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There's No Reason to Be Afraid of Taking on Sarah Palin

The Sarah Palin pick is an attempt to turn the women's movement upside down, offering someone who reinforces patriarchal power.
 
 
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Already the Democratic pundits are worrying about whether to attack Sarah Palin -- will it look like bullying? Will it make voters sympathize with her? Will it make voters identify with her and vote for her? Women are supposed to lay off her because -- she is a woman! The thinking goes that we can't question her choices because women's choices are sacrosanct. Nor can we investigate her life (beauty queen, Christian Dominionist, links to Ted Stevens, childbearing history) because those are private issues. But what Sarah Palin shows is that once again, the right wing is adept at turning the women's movement upside down and offering us a woman who reinforces patriarchal power rather than challenges it. Palin is another Margaret Thatcher or Ann Coulter, a woman who attaches herself to men in power and then does them one better. She uses the freedom that the women's movement has brought her quash the liberation of women with other views than hers. The bitch is in there, as it is with Coulter and Thatcher and Katherine Harris. The Democrats have to bring that bitch out and she has given us the right to do it.

Did she really accuse Hillary Clinton of "whining?" Then she's already told us that she won't mind any challenge -- that she can rise to any question. I want to see her do it. The personal is political, after all. Here are some issues she has to explain: What is her religion and who is her pastor? Is she a Christian Dominionist and how does she feel about the separation of church and state? How does she square her roles as mother and politican? Who is taking care of the kids while she is away, including the baby? If it's the husband, I'm glad. If it's a nanny and always has been, then I want to know how a wealthy woman with a nanny helps women in general -- wealthy women with nannies are nothing new. If she's into "family values," I want to know what they are, and how the nanny views Palin's "family values." If she produced a child at 44, I want to know if she believes in birth control, because birth control is a political issue. I also want to know her views on the government's obligations to the disabled. Do the disabled children of rich people get special treatments that their parents can afford, while the disabled children of poor people get nothing? Who is the boss in her family? If it's her, then I want to know how that squares with Christian notions of patriarchy. If it's the husband, then I want to know his values and beliefs about all the issues that face the nation, and I want to know who will actually be the vice president. I want to see her tax returns. I want to see his tax returns.

About the breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a political issue because the baby formula companies have promoted baby formula all over the world, much to the detriment of babies. If she's a family values right winger, I would expect her to back those values up by breastfeeding for six months to a year, at least. If she's not breastfeeding, frankly, and she doesn't believe in birth control, then she's a hypocrite. She has to run as a right wing family values soccer mom or she has to run as a woman who has gained freedoms through the efforts of other women. She can't do both.

Is she really a gun-toting moose-killer, or is this a pose? What are her ties to the oil and gas industries -- and I don't mean her beliefs. I want to know who paid her and when and how much. She says she doesn't know what the vice president does, so I want to know what she thinks about Dick Cheney and the unitary executive. I want to know if she understands the Constitution and what the limits of the executive branch are. I want to know if she's ever been abroad, if she has ever written anything about the Iraq war, or if she's just a follower with a pretty smile, who goes along with the big boys in order to get a little something for herself. I want to know how she treats her children, what kind of mom she is, because I want to know about her personal morality. This is a valid issue, because in the last eight years we discovered with George Bush that once a bully, always a bully. I want those kids from her high school to come forward and tell me what she was like back then.

We had years to relate to HIllary Clinton. We saw her through good times and bad. We saw her do things we didn't agree with, and we saw her do things we did agree with. She was an open book in many ways. Sarah Palin accused her of "whining." I didn't agree with Clinton, and I didn't support her, but I never accused her of whining. That "whining" remark is the hallmark of a bitchy and and arrogant point of view -- a characteristic of all conservative women politicians. So, Sarah thinks she can take it. I say we give it to her good.

AlterNet is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed by its writers are their own.

Jane Smiley is a novelist and essayist. Her novel A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.

 
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