Dahlia Lithwick reports quite amusingly on the Republican War on Vegetables, something I’ve blogged about frequently on this site. To my great delight, she reaffirms one of the aspects of vegetable-bashing-as-culture-war that seems obvious to me, but always causes a knee jerk pooh pooh reaction from people who tend to disbelieve feminists first and then accept evidence later. And that it’s that vegetable-bashing as a culture war tactic is rooted in misogyny.
To be sure, a goodly amount of the conservative complaints about healthy food are thinly veiled slurs on women in general and Michelle Obama in particular. Last week, Sarah Palin lectured Laura Ingraham on the first lady’s socialist plot to promote healthy eating: “Take her anti-obesity thing that she is on. She is on this kick, right. What she is telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat.” And when Rush Limbaugh goes after Michelle Obama for the same reasons, he doesn’t even bother to hide the fact that he hates her for being a woman (note his classy references to her wardrobe and to “Michelle My Butt”) as much as for her love of vegetables (“Gotta eat healthy stuff, gotta eat the garbage that she grows in the garden, nothing but fruits and vegetables”).
Come to think of it, the very word “nanny state”—so frequently linked to GOP anti-vegetablist rhetoric—suggests that, much like George H.W. Bush, what most Republicans are really trying to work through with all this veggie fear-mongering, is their issues with their mothers.
She’s being tongue-in-cheek on the mothers thing, but mostly this is just the god’s honest truth. Republicans get a lot of mileage out of provoking the childishness in their base by casting liberals as controlling mothers who don’t let you jump on the furniture or stuff yourself with candy until you puke. It’s absolutely fascinating the way a lot of culture war politics are constructed around this model where conservatives see themselves as children who have to be prodded into doing things adults do just as a matter of course because it’s the right thing to do—everything from paying your taxes to eating green stuff—but then think they’re wearing big boy pants because they can actually make real trouble for their imaginary mommies. It’s very strange.
It’s also a big, hoary load of shit in many cases. Sarah Palin is on a rampage to shore up the idea that Real Americans eat nothing but crap, and proceed to show liberals whose boss by sitting on their asses, angled correctly so that the fat can line their arteries most effectively. But as KJ at XX Factor notes, Palin regards her own body as a temple that she actually takes real care of, particularly by being an ever-so-un-American exercise nut. I’ll note that George Bush was also a pretty healthy fellow. Just as the only thing I find relatable about Donald Rumsfeld is he has a standing desk like mine, the only thing that I find relatable about Bush and Palin is they get notoriously grumpy if deprived of exercise. Apparently, Palin thinks that the little people can do all that sticking it to the liberals by treating your own health like crap stuff for her, while she’s out jogging and imagining her next tweet about how oppressive it is that they put the vegetables at the front of the supermarket.