Conservatives' Big Hypocrisy: Turning Women Candidates (Who Are Anti-Sex and Anti-Woman) into Sex Symbols
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Sexuality is as important to politics as it is to the entertainment industry. The 2008 presidential campaign was a testament to the power of charismatic, highly sexualized candidates capturing national media attention and driving the election.
Barack Obama and Sarah Palin represented the future of the American political candidate: sexy, articulate, a saleable commodity. The 2010 election is a replay of 2008, but with a likely very different outcome due in small part to the presence of the sexy sisters, the “new” Republican woman represented by Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, Nikki Haley and Michele Bachmann, among others.
In 2008, it was Obama vs. McCain. The election was, symbolically, a showdown between a youthful, erotically-empowered vision of a new, 21st century America and a Viagra-infused image of the flaccid cock’s-man of the old order. The sexualized future beat out the erectile-dysfunctional past.
The 2010 Republican campaign is an attempt by the old order to reinstall its rejected program. Key to this effort is the promotion of “sexy” female candidates, the “new” Republican woman. She is a showpiece, a fig leaf, covering the impotence at the heart of the Tea Party’s politics of rage.
As polling data reveals, this woman temps the predominately white male electoral (erectile) base while preserving traditional values. Her temptation serves only to re-enforce conventional patriarchal values, the dominant role of the male in a post-feminist era. Ironically, this is an era in which not only the two-income family is essential but all-too-many white, Christian, Republican working families are absolutely dependent on the wife’s income.
In the face of this new socio-economic condition, the sexy Republican sisters -- Palin clones all -- have captured the political center-stage. They seek to overcome a fundamental contradiction at the heart of Christian, conservative, Tea Party morality: growing male socio-economic impotence and increasing female sexual empowerment.
* * *
One of the most popular campaign buttons at the ’08 Republican National Convention read: “Hottest V.P. from the Coolest State.” And Alaska’s governor, Sarah Palin, was hot. Like an electric jolt, she reinvigorated a comatose candidate, rejuvenated a frumpy granddad into a barnstorming populist. She gave McCain’s faltering presidential campaign new life, especially among dedicated “values voters” who were long suspicious of his true beliefs.
Palin began her political career in 1984 winning the “Miss Wasilla” contest and coming in third in the “Miss Alaska” contest, where she was awarded the Miss Congeniality prize. And there’s nothing like being Miss Congeniality to lubricate a political career. Hopping from the Wasilla city council to mayor to Alaska governor in 2006, Palin presented herself as a former beauty contestant with grit, an attractive but shoot-from-the-hip wholesome woman. However, after being anointed by the floundering McCain campaign, she was remade (at an estimated cost of $150,000) into a glamorous, commodified sex symbol.
Palin and her “new” Republican sisters share qualities with their progressive sisters; being self-assured, college educated, with professional careers and often married with children. However, in distinction to more progressive feminists, these women embrace “traditional” (and often fundamentalist religious) values. These values seek to preserve the fading myth of the patriarchal family and the economic and sexual prowess of the husband.
This contradiction is expressed most acutely by Delaware candidate Christine O'Donnell. She has come under much media ridicule for what she proposed on a 1996 MTV program and again in a 1998 article, “The Case for Chastity,” that masturbation is sinful and that looking at pornography while married is equivalent to cheating on one’s spouse.
This ridicule intensified when her youthful indiscretions became public. First, it was her attraction to witchcraft. Then it was revealed that, while a student at Fairleigh Dickinson University, she told the Delaware News Journal in April 2004 that she regretted things she did like "drinking too much and having sex with guys with whom there wasn't a strong emotional connection." She claims to have ultimately rejected these indiscretions, finding God and adopting a chaste, anti-masturbation, anti-condom use, abstinence-only sex ed and anti-porn life.