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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Previewing Tonight’s VP Debate: Part 1

posted by on October 2 at 13:51 PM

As Megan noted in her post previewing the liveslogging of tonight’s debate , I’m concerned about sexist attacks on Palin because I think that once you start making sexist (or racist, or ageist) attacks, you lose your moral authority to make legitimate ones. I defend Palin not because I agree with her politics or policies, but because gender-based attacks are always illegitimate—not just when they’re made against women I like.

What constitutes a misogynistic attack? Here are a few examples, many of them from Supposedly Progressive Doodz like Bill Maher.

Calling a candidate for office a bimbo.

Calling her a MILF, or a VPILF, or any of the many variations thereon.

Implying that she’d be a bad VP because she “failed to become Miss Alaska.”

Referring to the 44-year-old Alaska governor as a “girl.”

Joking that McCain has chosen a “trollop” as his running mate. (I know there’s a double-reverse-backflip irony intended here, but it doesn’t work).

Implying that the her hairstyle has anything to do with how smart she is.

Saying things like “McCain doesn’t pick his women for their brains”—then calling Palin an “airhead.”

Saying that Palin (double sexism alert!) may not “win over the die-hard armpit-hair feminists” who supported Hillary Clinton, but that average Joes like her because she “embraces femininity with open legs,” whatever that means.

I could go on. But I won’t —the point is that sexist attacks don’t constitute arguments. And you can’t get mad at sexism when it’s aimed at Democrats and embrace it when it’s aimed at Republicans. Feminism doesn’t work that way.

RSS icon Comments


So basically saying that she's a woman is sexist?

Posted by N | October 2, 2008 1:56 PM

She is just really unintelligent, and is not advancing much in the way of women for a conservative movement. It was sexist of McCain to coddle her away from actually proving herself in front of the public. This whole thing is lame. She is stupid, and caters to stupid Americans who can't remember what happened over the last decade. I feel sorry for her, I feel sorry for America.

I need to go back to work. Yuck.

Posted by zOMG | October 2, 2008 1:57 PM

she kind of is an airhead though. all gender neutrality intended. perhaps blenderhead would be more appropriate.

Posted by douglas | October 2, 2008 1:58 PM

this post is completely unnecessary

Posted by SARS | October 2, 2008 1:58 PM

Is cunt ok? I've been calling her a cunt.

Posted by me | October 2, 2008 1:58 PM

If I make fun of Joe Bideen's hair plugs, what kind of 'ism' is that?

Posted by steves | October 2, 2008 1:59 PM

I'm pretty sure the McCain camp has been the sexist aggressors in this campaign. Not letting "Caribou Barbie" (as I've hear plenty of women call her) speak for herself, they have only set up these type of remarks about her. If everyone is so hell-bent on Palin be as respected as the men they need to let her actually step up to the plate and take a real swing with the men.I'm not defending the "VPILF" comments but this is the U.S. and there are plenty of jock-types here that will always refer to women in these ways.

Posted by JJ | October 2, 2008 1:59 PM

You're concerned about sexist attacks on Palin because you're only concerned about sexism.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | October 2, 2008 1:59 PM

Good points, but isn't it also readily apparent that McCain chose Palin in no small part because of her appearance? It certainly wasn't for her brains or experience. Aren't these other instances you mention (not to defend them) reactions to the original decision by "small head" McCain?

Posted by Raven | October 2, 2008 2:00 PM

@6 Follicleism?

Posted by Hernandez | October 2, 2008 2:02 PM

I don't think it's sexist to say that she wasn't picked for her brains and call her an airhead.

Palin is more proof that Republicans don't understand what affirmative action is supposed to be. You don't drag up just any old person who fits the bill physically; you encourage diverse people of equal caliber to rise up. Palin is not even close, but there are women who would have been.

Posted by V | October 2, 2008 2:03 PM

Try as you might, Erica, you don't get to decide what constitutes sexism or feminism for anyone but your own precious little self.

Posted by ivan | October 2, 2008 2:04 PM

What's wrong with being sexy?

Posted by Nigel Tufnel | October 2, 2008 2:05 PM

What Jubilation said.

