability, and support; choosing family over career; and becoming adult early. These are her sins.
They are considerable, given the threat her existence poses to the Buffy model.
Just taking her decision to have children early, which is a massive challenge to the status quo. By having her children at a relatively young age, her parents are still young enough to help out with child care, and they do by all accounts, along with Palin’s sisters and brother, who are all close by. The value of the extended nuclear family, as contrasted to the chaotic, divorce-driven single, lonely family of Buffy (or TV’s Veronica Mars) is striking. Palin could afford as many children as Nancy Pelosi (five), with a tiny fraction of her wealth. Rather than the prison that feminism and in particular, Buffy the Vampire Slayer depicted, the nuclear family enabled Palin to have her children first, and later her career. “Having it all,” is indeed possible, but only if your parents stay together, you have a sibling or two, and you have children at a relatively young age with everyone in the same geographic area, willing to help out as part of a close-knit family.
Then, there is Todd Palin. Sarah Palin’s husband. A blue collar man who earned enough working the oil fields and fishing boats, to support a family early. A man who quit his job of 17 years in the oil fields to both avoid conflict of interest (when Palin was elected Governor) and help care for the children while Palin focused on her transition to Governor. Todd Palin later took considerable time off (without pay) to help care for the family when Trig (Palin’s Down Syndrome child, her youngest) was born. Todd Palin no less than Sarah Palin is a threat to the model of female empowerment, which panders to the idea that there are no trade-offs in pursuing the high-status, high-powered, high-testosterone men, or no advantages to be found in choosing comfort, stability, and character instead by women considering marriage.
Can one imagine Bill Clinton, John Edwards, or San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome acting in any similar manner? Much less any of Buffy’s high-powered but unreliable boyfriends? Hollywood no less than politics has a stake in this election and the prominence of the Palin family. It’s why so many made so many negative, personal, and mean spirited comments. They felt profoundly threatened by Palin’s examples, and their own choices seemed shallow and shabby.
Pamela Anderson’s disastrous personal life, rivals fictional Buffy’s for depressing chaotic sadness and bad choices. Lynda Carter married Washington DC attorney and fixer Robert Altman, who was tried and acquitted by Jury in connection with the BCCI securities fraud scandal. Carter has admitted she has undergone treatment for alcoholism. Pink is divorced from Motocross racer Carey Hart, and rumored to be involved in Scientology. Both Roger Ebert and Michael Seitzman work in an industry that is built on pushing positive images of the choices of women like Anderson, Carter, and Pink, and negative ones of the nuclear family choice that Palin made.
Sarah Palin and her family, by demonstrating without a doubt that the nuclear family, and the stability and comfort it brings, can allow ambitious women to achieve great things instead of preventing it, is a massive threat to the conventional idea of female empowerment. She just might slay Buffy’s standard in that regard. No wonder Hollywood reacted so badly. People might have to start working for a living, instead of vomiting out the old, stale ideology of 1968. We can’t have that!