It’s interesting watching right wingers attempt to imitate liberals decrying sexism. Forever and ever conservatives have denied that pointing out sexism is a legitimate thing to do, because in Wingnutland, sexism doesn’t exist and anyone who says that it does is a whiny, hysterical bitch who can’t cut it with the big boys, and so hides behind sexism. In other words, they argue that the sexism card is generally pulled in bad faith.
So, of course when they pull it, it’s in extremely obvious bad faith. We spend a lot of time analyzing why Republicans do better than Democrats in elections when their policies aren’t in most people’s best interests. Entire books are written about it. But the simple answer might be that they have no moral compunction about lying. Witness this “lipstick oh a pig” thing. Everyone who is blinking innocently, pretending they’ve never, ever heard that idiom before, all in order to decry sexism are big, fat liars. If it were me, I’d wake up in the middle of the night, wracked with guilt. But I suspect they sleep like babies. Maybe it has a lot to do with the way right wing politics are built on fantasies—a combination of paranoid fantasies about liberals and weird fantasies about the idealized 1950s. Libertarian fantasies and imperialist fantasies. Once you live your life entirely through fantasies, mere lies probably don’t seem like a big deal.
Interestingly, it’s this right wing tendency to lie that I think draws so much liberal attention to combing over people’s language to look for sexism. We’re looking for tells. People know that sexism is bad, and so they have to couch it in convulted arguments (men and women are so equal and when we say women should submit to their husbands, we mean as equals!), sentimental bullshit (we’re not against women’s rights, we’re for life!), and frankly weak bullshit (we’re not against equal pay for equal work, we’re just for business’s right to pay what they want). But their policies and ideas are sexist, but since they claim they’re not, we spend time looking for the facade to slip so we can say, “See! There!”
I engage in this tactic, but have to point out that it’s severely limited. For one thing, occasional errors in language aren’t really the best measure of what’s in someone’s heart or, more importantly, their portfolio of political beliefs. And it shields sexist women from criticism, which conservatives take full advantage of, paying a whole entourage of women to say all the ugly things that men can’t get away with. Like Kathleen Parker defending rape, K-Lo defending the idea that women should forced to die before they get control over their fertility, and of course, Ann Althouse expressing the belief that women shouldn’t be permitted to be seen in public while having breasts. Sarah Palin is just another in this long line of putting lipstick on the pig of sexism.
But here’s the thing—Palin is a lot more sexist than Obama by any stretch of the imagination, and if you lose sight of that, then the McCain campaign’s strategy has worked on you, sucker. Sexism, like racism, is better understood as a systemic issue, and Palin puts her full support behind sexist systems. It’s not hard to point out how this works. Look at Palin’s support of a ban on abortion. If that goes into effect, and doctors are wary of treating you for miscarriage until it goes septic for fear that they’d be arrested for abortion, their actions are sexist even if their hearts aren’t. Because the system is sexist. Obama, on the other hand, supports reforms to the system to make it less sexist, by having the government enforce anti-discrimination legislation, for instance, or providing comprehensive sex education so that fewer young women are trapped by their fertility.