Sarah Palin Can Be Your Own Personal Barbie
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It's not about sexism, stupid. It's about Barbie.
That's why a lot of women are gaga for Sarah Palin.
Women closing in on the big four-O -- the McCain-Palin target demographic for voters -- grew up role-playing endlessly with Barbie. They spent hours dressing dolls in sexy lingerie, stewardess uniforms, business suits and evening attire while pretending their Barbie was a CEO, a pilot or even -- gasp -- president.
Sarah, as she's called by her female fans, is a 21st century walking, talking, breathing brunette Barbie. Women long to be her friend and have her as a confidante -- the very role Barbie played during childhood. Naturally, women won't admit that Sarah is like Barbie because to do so seems unsupportively shallow and well, sexist, toward the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket.
But Sarah has lived a life very similar to Barbie's.
What girl didn't want to live in the enchanting, ever-changing world of Barbie? Sorry, Hillary, but Barbie was the first to crash the glass ceiling. After all, Barbie was an astronaut in 1965, five years before Neil Armstrong and crew landed on the moon and long before Sally Ride's space adventure. Barbie even ran for president in 1992 -- 15 years before Hillary, the first serious female contender in modern presidential politics, announced.
According to Mattel, Barbie has enjoyed more than 100 careers. In fact, the doll was designed by Ruth Handler in 1959 to assume many roles in life other than fashion model. Sarah followed Barbie's path and has repeatedly reincarnated herself in adventurous arenas that mirror those of the celebrated doll.
Sarah was a high school basketball star, and so hard-core on the court that she was nicknamed Sarah Barracuda. Imagine Barracuda Barbie with her knee-high jock socks and sexy short shorts showing the girls -- and boys -- how to score the winning jump shot. Props to Palin. She beat Barbie onto the court: Mattel didn't premiere a Basketball Barbie until the 1990s.
Mattel premiered a Miss America Barbie in 1974 when Sarah was still a child, and for three years, the doll, complete with her crown, sash, corsage and scepter, sashayed across toy chests in suburbia.
During the 1970s, the Miss America Pageant was one of the most watched televised events hitting its peak in 1970 with 22 million households. Even as women like Hillary Clinton rallied for the Equal Rights Amendment, little girls in Sarah's generation were ignorant of the protests and anticipated the annual dreamy ritual of the swimsuit parades and evening wear extravaganza with a hint of talent thrown in for scholarship.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Sarah transformed into a beauty queen during the big-hair '80s. She was second runner-up in the Miss Alaska contest and also named "Miss Congeniality." Barbie would have been proud.
After graduating from college in 1987, Sarah became a sportscaster in Alaska. Barbie beat Sarah into the newscaster seat by only two years. Mattel premiered its TV News Reporter Barbie in 1985 when journalism was at its glamorous heyday in the 1980s, thanks in part to trailblazers like Barbara Walters, Jessica Savitch and Connie Chung.
Sarah first dipped her toe into politics in 1992 when she ran for city council. That same year the Clintons were running for the White House. After he was elected, Bill Clinton opened the door to women in politics and appointed 592 women to Senate-confirmed positions while president -- the most of any president up to that time. It was hip to be a woman in politics in the 1990s. Sarah knew it, and so did Mattel when it unveiled the first Barbie for President doll in 1992.
Regardless of how down-to-earth the McCain campaign portrays Sarah, she still lives a life more like Barbie than Soccer Mom Sue.
Barbie flies a plane and has her pilot's license. Sarah's Ken -- oops, Todd -- owns a seaplane. Sarah was photographed standing next to the plane in Vogue. Don't say that's not Barbie-like.
Sarah ice fishes, hunts and snowmobiles. And she has a lot of them. In 1982, Mattel launched Eskimo Barbie, a tribute to Alaska. You know, Eskimo Barbie hunted caribou and moose outside that Dreamhouse when Ken was racing in the Iditarod Great Sled Race.
Oh, the houses. Sarah commutes between two. The three-story historic governor's mansion in Juneau has 10 bathrooms, six bedrooms and eight fireplaces. Sarah also has a more rustic house in Wasilla -- let's call it a Barbie cabin.
But Sarah has done some things that Barbie never would have considered.
When Sarah was Wasilla's mayor, a strict ordinance was passed about skateboarding on city sidewalks. Barbie would have never outlawed such a thing. Instead, she would have immediately gone shopping at the mall for the coolest skateboard and matching knee and elbow pads.
Sarah married young, and Barbie never married Ken. In fact, she kicked him to the curb in 2004. Will Sarah do the same to Todd if she becomes vice president? Barbie never had children; Sarah is the mother of five. Maybe Barbie didn't think she could have it all and Sarah did.
Girls live vicariously through Barbie. Women now can experience the campaign trail through Sarah in a way they couldn't with Hillary. Whether it matters that she recites the same speech or won't answer questions from reporters or voters remains to be seen.
Come on, Barbie lovers. It's fun to watch Sarah, if for no reason, for her daily hairstyles. At the vice presidential announcement, she looked librarian chic. At the Republican convention, her hair teased her shoulders seductively. On the campaign trail, she wears a perky ponytail. Does she have a pink curling iron hiding in her bag?
Life hasn't always been rosy in Barbie's universe. In 1992, Mattel released Teen Talking Barbie. She got in trouble when she said, "Math is hard." Considering her interview this week with Charles Gibson, Sarah may be thinking the same thing about foreign policy.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas journalist. Her work frequently appears in the Economist and U.S. News and World Report . She's the author of Sex in the South (Justin Charles & Co.).