The XX Factor

Palin Calls Bachmann Photo Sexist

The campaign is over, and yet the weird reverse double backflip feminism keeps coming. This time, Sarah Palin has come to the defense of Sister Bachmann for the sexist way she was treated by the good ole boys on the bus. In a story titled ” Michelle Bachmann Bid Adds Drama to the GOP Leadership Race” Politico ran a photo of Bachmann having lipstick applied. I saw it as a bad pun on “drama” or a way of showing Bachmann is ready for the main stage or some other sub-creative metaphor but Palin saw it as “boringly transparent” sexism . I mean, she can call herself a “pitbull with lipstick” but if anyone else mentions the lipstick that’s kinda, well, totally obvious what’s going on there, ya know?

I’m sure that she feels the umbrage, because she is willfully blind to her own contradictions. It’s a particularly Mama Grizzly trick to have femininity and sometimes overt sexiness present in all her appearances and yet insist that everyone else  pretend it’s not there. Unlike, say, Ann Coulter Palin never actually calls feminists ugly. Instead her subtle genius, as our own Meredith Simons points out, has been “using, even highlighting, her sex appeal, without ever talking about it. Then she can still get offended when someone else talks about it.” Christine O Donnell was an offender in a different way, talking about chastity while strongly giving off the opposite vapor.

It’s become fairly standard to complain that the media only describes the outfits of women and not men . To me the reasons to do that are fairly obvious: men in public life wear suits which all look the same and women wear varied clothing which sometimes – but not always – reveals something relevant about them. (Although the sartorial life of men is fast changing, as the fabulous Mary HK Choi documents on the Hairpin ). We talk a lot about Sarah Palin’s appearance but not, say Barbara Mikulski’s or Meg Whitman’s because in the latter cases their superficial self presentation is not all that interesting. Occasionally, with men, it also seems interesting. When critics brought up John Edwards’ expensive haircut the detail resonated because it seemed to echo what we all thought about Edwards anyway; that he was shallow and self involved. If somebody told you Larry Summers got a $400 haircut you would be puzzled for a moment but then move on. I recall an old Michael Lewis profile of Michael Huffington which described the systematic way he eats an ear of corn. It’s just like in a novel; sometimes the external details matter and sometimes they don’t.