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Last week, I was a tad distracted by the hurricane hurtling my way, but I spent my evacuation going between coverage of the storm that was Gustav and the storm that was Sarah Palin (whose speech I watched upon my return to New Orleans at a Magazine Street bar, as we still had no electricity). Now that my power has been restored, the mess that was my yard has been cleaned up (I have the scars to prove it) and New Orleans is out of danger (for the moment), I feel as though I must put in my two cents regarding the response of the media to Sarah Palin, including that of some of my fellow wOwers.
First, let me say that I was appalled by it generally, but I’ll try to dismantle the reaction piece by piece. First, there is the stunning double standard. In an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, Gloria Steinem refers to the “ridicule and misogyny” suffered by Hillary Clinton. Both those words could certainly apply to what Sarah Palin went through last week. Blogs accused her of faking her own pregnancy with a Down syndrome child to cover up for her daughter. Mainstream journalists — female mainstream journalists — like Norah O’Donnell questioned whether a mother of five could effectively function as vice president. More piled on about her irresponsibility in accepting the nomination with five children, including one with special needs. Alan Colmes suggested on his blog that her airplane travel had possibly contributed to the fact that her child was born with Down syndrome.
It went on and on and on. Where was the feminist outcry? Plenty of Republican women were sickened over the treatment of Hillary Clinton (hell, even I cried at the video that introduced her convention speech), but there has been no reaching across party lines to defend Palin. Not even when Martin Peretz dismissed and demeaned her by saying, “I give [Palin] her due: she is pretty like a cosmetics saleswoman at Macy’s.” If he had said that about someone who agrees with them on the issues, Steinem et al would have gone crazy.
And therein lies the real truth. All the opiners who called the choice “insulting” (including my friend Sally Quinn before her about-face) really meant that it was not a choice that they would have made; she is not a woman who thinks or votes like them, she is pro-life, not pro-choice. (I too am pro-choice, but I respect the choices of other people — especially one, like Palin, who walks her talk.) Apparently only those women are worthy of defending. When so many of the most vocal critics weighed in by calling Palin a “cynical” choice, I had to ask myself, “Who is really being cynical here?”
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