Sarah Palin shouldn’t be relevant.
And yet, if any of the attention she is receiving this week means anything, she is. Her book, Going Rogue (“maverick” was already taken) came out Tuesday. Since then, Palin has been making the rounds with Oprah, Barbara and anyone else who counts, except for maybe Katie Couric.
But Palin should never have been relevant. We wouldn’t really be aware of her if ol’ Walnuts hadn’t picked her to run as his VP, but we can’t put all the blame on him. Palin has been running on her own steam for over a year now, maintaining support despite violating the Executive Branch Ethics Act of Alaska, and later resigning as its governor.
I can’t understand it. Am I an elitist, out of touch with Real Americans™, or not as feminist as I think I am? As Proust would say, Palin’s career is worse than a crime – it’s a mistake. She fumbles and missteps and winks, and yet here she is, the GOP’s pariah soaking up attention and followers. Her uncanny, almost instinctual, manipulation of feminism is one of the reasons why she is still stuck in the public eye.
These manipulations are more subtle than you would expect coming from someone whose calling card is “Drill, baby, drill.” In Palin’s interview with Oprah on Monday, she was typically self-contradictory. When asked about the wardrobe scandal of the 2008 election, when she was accused of using Republican National Committee funds to buy $150,000 worth of clothes, she said a sexist “double-standard,” encouraged the controversy.
But when Oprah asked how she could manage being a politician and a mother at the same time, Palin was quick to downplay the pressures that women with both a family and a career face. “There’s so much equality,” she told Oprah, as if the sexism she had just complained about was a thing of the past.
Feminism is not an ideology to Palin; it is a tool, and she takes full advantage of it. To Palin, it is “empowering” to acknowledge that you’re “strong enough and smart enough” to have a child in any situation, your desire to give birth be damned. Even if you’ve been raped, or your own health is in danger, “feminism” means not giving women the option to choose.
To Palin, it isn’t ableist to use her disabled child as proof that no one has an excuse to get an abortion. It also isn’t ableist to use him to create hysteria over Obama’s “death panels.” As she said in a speech in August, “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel.'” I’m surprised more disability rights and feminist activists haven’t called her out on this.
To Palin, abstinence-only sex education is necessary to preserve the moral fiber of our youth. And yet she told Barbara Walters on Monday that she wished her daughter, Bristol, had used birth control while having premarital sex. Palin’s brand of “feminism” means moralizing the sexuality of our children but setting them up to sin.
It’s strange that we’re so used to Palin’s contradictions that they’re no longer surprising, though they haven’t gotten any less frustrating. True to her nature as a “rogue,” she is rarely reliable about anything. Except, of course, remaining relevant despite herself.
HALEY DAVIS is embarrassed that she’s contributed to the Sarah Palin overload. To yell at her for it, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.