Posted by Mr. Poe | October 2, 2008 2:07 PM

thank you Erica.


Posted by ho' know | October 2, 2008 2:07 PM

Would "dumbass" have been okay in place of "airhead." Because Palin's a dumbass.

Posted by LDP in Cincinnati | October 2, 2008 2:09 PM

Fact: I find Sarah Palin attractive.

Fact: She is a mother.

Fact: She is a nominee for Vice President.

Fact: I would like to put my penis in her vagina.

Therefore, she is a MILF and a VPILF. This says nothing about her qualifications for VP, this isn't an argument for why she shouldn't be VP. It just means I want to roll around naked in bed with her.

Posted by That's sexist! | October 2, 2008 2:11 PM

Gotta say, with ECB on this one. Stop making me defend neocons.

Posted by El | October 2, 2008 2:11 PM

Calling her any kind of *ILF isn't an attack, it's a compliment. Though it's not one I agree with.

Posted by Mike in Renton | October 2, 2008 2:12 PM

This was a great post.
Thanks so much.

Posted by Meabsolutely | October 2, 2008 2:13 PM

"And a top campaign official says female journalists are being especially mean to Palin."

Erica I agree with you, but apparently the McCain campaign is spinning their own brand of sexism. Female jealousy.

Check it out:

Posted by apttitle | October 2, 2008 2:13 PM

I wouldn't hold up Bill Maher as the poster boy for progressivism. Sure, he espouses liberal viewpoints, but he's also a dick.

Posted by Sean | October 2, 2008 2:16 PM

I think Cornball and ivan nailed it.

Erica, this little crusade of yours is ridiculous. Hysterical, even.

Posted by kitschnsync | October 2, 2008 2:16 PM

#5, that was brilliant. i am still laughing.

Posted by pretentious | October 2, 2008 2:17 PM

i kinda/sorta agree with you, but shouldn't that be "ad hominem attacks don't constitute arguments"? it's not always about what kind of nether-parts a person has. half of those insults were applied to dan quayle when he was VP, and they weren't arguments then, either.

Posted by brandon | October 2, 2008 2:21 PM

@5 Ditto. And I call McCain a cunt, too. Is that sexist?

Posted by woodsea | October 2, 2008 2:21 PM

@ Erica, I really don't want to do 8+ years of legwork here so can you please confirm that you have never called a particular Harvard MBA with the initials GWB "a moron," " an idiot," "stupid," or anything else of that ilk. Because I think that once you start making [intellectualist] attacks, you lose your moral authority to make legitimate ones.

Posted by chasman | October 2, 2008 2:22 PM

stupidity has no gender.

Posted by ironymaiden | October 2, 2008 2:22 PM

ah, so good to see 1000 variations of political theory on sexism from men - most of who have not a clue what Erica is talking about.

You are right on Erica, but these former mall rats will be hard to educate.

Posted by Ida | October 2, 2008 2:23 PM

how about calling her Bible Spice? 'cause ya know the Spice Girls were really bad 'n all. are we cool with that, is it Kosher? well not as Kosher as Torah Spice but that doesn't quite work, like at all, ya betcha.

Posted by pissy mcslogbot | October 2, 2008 2:24 PM

A friend of mine refers to her as "old disaster area cunt", but then again he's a community organizer.

Posted by pragmatic | October 2, 2008 2:25 PM

I'm just trying to work through the things I call McCain and figure which I could use on Palin; some of them are gender specific and defy translation without being sexist.

Mean spirited son of a bitch - nope.
Lying bastard - nope.
Lunatic out of touch codger - nope.

Damn; this is harder than I thought. Maybe it would be more constructive if ECB would give us a list of gender neutral terms we can use, instead of sexist terms we can't.

Posted by bohica | October 2, 2008 2:28 PM

I agree with ECB's position: sexism is always wrong. But I disagree that it is the central theme of the Palin debacle. If someone says the phrase, "Ugh. She's one dumb woman!" It may be sexist, or it may be accurate. With Palin's extreme dumbness it suddenly becomes extra-hard to criticize her without sounding sexist. Which is why they chose her.

Posted by skweetis | October 2, 2008 2:28 PM

#27 - Good point!

