A recent CNN Opinion Poll indicates US Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin is well supported. Among American men, 63% have a favorable opinion and among women, the figure is 53%. Very scary, I think, the level of support for this mooseburger-eating, right wing fanatic, governor of a small, small state who has zero foreign policy experience. Maybe it’s due to the side of the fence I’m on, but it seems the 47% of women who oppose Palin are a whole lot more vocal. Gloria Steinem and Eve Ensler have both written thoughtful and detailed analyses of all that’s wrong with Palin. Opposition is strong in cyberspace. And I would add that this is happening in interesting and innovative ways. Five different people have forwarded me a letter written by Wasilla, Alaska resident Anne Kilkenny who knows Palin. Despite her request not to do this, Kilkenny’s letter has made its way onto 100s of blogs. One even looks like an official US government-sponsored blog. I suspect it’s not official since the ad currently running reads: How To Write A Sex Scene. A Romance Author Gives A Peak At How She Does It. Four different people have forwarded me an email from a couple of New Yorkers who encourage readers to send their views to email@example.com . So far, 140,000 women have expressed their views.
One important element central to all of this commentary around Palin is similar to a set of arguments Alex Magaisa made in his article entitled: Politics and prejudice: plight of Zimbabwean women. It happens in various ways and to different degrees of unjust, unscrupulous, and sadistic objectification. But still, world over women in politics tend to be viewed as just that. Women in politics. As opposed to non-sexed, non-gendered politicians involved in public service because they believe in their leadership qualities, and believe they have solid ideas. It’s not a perfect parallel to look at female politicians in the US in comparison to female Zimbabwean politicians. But, in a way, it’s like looking at two sides of a coin. And both sides are bunk.
John McCain picked Sara Palin because he believes that any old woman will do. As long as it’s a she, she is what will win him votes. The situation in Zimbabwe, as Magaisa articulates, is such that female politicians signal more space for men to cast and further embed into the fabric of society objectifying eyes. In paraphrasing Magaisa: More space for men to ridicule women, not for their ideas, but about their private lives. More space for men to describe in precise detail their wild imaginations or fantasies about a woman’s reproductive organs and how she uses them, etc. I mean what kind of person would look at pictures of Grace Kwinjeh after she was beaten and come up with comments about “what they could ‘do’ with a woman endowed with her features, if given the chance.”
Anne Kilkenny made the important point that democracies require being able to distinguish between disliking and disagreeing. She even went so far as to say: I like Sarah Palin. I disagree with her. Personally, I can’t go quite that far. I both disagree with and dislike John McCain and Sarah Palin. And more so, the politics and prejudices Magaisa describes are beyond just disagreeing. All one can do is dislike. And fight for change.