I’ve been ignoring the entire story of the right wing grifter Sarah Palin’s family brawling at some party in Anchorage, mostly because what’s there to say except to note that if it were a prominent black family, it would be the only story on The O’Reilly Factor for at least a month? But now Sarah Palin’s incessant need to present her family as perfect and to suggest that anything that goes wrong for them must be the fault of the evil liberal cabal has gone too far. Her self-pitying comments and defenses of her spoiled daughter are so over-the-top with self-pity that it’s almost a parody:
Looking at the reports, it strikes me as bitterly ironic that the same people who tell us there is a “war on women” have no problem laughing at the recording of my daughter crying as she tells police about being assaulted by a man. I’d like to say shame on the media and those on the left laughing at her or at any young woman in a similar situation, but I no longer think they have any shame.
Shorter Sarah Palin: Who cares about the millions of women denied reproductive health care access or safe haven from abusive partners, when my daughter got into a drunken fight at a party?
The self-centeredness of this is no big surprise. Palin has always thought the world was about her and her family and the rest of us are just bit players, with liberals who are out to get her family because we’re evil due to being mustache-twirling cartoon villains who don’t need a motive outside of “evil”.
But it’s interesting that even in her whiny defenses of her family, Palin still took the time to imply that domestic violence, sexual assault, equal pay and reproductive rights are not serious issues. And also to imply that the only reason that liberals and feminists claim to care about these issues is not because we do—after all, her comments suggest these are minor issues compared to some woman who happens to be her daughter getting into a fight at a party—but because we’re just pretending these are serious issues to scare women into voting for Democrats.
I don’t know. If she thinks Bristol’s injuries were so serious, I don’t know that she would opportunistically seize upon them in order to get a dig in at people who think domestic violence is a serious problem. If Sarah Palin, who loves to imagine herself as a caller-out of hypocrisy, wants everyone to take this situation seriously, she should start by actually taking it seriously herself.
Needless to say, while getting into a drunken fight is not fun for anyone, it isn’t comparable to being a victim of rape or domestic violence. Or even to being systematically underpaid or denied access to an abortion. All those things will fuck you up way worse than getting a bruise and being a bit embarrassed will. Like Josh Marshall writes:
I think it kind of goes without saying that if news emerged that Bristol had been assaulted by a boyfriend or spouse or really anyone else, no one would be laughing. Indeed, I’m not sure anyone now is laughing so much as standing back agape and marveling. But advocates who are trying to alter public perceptions about and stiffen penalties against violence against women are, I do not think, saying that female bodies are inviolable in every case if you barge into someone’s party and start swinging punches at them.
To cite this as an example of the scourge of violence against women is really to make a mockery of it.
But this is actually a common tendency on the right with issues of gender, race and much else. If you don’t actually take the issue seriously in the first place, it comes naturally to flip it around in a cookie cutter kind of way. You say we are hostile to women? Well, I saw you be mean to a woman, too! So there! Whether it’s treating women by different standards or bearing animus toward women as a group doesn’t really matter. If you don’t really care about the issue in the first place it’s easy to turn it on its head. Because you don’t see it as a problem but a cudgel, just another weapon in the brick-a-bat of partisan or ideological combat.
This is why I often don’t like the phrase “violence against women”, which is vague enough that it can be seized upon like major league assholes like Sarah Palin, who pretend it’s just a generalized term instead of description of violence that’s aimed at women because they are women. There could be a gendered element to the fight Bristol Palin got in, because it seems the guy overreacted to her feeble attempts to throw a punch at him. But it’s not comparable to domestic violence or sexual violence, which are ingrained, systematic forms of violence that both result from and serve to reinscribe ideas about male dominance, female submission, and gender inequality. Getting into a fight at a party sucks. Living in a home where you’re constantly on eggshells because you’re afraid your partner is going to beat you up doesn’t just “suck”, however. It’s a fucking horror show, and it’s one that millions of women have lived and continue to live. Being raped and having what should be an act of affection and pleasure—sex—used instead to torture and dominate? That doesn’t just suck. That’s traumatizing. Domestic violence and rape are much more akin to hate crimes—I consider them a form of hate crime—than drunken brawling is.
What is particularly disheartening to me about this is that many of the people who are doing a fist-pump hell-yeah to Palin’s self-pity party know someone who has been raped or abused by a partner. And when they cheer along to someone minimizing that violence and suggesting that some random drunk fight matters as much, if not more, than the experience of someone whose husband beats her, that says to the victims of gendered violence in their lives that their experiences don’t matter. That the Palin fan is more worried about Bristol’s embarrassment than your ongoing pain. And that if you want help, too bad, because your problems are politically inconvenient for conservatives. Which is why this story is about more than Sarah Palin being a grifter again. Real people get hurt when someone like Sarah Palin minimizes the real problems facing women in this country.