Palin Not Even Close To Ready on Day One (Couric Interview)

By now, most of N. America is a buzz with how poorly Palin did in her second major interview, this time with Katie Couric. Like Charlie Rose, Couric is a soft touch, it should have been fairly easy for a prepared and competent candidate to come out shining after an interview with her. Yet, in my mind and those of many pundits, Palin actually came out looking worse.

Interestingly, my parents, who see conspiracies everywhere, think maybe Palin’s incoherence is a ploy so that she will knock us all out of the water during the VP debate. Afterall, if Biden goes into it thinking it is a cake walk he may show less prepared. If the N. American people watch it thinking she is a dunce, then any intelligent things she says will be a plus. This is why I have insomnia, I have parents who go to the most chilling scenario and run with it. 

Palin on McCain’s relationship to Freddie and Fannie, and the lobbyists on his campaign team as well as the bailout

All though she has been criticized heavily for saying that the critique of her lack of travel is “elitism,” I think what she is trying to say here is that she did not have as much economic privilege as many of the people critiquing her and while they were traveling, she had to work. I do not think there is anything wrong with pointing out the extreme privilege of international travel and how many working class people are precluded from it.  Before my gf and I met she had not been anywhere besides a 2-day trip to Hawaii and everywhere I had been prior to tenure was related to academic research that was grant funded. Nor do I think she should be faulted for pointing out that you can learn critical information from books, if that is not true, then why go to college? why read?

The difference is that Palin is running for the second highest office in the nation. She may at some point be trusted with the highest office in the nation. She needs to understand international affairs at a level much higher than that of the average N. American. She should also be conversant in foreign policy, international law, and be comfortable interacting with leaders in cultures different than our own.  During both her interview with Rose and Couric she showed none of these skills. And her previous statement that other VPs have no foreign travel has in fact been disproven, the majority of president day VPs have extensive foreign policy experience and foreign travel.

This is Tina Fey driving the issue home

Some people have been saying that it is not ok to critique Palin because we are either for all women or only for women who are like us.  While there are many times that feminism has been guilty of tarring and feathering those who are different, whether it be race issues as evidenced in the primaries or class issues as evidenced in some of the inappropriate critiques of Palin’s accent, anti-ivy league comments, etc., but there is nothing inappropriate about raising legitimate concerns about what Palin will do to women’s rights (including access to education, LBT rights, her recent as yet unsubstantiated comments about affirmative action and the role of poc in her governor’s cabinet, and reproductive rights – not just abortion but contraception and sex education, etc.) and what her woleful lack of experience could mean for foreign policy should she be left in charge some day. Critically examinging women’s politics for a platform that supports all women is part of feminism otherwise we are simply practicing essentialism: she has ovaries so she counts.

What about women who do not fit biological standards of female (keeping in mind that at one time that included women of color, and in some minds still does) and/or those whose biology is standard female but do not support women’s empowerment on several key levels, if at all? If you do not have ovaries are you less of a woman? If you were born intersex, ie with more than ovaries or malformed ovaries, or you transitioned and will never have ovaries are you not a woman? Palin thinks so.

Perhaps less complex a question for those not fighting the gender wars in feminism, is the simple issue that feminism is a political and ideological movement or belief system. At the heart of that system is the goal of equality for women. While we can debate which women, when, and where, I think we can agree that education, control over ones desires and body, access to employment, freedom from intense state interference in our physical and emotional well-being are all on the list of things feminism supports. Palin would

  • rob women of an education that makes it possible for them to make informed decisions about their bodies and their desires by failing to teach sex ed, embracing a “pray away the gay” stance, and approving education that ran counter to global standards on global warming, evolution, and other key science. N. Americans are already woefully behind in science and girls and women behind that in hiring, do we really want to disadvantage them more?
  • force women to pay for their own rape kits – she did it in Alaska as part of her “revenue busting” and there is some evidence that she changed personal to keep the policy in place when there was internal complaint
  • question women of color and immigrant women’s right to work in higher office – claims have been made that when confronted about the lack of racial diversity on her staff she replied “I don’t have to hire any minorities.” This comment was said behind closed doors and cannot be corroborated however the statistical breakdown of women of color, men of color, and GLBTQ people in her cabinet is quite clear. As is her appointments to important state agencies outside her cabinet. (On the other hand, she does have a black pastor)
  • embrace a faith/politic that labels women “witches” and drives them from their homes and/or jobs. As you should know by now, Palin’s Pastor’s claim to fame is having labeled an innocent woman a “witch” in an African village and sanctioning near constant harassment of her, including two police interrogations, until she left town. He blamed her for the car accidents in the village . . . Not only does Palin support this Pastor, she credits him for her success in office. While she has labelled no one a witch and driven them out of town, not only is this support counter to feminist praxis, Palin has also practiced similar villification and dismissal of her staff, some of whom have been drummed out of their professions of choice after a life time of service.

While I applaud the effort of feminist thinkers, particularly the new generation, who want to embrace a politic of cooperation and acceptance in feminism, I want to remind that there is a difference between critical engagement and biased, oppressive, attack. There is a difference between feminism and women who benefit from it. When we attack women because they are “not us” that is a problem, a problem for which we are often guilty, but when we criticize women for not supporting basic female empowerment that is part of being intellectually and politically engaged. The next step is to educate rather than ostracize, otherwise we may be equally guilty of witch hunting.

Feminism requires critical thinking and feminism is political. While I agree with Andy Smith that we need to practice strategic alliances, I do not think we need to embrace ignorance or oppression just because it comes with a skirt.

2 thoughts on “Palin Not Even Close To Ready on Day One (Couric Interview)

  1. good to "see you" miss profe! How exactly did I miss she’d been to 5 schools in 6 years? That much movement from a female student gives me pause.

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