Attention American feminists
Put all fuming and angst aside for a moment and listen to how other
liberals - usually of like-mind - regard Sarah Palin….outside the
United States…in a most unlikely place, no less.
It’s a very interesting story, a sort of backhanded compliment that raises .
The Hindu online edition of India’s National Newspaper has this opinion piece saying that the British love Sarah Palin, and telling why.
Strangely enough, a country which is not known to warm
easily to outsiders with raving right-wing views seems to have fallen
in love with Ms Palin after her gritty performance at the Republican
Party convention last month as the running-mate of John McCain, the
party’s presidential nominee.
Since that “electrifying” and “barnstorming” speech, she has been
the only show in town with self-styled experts showering praise on her
for everything from her finger-jabbing rhetoric and media-baiting
one-liners to the choice of her dress that evening (in “contrast” to
Hillary Clinton’s “frumpy” trouser-suits) and her “hypnotic” rimless
glasses which have become the subject of some rather breathless
Britain, says Suroor, is in the grip of “Palinmania”.
While Hillary Clinton who is closer to the British idea
of a cosmopolitan, liberal and politically sophisticated politician is
intensely disliked in Britain, especially by members of her own gender,
the gun-toting, anti-abortionist Ms Palin is a hit across the gender
and political divide. Men find her glamorous, women admire her for
putting “misogynists” on notice — as one woman commentator put it — and
politicians of different hues like her for her brazen political
But, above all, it is her refreshing “otherness”—her slightly
flirtatious style, muscular language…and the sheer pluckiness of a
small-town woman daring to take on the Washington establishment — that
makes her look so interesting to many Britons. The more she appears to
be unlike them, the more they like her.
The backhanded compliments go on…and on.
Ms Palin’s politics, especially her views on social
issues…are extreme even by the standards of the hang ‘em, flog ‘em
variety of the British Right and have few takers in Britain. But, there
is a sneaking admiration for her sheer chutzpah. And her “gritty
flamboyance”, to quote one Palin-watcher, reminds many Britons of
Margaret Thatcher who was hated for her politics but secretly admired
by her worst critics for her steely, in-your-face style.
You can’t really say Palin has an “in-your-face” style, though to her opponents it may feel that way.
It is interesting how even a great many feminists have
managed to find a soft corner for Ms Palin. Her personal life story — a
mother of five juggling a large family and a demanding career, and
succeeding — has impressed them and they are willing to overlook her
politics to recognise what they believe is a quality that British women
lack…Another woman writer — The Sunday Telegraph’s Anne Applebaum —
hailed Ms Palin as someone who “almost uniquely …appears not to be
bothered at all by this conflict [between family life and an active
life in politics] — hence the interest she holds for women.”
And this is only about halfway through the article at this point.
Intended or not, this is admiration from an unlikely quarter….feminists
in Britain. Although feminists in America are more unlikely to write
these words, or even think them.
Ms Palin’s appeal, her admirers argue, lies in the fact
that — unlike Ms Clinton, for example — she is not an archetypal woman
politician; and despite her strident right-wing views, because of which
she has been accused of re-igniting America’s “culture wars,” it is not
easy to cast her in strictly black-and-white terms in the Right / Left
/ Liberal / Conservative / feminist / non-feminist debate.
But her opponents in the U.S. have anyway. But consider:
Which side of this ideological divide does one place a
woman who did not insist on long, paid maternity leave instead choosing
to return to work so soon after delivering a baby? Was it “feminist” to
back her unmarried daughter’s decision to have her baby? Was it
“liberal” or “conservative” for her to play cruel sports such as go
These are the questions we are asked to ponder before casting her as an unreconstructed reactionary.
Too late for the “before” part. But let’s consider these views.
Rebecca Johnson of Vogue magazine, who interviewed Ms
Palin before she became famous, confessed in an article for a British
newspaper that despite being a “liberal I’m blown away by Palin.” The
argument, put forward by her and some other liberal/feminist supporters
of Ms Palin, is that in order to understand what she is about in terms
of her life-style and political and social choices it is important to
understand where she comes from.
Isn’t this what we were asked to do, from the beginning, with Barack Obama? Yes.
Ms Palin, we’re told, is a graduate from “University of
Life” and should not be judged by Ivy League’s academic standards. To
do that would be as distorting as judging Barack Obama by standards
that apply to conventional white politicians.
It’s interesting that this long and flattering article about Palin
winds up negative at the end. But even that is revealing. The liberal
feminists who admire Palin are safely on the other side of the Pond,
and can’t vote.
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