2008 US election, Sarah Palin, sexism

A rare apology…

I joked about it yesterday, but I’m second-guessing today. Exactly why the fuss over Sarah Palin’s wardrobe expenses? How much does John McCain spend? Or Barack Obama? Obama looks damn sharp every time I see a picture of him and that’s gotta cost some money, right? John McCain doesn’t look sharp, but in just about every picture, his shirt has those “new shirt” folds like the plastic just got peeled off and none of his people know how to use an iron. It doesn’t look good, but it does cost money, right?

I poked fun at it yesterday, as I was still marvelling at the disconnect between spending such money on clothes and calling your opponent’s ideas “socialist”, riding the “socialism for the rich” line, but I’d like to retract those statements. There are so many real issues at stake in this election, so many real reasons that a local figure like Sarah Palin might be difficult to figure in such a national position, that to besmirch the argument with such open sexism is harmful to the discussion.

These campaigns are spending more money than FSM to get their people in the top seats, and this naturally will include carefully crafting the television image. All of this costs money, but it’s small peanuts on the scale of the entire election cycle, where the final pricetag this time around will undoubtedly be well north of a billion dollars. Money spent on image is (unfortunately) every bit as legitimate an expense as anything else in a political campaign, it’s just that the results are more visible and direct. If we really were concerned about how much this is costing, we’d see a report on how much fuel is being wasted while these guys bounce around the country in jets, the price of which will pale the sartorial budgets of all involved.

Now, if the media is prepared to release how much it costs to make Barack Obama look as sharp as he does and John McCain functionally animated, then I’ll jump back in. The discussion would then at least be fair, if irrelevant to the issues at hand. Until then, it’s just sexism, pure and simple, and I’m sorry about participating in it.

-kvd out


6 thoughts on “A rare apology…

  1. Actually, Kev, the original story I linked to did say that a search of records for the Dems – it’s likely that Obama’s either shopping off the rack, or he’s paying for it out of his own pocket, probably the same for McCain. Hey, they’re both millionaires, they can afford to. I’ll grant you that it’s more expensive for someone like Sarah Palin, for one thing no-one will comment if Obama or McCain wear the same suit more than once. So it is going to cost more for a female candidate to campaign. Is that fair? No, but on the other hand, consider the fact that Male Pattern Baldness notwithstanding, I pay the same as you for a haircut – I’ve given up expecting fairness out of life.

    Are Palin’s clothing expenses fair game? Personally, I think so for a couple of reasons:

    a. These are the same people who made political hay out of John Edward’s $400 haircuts, so there is an element of karmic payback happening here.

    b. As I noted above, Obama and McCain seem to be clothing themselves out of their own pocket, while Palin’s clothing, and clothing for hubbie and the kids BTW, are being paid for out of RNC coffers – granted, according to the spokesman the clothing is being donated to charity after the campaign, so there is a mitigating factor there, nonetheless I think if I’m going to get a 4 AM robocall asking for donations, I deserve to know where the money’s going.

    c. Finally, if a politician’s going to run on a populist platform of being a Small Town Mayor(tm) from Main Street Alaska (patent pending) where Real Americans (copyright) live, then this becomes a factor – as far as I know, Joe and Jane Sixpack ain’t shopping Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman-Marcus.


  2. Good points, both of you. I just found the article that Deb referred to, I think.

    I think that the reasons I jumped on Palin initially over this were, as you suggest, Dan, payback for the Necros treatment of Edwards and for the disconnect between the appeal to “Joe Sixpack” and the wanton disrespect of other people’s money.

    Nevertheless, I have a gut feeling that the way Palin is being treated, and the way Hillary Clinton was before her (remember the articles about hair and pantsuits?) would have been different had they been men. It’s not an issue, of course, we expect women to be more dolled up for the camera (and for the office, for that matter) than men and I guess *that* is where I have the real problem.

    I’m perfectly happy making this a class battle, because I think that it is; I’m just not happy with the feeling that it might be also a sexist one, too.


  3. I’ll agree with you that female politicians are held to a different standard with regards to looks, and you’re right, that is sexist. But I’d also like to point out that it does work both ways, I don’t know if you make a habit of reading Ta-Nehisi Coates but he raises the point that an African-American male with Palin’s resume would never be considered for Vice-President, indeed, he’d probably get laughed down. So the question becomes, is Sarah Palin benefitting from lowered expectations because ‘she’s just a girl’? Or, taking it further, would Hillary Rodham have been a Presidential candidate or even a Senator if she didn’t have the surname of ‘Clinton’ attached to her name?


  4. Dan, you make a good point about her gender (and her looks) playing a part of her rise in prominence. I saw something the other day about how the right-wing types like William Krystol first came across her last spring. It wasn’t her political accumen that first caught their interest. Nevertheless, there are many, many ways to pick her and her running-mate apart in the campaign without sinking to sexism.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s