Posted by JJ | October 2, 2008 2:29 PM

You'd convince a lot more people if you didn't always overreach. Sure, some of the attacks on Palin are sexist, but "bimbo"? And "airhead"? That's one hell of a stretch.

Overreaching makes you look like an idiot.

Posted by F | October 2, 2008 2:33 PM

I think one of the problems we're presented with is that any time you denigrate a woman -- especially when she is being compared to a man -- there's almost an automatic claim of sexism. Example: She's dumber than he. Sounds sexist because it's an established sexist stereotype that women aren't as smart as men.

However, in this case, it is true. THIS woman (Palin) is not as capable as THIS man (Biden, OR Obama, should McCain croak it). It's not sexist, it's a fact and we should not be afraid to proclaim it, loudly, from every rooftop.

If she tanks this debate it is NOT sexist to point that out and overthinking the words we use makes us sound wishy-washy. Use any word that you'd use for a man in the the same instance (feminized if necessary) and own it.

Posted by Tired of pussyfooting around the truth | October 2, 2008 2:36 PM

Yeah Ida, men's theories on what constitutes sexism are automatically invalid, just like poor minorities' theories on governance are invalid. Because unless you are actually the one who lives it day by day by day, you don't have any genuine authority on the subject.

Isn't that what your logic boils down to?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 2, 2008 2:41 PM

what are we to make of the fact that the most vicious detractors of Palin are other women? who are ostensibly feminists?

i can't get the 2 women in my house to even entertain the possibility that at some point tonight that the schadenfreude will fade & their empathy will come out.

quote: "i hate that cunt" - my 20 year old stepdaughter.

Posted by max solomon | October 2, 2008 2:44 PM

max, females are the most vehemently anti feminist people in the world. it boggles the mind when you consider the possibility of that truth.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 2, 2008 2:45 PM

Erica, you fail. Maher also called Quayle a "bimbo."

Perhaps you'd like to edit your list and remove this one. Nice try though.

Posted by bl@ster | October 2, 2008 2:47 PM

BA, i'd consider Palin an anti-feminist, myself. egalitarian goodies for her, but not for any other women, i.e. Bristol being forced into a loveless marriage at 17.

Posted by max solomon | October 2, 2008 2:48 PM

BTW, McCain DIDNT PICK PALIN FOR HER BRAINS, AND IT IS DEMONSTRABLY SO! Calling her an airhead is only sexist if the term airhead is coded sexist language and fundamentally untrue. I haven't see a basis for her not being an airhead.

Your sexism alerts push me away from recognizing and entertaining the possibility of sexism being anything but a construct of witch huntresses.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 2, 2008 2:49 PM

Erica is right, again.

Posted by Cascadian | October 2, 2008 2:51 PM

Also, for those denying that the airhead comment is sexist, will you actually read what Erica said?

My reading: Erica objects to the juxtaposition of "his women" with an insult that implies that Palin is one of "his" women. Palin isn't McCain's girlfriend, she's his running mate.

Sexist insults are really lazy, and it's pretty sad that they're the first thing many "progressive" men think of.

Posted by Cascadian | October 2, 2008 2:57 PM

Bellevue Ave, I'd appreciate it if you would stop hiding my shoes and birth control pills and smacking my ass so hard I stumble into the kitchen. Btw, your dinner will be ready at 6:00 sharp and an icy cold Bud Light and your favorite slippers will be waiting for you when you get home!

Posted by Mrs. Witch Huntress Ave. | October 2, 2008 2:57 PM

Next time you all decide to gang-comment ECB, would somebody give me a heads up so I can get my video camera?

Posted by jackie treehorn | October 2, 2008 2:58 PM

#46, you have a video camera? You've been holding out on me, man.

Posted by w7ngman | October 2, 2008 3:03 PM

erica - thank you for continuing this discussion in spite of the amazing wealth of crude comments that show up in response.

everyone else - it's not about creating a laundry list of things you are and are not allowed to say, it's a call (with listed examples) to focus your critiques of palin as a POLITICIAN, not as a WOMAN. swearing up and down that you use the same arguments against men as you do women doesn't make said argument against either gender automatically valid, nor does it take into account that we live within a context of patriarchy/male privilege that lends power to sexist arguments against women and eliminates the possibility of sexism against men.

