Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sarah Palin's Gender Roles

Rachel Maddow showed a clip from a Sarah Palin speech given yesterday in a location that isn't New Mexico where Palin takes "Joe the Plumber" to the next level. Now everyone, according to Maddow, is [Name] The [Occupation]. Palin gives two lists: people she's met on the campaign trail and signs being waved in the hall where she's speaking. Her list of people she's supposedly met tells me a lot about her concept of gender roles. She's chosen occupations that are architypical and sometimes old timey.
  • Ed the Dairyman
  • Tito the Builder
  • Phil the Bricklayer
  • Rose the Teacher
  • Corinna the Nurse
Now contrast that with the people who are at her rally or speech or whatever (as read from the signs they're waving.
  • Anne the Engineer
  • Dave the Cop
  • Jeffery the Hockey Player
  • Jon the Only Republican in My High School
It's interesting to me that she chose architypal occupations, confirming that the whole "Joe the Plumber" thing is, for them, about wooing people whose primary concerns are those of business. And men are builders and bricklayers and dairymen. Women are teachers and nurses. The people at her rally (or whatever), however, did not choose architypal occupations because they chose either their actual occupation or something else that they think defines them. And the first one (at least in Maddow's clip) indicates that Palin's "women are teachers and nurses" view is not our reality any longer. Anne the Engineer. I like it.

If it were anyone else, I would admit that it is patently unfair to judge someone on the content of one excerpted speech. But Palin has stuck me as a kind of unintentional truth-teller. Her pagent-style of question answering (just keep talking! fluently! about anything, it doesn't matter!) lets things slip all the time. And, frankly, I just don't think she's all that bright. I mean, telling everyone that the campaign moved out of Michigan without consulting it's VP pick who had to email her runningmate, "Oh c'mon, do we have to?" is just so obviously a terrible idea. But it let us know exactly where she stands with the campaign behind closed doors. And I think this is the same kind of thing. When she's most comfortable, she's most revealing. She's working with some very old material, like 1960s style. Yes, women work, but primarily at one of two jobs.

1 comment:

SonicLlama said...

Something that I've been thinking about-

As much as I don't want to be overconfident, I think that Obama pretty much has this one in the bag. McCain knows that. Palin knows that. Palin really, really knows that.

John McCain plucked her out of obscurity and gave her national recognition, something that will not necessarily flicker away when this election is over. I imagine that she's setting herself up for a shot at national political recognition, most probably as a senator. For her to kvetch about the withdrawl from Michigan now is to garner more political cred later. Think about it- in a few years, Palin will look back on the decision to surrender to the Democrats there and be able to cast herself as someone who made a stand, someone who was unwilling to surrender. "Do we have to," doesn't really mean much now, but it will probably mean a lot when she's eyeing a leadership position within the Republican party.

That said, her gender archetypes are quite conventional and traditional. So much so that they are banal. "Corinna the Nurse," though, just conjures up images of my like-named SO wearing a too-short nurse's outfit, a retro-style hat, and bending over gratuitously. I rather like this image...