Monday, December 01, 2008


Reuters today:

...While 2008 will go down in U.S. history as the year the country's first black president was elected, it will also be remembered for the election in which a woman nearly became the Democratic nominee for president and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin became the Republican party's first woman nominee for vice president.

The campaign was also marked by stereotypes of Clinton as the humorless harridan of the Democratic nominating contests and Palin as the know-nothing pretty face chosen to be Republican John McCain's running mate.

"There is no question this campaign exposed extreme gender bias from the media, from party leaders and from the voters," said Stacy Mason, executive director of WomenCount, a progressive women's organization....

With regard to Palin, sorry, I don't buy it.

We didn't think she was a know-nothing because we were unfairly fitting her into a female stereotype; we thought she was a know-nothing because there was a lot of stuff about which she clearly knew nothing. Like grammar. Or the major Supreme Court decisions. Or, well, anything that didn't have to do with extracting some natural resource or other from Alaska and turning it into energy. And she knew nothing about very many subjects at the top of her lungs.

In politics, yes, there is a self-important-dumbass stereotype -- and it's male. It's Dan Quayle. It's George W. Bush. It contains elements that aren't part of the dumb-female stereotype we know from outside politics: primarily, an arrogance about one's own (nonexistent) intellectual candlepower, which manifests itself in a belief that inarticulateness and incuriosity are actually signs of great wisdom. Palin has all that. Also, self-important political dumbasses want to amass political power in order to punish mockers. Palin fits that stereotype too. The nonpolitical world's cliche dumb-pretty female doesn't need to punish mockers -- she's in the real world, where it's not cool at all to be smart.

There really isn't a dumb-pretty female stereotype in politics because women, at least up to now, have generally had to be quite sharp-witted to get anywhere in politics. So, yes, Hillary Clinton got trapped at times in the dour-brainiac stereotype -- but Palin wasn't reduced to a female cliche.

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