Posted by lindsay | October 2, 2008 3:05 PM
females are the most vehemently anti feminist people in the world. it boggles the mind when you consider the possibility of that truth.


Posted by keshmeshi | October 2, 2008 3:06 PM

Sarah Palin has decided to be a trollop and a cunt. To deny her the right to be a trollop and a cunt would be denying her feminist right to chose to be a trollop and a cunt.

You can't wish for people to get raped and then bitch when people call you bad words. When you decide to be trash, expect to be treated as so.

Posted by Sirkowski | October 2, 2008 3:09 PM

your definition of sexist always surprises me. why do people re-define it?

(ps there really is a set definition of the word sexist...look it up)

Posted by cochise. | October 2, 2008 3:11 PM

Try re-reading that statement kesh.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 2, 2008 3:17 PM

@13 You owe me a new keyboard, asshole!

Posted by T | October 2, 2008 3:22 PM

Sarah and her husband are wimps for driving cross-country "snow machine" marathons instead of racing bitch dog sled teams, and for shooting wolves and moose from airplanes (air machines?) instead of actual conditions on the ground.

Posted by Creek | October 2, 2008 3:36 PM

Get over yourself. The woman's a moron. I'm sorry if your feelings are hurt, but there's more at stake here than feminist sensibilities about whether or not Bill Maher called the woman a "bimbo". (By the way, he also called Bush a "bimbo" in the same breath - was that sexist too?)

She could be the President next year, and if that happens, we're all fucked. Can't we just circle the wagons please like the conservatives do??? Where's Dan Savage when you need him?

Posted by Steve | October 2, 2008 3:42 PM

@49: Must be that time of the month, eh?

Posted by Mrs. Witch Huntress Ave. | October 2, 2008 4:02 PM

In our household we have an agreement: When I have my monthly visitor we play the "silent" game and I see how long I can keep quiet. I just busy myself with baking and other kitchen duties. Whenever I get frustrated and feel like saying something unladylike I simply stuff my mouth with cock! Works like a charm. Maybe you'll find those suggestions helpful Kesh - I hope so!

Posted by Mrs. Witch Huntress Ave. | October 2, 2008 4:09 PM

I think "bimbo" IS a valid feminist critique of Palin. McCain probably picked her precisely because he wanted a purty, none-too-smart woman on his ticket. So sure, assess and eviscerate her on her merits, but don't outlaw discussion of the gender-related angle of her selection and appeal.

Posted by banjoboy | October 2, 2008 4:23 PM

McCain picked Palin because he is reckless, & he has nothing but contempt for intelligence of the citizenry. he now knows better than any of us just how unqualified she is.

Posted by max solomon | October 2, 2008 5:06 PM

Kesh and BA are boiling like a mud pit at Yellowstone. They need some red hot Wasilla pre-marital action. Come on kids -- I'll even pay for the room!

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | October 2, 2008 9:28 PM

@60: Drop it. You aren't nearly as funny as you think you are. You have annoying down to a tee though! Buy some gold stars and dole them out to yourself like Milk Bones whenever you entertain, well, you.

Posted by Mikki | October 2, 2008 11:18 PM

Well, BA and have an open relationship so I guess that would be fine. He gets to relieve himself "where he sees fit" when I can't perform, like when I'm taking care of Momma or I have my monthly visitor. Nobody wants to deal with that mess (ick!) so during those times he is free to take solace in a warm body, because a man has needs beyond the mouth! My tongue can only do so much! Anyone who can help my sweet prince out with his burden (not getting pussy for almost an entire week out of each month!), please help! Not just Kesh, ANYONE who can supply the goods (a warm, wet slit!) please come forward. I promise, he will not disappoint as he is trained in the incredibly satisfying and exotic "Missionary Style" of lovemaking, and it will take mere moments of your time. Jube, some people would call you an attention mongering prick, but not I - I thank you for your considerate, helpful nature in our time of need (when I'm on the rag!).

Posted by Mrs. Witch Huntress Ave. | October 2, 2008 11:34 PM

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