I'm hardly the only woman/human/advocate of sanity that's losing sleep over Sarah Palin. For the past week and a half, I've jerked awake every night between 3 and 4 AM, spitting with rage over the possibility that Alaska's biggest celebrity could hold one (or two! Cancer's a bitch) of the nation's highest offices.
Sure, there's her bubbling stewpot of right wing policies and her role as a distraction from the economy's free fall and global unrest. But as Salon's Rebecca Traister explains in her signature "God damn she's smart" style, a major reason we're all downing Ambien these days is because the rules have been so suddenly, cynically, and cruelly changed. Yes, the stakes of this election were high, but at least women were smashing boundaries -- or so we thought. Now we're drowning in confusion as Giuliani condemns the evils of sexism and crowds straight from a National Socialist rally shriek about drilling. All while this woman, this camera-ready symbol of "new feminism" with babies dripping from her arms, eggs them on.
When asked about Palin, Geraldine Ferraro told Newsweek, "Every time a woman runs, women win." With all due respect, she's wrong: Palin's name on the ticket is a massive, crushing loss. Her nomination (and subsequent appeal) is a violent coup by feminism's bastard child, the ultimate victory for graduates of -- to use a recent and recognizable example -- the Julia Allison School of Female Achievement. It's been around for decades, and consists of a simple, brilliant strategy: Forget the slow and brutal path of actual accomplishment -- instead, do, say, and be whatever it takes to get The Men In Power to notice you, like you, and eventually need you. Follow the script, know your role, use sex whenever possible, and for God's sake, never make them feel anything but omnipotent. Do enough strategic posing, shmoozing, and ass-smooching, and you'll land yourself a spot on the short list of use-able women. And when the boys are in need of some controversial T&A, (or, even worse, relateable mommyness) to boost their Web traffic, newsstand rates, appeal with white women voters, etc., they'll toss you a bone.
All of which can be respected, and even admired when we're talking about landing magazine covers and reality shows. In Palin's case, as Matt Damon so poetically noted, it means winning access to the nuclear codes.
And now, the fact that it's working so seamlessly, in such a threatening time, makes sleep an impossibility. Tossing at night, I have imaginary conversations with my grandmother, who spent 30 years at a government desk for a piddling wage, wielding a sharp tongue and bulky clothes because she wanted to give this school of female faux-empowerment the proverbial middle finger. "What you produce matters, not how much lipstick you wear." Granted, after writing a hefty chunk of the Headstart program only to watch her bosses take the credit, she may have regretted that view. But at least she could tell herself it would be better for her daughter, and for me.
Palin doesn't just embody the empty-ambition-sans-accomplishment school my grandmother so despised; the Alaskan governor publicly embraces it ("I want to be president" -- you can't make this stuff up). She "didn't blink" when offered the VP slot, because it didn't matter whether she was qualified, or whether her lack of qualifications could endanger the society/environment/democracy we live in. This was "her moment." She'd played all the right cards, grinned that bleached grin, trotted out those tried and true feminine wiles, and Saran-wrapped herself in a complete absence of critical thought. She played the game beautifully, so when the GOP's offer came in, she snatched it up.
And now here we are, us sleepless women, watching the proof cement itself that if you wanna make it in the world, this M.O. is your only option ('cause Hillary's way sure as Hell didn't work). If Palin is elected, then we'll have stamped it official: This tactic, this thoughtless pandering that simultaneously reduces women to vacant mouthpieces while propelling them to power, is what got the first woman into the White House. This is how feminism played out.
And if that's indeed the case? Well, you may as well revoke our so-called "equality" and send us back to the disenfranchised servitude of our foremothers. At least back then, women had something worth fighting for.