Republican sexism watch: Sarah Palin gives us no evidence that she values girls

An edited version of this post has been guest-posted at Shakesville. There’s a rather lively discussion going on, if you’d like to check it out.

If I heard that someone’s teenage son was going away to war, I don’t know how I’d react. A respectful hush, a sharing of the worry, offers of support. A feeling of my stomach dropping out of my body. Private tears, perhaps, especially if we were close.

How wouldn’t I react? Cheering. Grinning. Congratulations. Triumphant applause. Chanting of my country’s name, as a fratboy at a football game. Fists pumping in the air. None of these things spring to mind as appropriate responses to someone’s personal involvement in the horrible tragedy of war.

Increasingly, these sorts of moments seem to me like something out of a dystopian movie.

But there’s something else about Palin’s P nomination acceptance speech in Dayton that struck me. Here’s a small clip.

Palin spends one minute and 50 seconds introducing her five children. Five of these seconds she spends introducing three girls, firstname only, to audience silence. The other 105 seconds are spent introducing two boys. That’s 95.2% of the time spent introducing 40% of the children.


Not so much.

Here’s another stump speech in Washington. (The whole thing is here.)

Seven seconds on the girls. Seventy-four on the boys. That’s 91.3% for the XY brigade.

This appears to be her standard speech. This is how Sarah Palin, who could be the US President one day, talks about the children in her life. Boys are prized and applauded and lovingly described, though whether as political symbols or valued human beings it is difficult to tell.

Girls are irrelevant in Palin’s speeches, except inasmuch as they might be caring for a boy baby at the time.


“Along the way, Todd and I have shared many blessings. And four out of five of them are here with us today.

Our oldest son, Track, though, he’ll be following the Presidential campaign from afar. On September 11th of last year, our son enlisted in the United States Army.

[wild applause and flag-waving] [Palin grins and nods, waits for the applause to die down]

Track now serves in an infantry brigade, and on September 11th, Track will deploy to Iraq in the service of his country and Todd and I are so proud [applause starts amping up again] of him and of all the fine men and women serving this country in uniform!

[Crowd goes wild, Palin claps, flags wave rapidly, fists pump in the air, crowd chants “U!S!A! U!S!A! U!S!A! U!S!A! ” in deep booming voices.McCain grins.] Thankyou. Thankyou.

Next to Todd is our daughter Bristol, another daughter Willow, our youngest daughter Piper, [audience remains silent] and over in their arms is our son Trig, a beautiful baby boy [applause and cheering starts again]. He was born just in April [Palin can barely be heard over the applause. McCain is fiddling with his wedding ring.]

His name is Trig Paxson Van Palin.”

Transcript 2: [courtesy of eeminy]

Along the way we have shared many blessings, and three of the five of them are here with us today.

“First my son, the oldest, Track. He’s going to be following the presidential campaign from afar. On September 11 of last year our son enlisted in the United States Army [applause]. Track now serves in an infantry brigade, and on September 11 of this year Track will be deployed to Iraq in the service of his country. Todd and I are so proud of him, as we are of all of our men and women serving this country in uniform, thank you! [applause]

Then we have our daughter Bristol, she’s on the bus with the newborn, and then we have our daughter Willow, who is here, and our youngest daughter Piper [applause stifled]. On that bus we have our son Trig, who is a beautiful baby boy we welcomed into the world just in April. It’s his naptime, so he is with his big sister on the bus. But we thank them for being here. [applause]

And speaking of Trig, and other things, some of life’s greatest opportunities come unexpectedly. And this is certainly the case today. I never really set out to be involved in public affairs, much less to run for this office.

Note: Please read tigtog’s post before commenting: “Families, politicians and stupid rumours“.

What this post of mine is NOT about:

* Palin’s reproductive choices, private life, or sexual behaviour;

* The reproductive choices, private life, or sexual behaviour of anyone in her family.

Thankyou for keeping this in mind. I will moderate comments as heavily as they need to be.


Update 4 September 2008: I’ve taken a look at Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention with this in mind: “Sarah Palin feminism watch #3: the RNC and the “girls in between””.

Categories: gender & feminism, Politics

Tags: , , ,

30 replies

  1. Track’s dates of enlistment and departure are, of course, totally coincidental. And, again of course, wholly relevant to her introduction of her family.
    This is actually kind of sickening, Lauredhel, but I’m glad you posted it. I was starting to sort of warm to the woman, but that has now been knocked on the head.

  2. Hmm. It is an odd way to speak of the kids. Why not say “Willow is in yada yada year at school, and plays the piano, and my youngest daughter Piper is still in elementary school” or something like that. If you’re going to the trouble of calling out your kids, and giving their names, why not add a factoid? If you don’t want them to get attention, you wouldn’t have named them…
    Its very odd.
    I guess the boys somehow “sum up” her positions better than the girls do. But its a bit sad for them.

  3. I’ve known quite a few clever, tough women who deep down simply viewed themselves as exceptions, and didn’t really have that much time for other (weak, silly) women. Women who were very much into being “one of the boys”.
    Palin strikes me as very much along those lines.

  4. This is actually kind of sickening, Lauredhel

    Glad I’m not the only one. I think tigtog could well be spot on with the underlying reason, or at least one of them.

  5. Well, she wasn’t called ‘Sarah Barracuda’ on her basketball team for nothing, and she seems to be strongly father-identified from what I’ve read. Isn’t there a name for this kind of woman? A special something-or-other princess?

