10/13/08

Misogyny: It's Not Just for Republicans Anymore

Anti-McCain Bumper Sticker seen while walking dog: Old Fart + Bimbo: Our Country Can do Better.  

To the writer of this pithy little statement I'd like to say "Yes!  It can!"  And it can start by getting rid of the word Bimbo.

For the record, let me state that I am not a fan of Sarah Palin.  I do not believe she is qualified to be our Vice President.  I do believe she is anti-feminist, anti-family and anti-environment.  I also believe she has confused the search for a political voice with the search for celebrity, and that, as her refusal to quiet hate-mongering Republican supporters from advocating violence against Obama suggests, she lacks both  a sense of moral responsibility and a love of the democratic pluralism that this country was founded on. 

But let me say this, as a feminist, I am unnerved by the cavalier, almost giddy misogyny expressed by opponents of Palin.  Granted, Obama supporters and people on the left were not the first to cloak Palin in misogynistic terms.  Much has been made of the fact that Palin was called "Sarah the Barracuda" in high school.  Indeed, in a rather impressively subversive act for such rigidly hegemonic organization, the Republican National Committee has adopted Heart's 1980s hit song "Barracuda" as Palin's theme song.  But subvert its intention all they try, to call a woman a Barracuda is not a compliment.  It has long been a demeaning insult to women of power and women who reject -- even temporarily -- a more feminine (which is to say more deferential) gender identity.

Barracuda slides easily into the other b-word: Bitch, another word applied to women who challenge traditional gender roles.  A quick Google search of "Palin Bitch" revealed over three and a half million links, and it doesn't take more than thirty seconds to reveal that most of those links are to people who hate Palin with visceral intensity and who use this all too common label to position her, ironically enough, in exactly the same way people on the right positioned Hillary Clinton when she seemed the likely victor in the Democratic primary.  She's a bitch.  She's mean.  She's loud.  She's strident.  She smiles too much.  She's fake.  She frowns too much.  She's evil.  She uses people.  She doesn't really care; she's power hungry.  Anybody remember how Hillary got pillaried when she talked about her "livelong" experience duck hunting?  She was a joke to people on the right.  Just like moose-hunting Palin is a joke to people on the left.

Attacking the femininity of powerful women who step outside the confines of traditional womanhood is one tried and true way of denigrating women; accusing them of loose sexual standards is another.  Which brings us back our first b-word: bimbo.  Palin a bimbo?  Really? I'm not seeing it.  But over 400 thousand people on Google are.  Bill Maher has called Palin a Bimbo. Obviously, there are those bumber stickers I mentioned, and -- good news if this is what excites you -- there are also PALIN BIMBO T-shirts.  (Again, just Google it.)

How progressive are progressives?  When was the last time Joe Biden stopped a crowd from calling a Palin a bitch or a bimbo?  When was the last time anybody told him he should?  How can we expect democrats to respect gender equality -- to demand gender equality -- when they are happy to let their own base degrade female opponents in the most traditionally misogynistic terms available?  That bumber sticker was right about one thing: Our country can do better.




5 comments:

Susan C said...

This is such a smart, thought-provoking post. Have you thought about crafting it into an opinion piece?

About Margaret Finnegan said...

I'll think about it!

Paula L. Johnson said...

Your post gave me a flashback to my first vacation in Mexico.

I was a college student and could not believe my eyes when I saw the first of many 18-wheeler trucks with BIMBO lettered on both sides.

Turns out that Grupo Bimbo is giant Latin American food conglomerate based in Mexico.

JCK said...

This is a great post, Margaret. You invoked what I've been feeling for quite a while, most especially over the last week when the McCain campaign is basically throwing Sarah Palin under the bus.

Great to meet you today.

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

You left out chick. Remember "no fat chicks" on bumper stickers or "shut up bitch on T shirts? Barracuda was a favored term used for top selling female realtors. I'm enjoying your blog. I'm guilty of some of this myself. Makes me rethink things.