The XX Factor

Pretty Angry

It’s hard not to love a pretty-faced spitfire. In a recent New Republic post , Ruth Franklin recounts her experience of watching an attractive young poetess read razor-edged “threats” to a delighted audience. “There was something electrifying,” she recalls, “in the spectacle of this sweet-looking woman blithely reading off her visions of brilliant mayhem.” Franklin proceeds to compare the poet, Amelia Gray, to successful female comedians who mask their hostility behind physical appeal, delivering utterly venomous punch lines in innocuous packaging.

Considering the marketability of female rage, my mind turns (perhaps too immediately) to Sarah Palin’s ” lipstick pit bull ” identity. Palin has seized on the magnetism of her tough-girl persona, channeling the fury of the Mama Grizzly movement into a SarahPAC ad. Dahlia described the ad’s many metaphors as a vague call-to-arms, but one that is ultimately powerful in a way similar to Amelia Gray’s poetry: “The juxtaposition of all the hugs and the roses with the language of barely leashed physical violence is pretty stunning.”

The problem with this sugarcoated fury is that it often reduces Palin’s very real anger to a kind of pleasant irony. It wins votes but reinforces the limits of women’s rage, true indignation too often welcomed only because it appears (unexpectedly!) in a pretty package. The creators of the SarahPAC ad defused the enraged voice-over with camera shots of smiling, pearl-bedecked women-putting the lipstick on the proverbial pit bull. If Palin were not so glamorous in appearance, her rallying cry could easily be dismissed as bullish or bitter . But instead, she punctuates her incensed rhetoric with cutesy winks. Who would expect such wrath spitting from a former pageant queen’s lips?

Photograph of Sarah Palin by Cheryl Gerber/Getty Images News.