  6. I like “special snowflake”: it’s non-gendered.

  7. Aha, yes, that’s what I was thinking of. I’d thought it was a particular gendered term for the antifeminist successful woman who identifies as an honorary man and looks down on other women. Amanda Cross AKA Carolyn Heilbrun wrote a particularly good Kate Fansler crime novel about this phenomenon, wonderfully entitled Death in a Tenured Position.

  8. totally off-topic, and i’m sure you must have been tagged several times before, but i’m also nominating you for the brillante weblog award cos i really love this blog.

  9. Thanks, Stargazer. I’ve done this one over here, which is where I was first nominated, so I’ll leave Tigtog to decide if she’d like to do it too. I’ve been enjoying following the wide variety of links and discovering new blogs with this particular travelling meme.
    For Hoydenizens in general, if you’ve got something off-topic to say, there are a couple of ways to go about it without having to go into an unrelated thread: firstly, our Contact The Hoydens form, or secondly, just look for the most recent “Otterday!” open thread. We start a new one each Saturday.

  10. What’s pissing me off this morning is the fact that the big conservative pundit here is flipping out about ‘the feminists’ not being angry over the whole criticism of Sarah Palin being a working mother with an infant. I was tempted to go to his blog and link him to Shakesville and Feministe, but I couldn’t be bothered…
    Anyhow, this is an enlightening vid. Cheers.

  11. Hi, stargazer. Thanks for the nomination. Perhaps I need to make up a new info page with such nominations and links to the nominating blogs on it?

    P.S. that is one gorgeous gravatar.

  12. I can see where your interpretation of this introduction is coming from. While I don’t believe that it is wholly invalid, I think it misses the other component of the introductions: Pallin using her kids to check off items on a political list.
    Child “who people said I should abort” – check.
    Son that I can use to push my militarism and supposed patriotism – check check check *snap the pencil lead** check check check.
    Where I think your criticism is spot on is that there is either no room in her girls life to do anything praiseworthy on a national stage (other than childcare), or she ignores those parts of her girls life. Reprehensible either way

  13. Bene, the thing is that the propagandists will always ignore the Other blogs that are actually addressing all the issues that they claim are being ignored. Standard operating procedure.

  14. Her children’s introductions seem to be filling 2 purposes — using the boys to illustrate her political policies, as has already been pointed out, and the girls introductions to reassure the bible thumpers, that she believes as they do — girls should be seen and not heard and she’ll continue pushing that anti-woman agenda…

  15. And, should they dare get pregnant, push them into teenage marriages with teenage boys. I hope Bristol has a long and happy marriage, but I feel for both the young parents who might not have chosen this, had they been taught proper sex ed.

  16. “What? She’s a woman, feminists should be glad!” by the usual suspect.

  17. CNN just interviewed the youngest delegate at the RNC, a 17yo. Sarah Palin is “a hard-working housewife.” LOL, dude didn’t get the memo yet.

  18. Amanda: Oh geez, so much lulz…how did they get a delegate who’s not old enough to vote here in the US? Maybe 18 by November or something?
    I can’t decide if I want to watch or not. I have a vested interest in not having a stroke, so probably not.

  19. I just hope the dems leave her alone to hang herself and don’t attack her and give her the sympathy vote. She’s doing a great job so far – even if people don’t do the analysis the way you have she’s coming across as a willing dupe/dope for the republicans. She doesn’t seem attractive in any way, unless you’re into a kind of working class Maggie Thatcher. Imagining her in the Oval Office (should anything happen to McCain) may be beyond the ability of the US public. We can hope.

  20. M-H: Funny you should mention that, as there was a big fluff about her calling herself ’the Iron Lady of the North’ on her site the other day.

  21. Mitt Romney is really rocking the red meat. Weird that a Gov of Mass can bag “eastern elites” with a straight face but wev works for you, pal.

  22. I can’t say I care much for Palin, but this particular speech isn’t really much more than the machine at work. Palin may or may not be a competent politician, but her political competency was not the primary drive behind her nomination. And it’s not like Alaska was a state the Republicans were scrambling to lock down. Those boys have a lot to do with why she’s on the ticket. If you want 100 Years War McCain to have some traction given the way the public feels about the war, you have to at least fake a bit of “Hey. We Republicans sacrifice, too.”
    In this case, I don’t buy the girls are irrelevant because they’re female. They’re irrelevant because even if they’re extraordinary, their existence/acts do not hit on any particularly exciting political issue. At least not one Republicans and undecided independents seem to care about. One might consider it despicable to use one’s children in such a fashion, but I don’t see the sexism at play here.

  23. Here’s the thing, jillian: sexism for political gain and sexism for economic gain are still sexism. Sexism doesn’t have to be purely recreational to qualify as sexism, to be something that feminists call out.
    I really don’t get how “But she figured it would help her politically!” is a super excuse.

  24. I think my incredulity resides in whether or not gender played a hand at all. Clearly, not everything that happens to a woman is sexist just because the slighted person’s a woman. Are her daughters slighted? Definitely. Were they slighted because they were female? I’m not so sure. I think if Bristol were the one going off to Iraq instead of Track, she’d be the featured child in her mother’s speech. The Republicans want a war bound child. They don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl. Palin stepped up and handed them one. I feel like gender/sex is incidental here. It’s possible that you stumbled across more things while preparing this post. I’m just saying, I don’t see it in this instance.

  25. Jillian, rather than re-hash things, I’d like to point you to the discussion thread at Shakesville, which covers the “Some feminists are so touchy” critique fairly thoroughly.


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