Love her or hate her, Sarah Palin is going to be around a while, and she’s set to be a force. That’s according to Naomi Wolf, a noted feminist writer and author of The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. But there remain a lot of unanswered questions. Was she a puppet of the Right? A telegenic but empty-headed Evita? A Trojan horse for more of the same Bush and Cheney policies? Or something more?
And does she have a serious political future? Naomi Wolf asks the question in this article from the Times Online.
Who is Sarah Palin and why is she making everyone so crazy? Here in Manhattan, with the carefully orchestrated release of Palin’s memoir Going Rogue: An American Life hitting bookstores this week, we are in the midst of what a colleague has called “Palinmania”. Some quarters are in a rage; some are laughing; some are defending and some are inspired. No one is neutral.
There she is on the cover of Newsweek, in short shorts and running shoes, smiling coquettishly; there she is on her Facebook page, denouncing the Newsweek cover (from an image shot for Runner’s World) as being taken “out of context” and as sexist. Here’s her alternatively charming and whiny Oprah interview; there’s the book cover itself, stacked at Barnes & Noble at the top of the bestseller list, showing her in Gainsborough-type heroic portraiture convention, positioned before a glowing blue sky. When I went to my local chain bookstore, I asked the manager how the book has been received. It was attracting crowds, he said, but they were “the gigglers”, not buyers. “It’s the West Village,” he noted drily. He said with a half-wink that he was planning to release the book in a package with the forthcoming Playgirl issue that features revealing pictures of Levi Johnston, the former boyfriend of Palin’s daughter, Bristol, and therefore the father of Palin’s grandchild. “Levi did an interview with Michael Musto,” he said, mentioning a campy gay journalist.
“That’s an odd choice,” I said foolishly.
“Is it?” he asked, arching an eyebrow.
I too have found myself swept up in the furore she is causing, having braved a Larry King episode on her on Tuesday in which four women from both sides of the aisle — one from the McCain campaign itself — spat venom at one another on her behalf. And I was soon back for another oestrogen-soaked Larry King venomfest about her on Thursday. Her critics, on reading her book and watching her rolling out her own brand on her own this time, not handled by the McCain professionals, are calling her self-serving, naive and dangerous; her supporters — and I have to hand the right wing credit for this: they are scarily on message — are spinning her wildly as a “real American”, “down-to-earth”, “genuine”. But no one can look away.
She is like an itch that the nation needs to scratch, and I have watched popular culture long enough to know that, when a country can’t get enough of reviling or scrutinising or sexualising or exalting a woman, something is going on that has less to do with her and more to do with the way our collective unconscious projects on to certain women contemporary fears, hopes and anxieties from deep within.