Quickie: Palin’s wardrobe*

This is gonna be fast because I have to leave, ironically enough, to go clothes shopping, but for the love of giant green Mutsu apples**, can we all stop talking about Sarah Palin’s wardrobe?

First of all, the $150,000 figure is really not that ridiculous. Clothes, particularly women’s clothes, are extremely expensive, and she has to look very good, for a number of reasons. She has to be the anti-Hillary, first of all, playing to a very narrow idea of femininity and taking care not to recall in any way that Scary Mommy figure who almost castrated every breathing male in the country by having power over them. She can’t afford to be seen as anything other than impeccably dressed because she certainly can’t overcome a poor first impression with her air of easy competence and her vast knowledge base. She owes her success in no small part to, yes, a cult of personality, and part of the attraction is that she looks good. (Same applies, obviously, to Obama and Bill Clinton.) And finally, let’s face it, part of the reason she energized the base, and was chosen to energize the base, is because she is Caribou Barbie to a certain brand of Republicans. She’s like the perfect plaything to them: Pretty and empty-headed, all accessories included. Just record some anti-woman talking points on her say-and-play voice box and you can get hours of entertainment dressing her up and creating fantasy lives for her to lead. Sarah Palin smacks down Joe Biden! Sarah Palin out-executives Barack Obama! Sarah Palin sells off the Senate’s chairs on Craigslist when it tries to override her veto! Sarah Palin shoots a moose, cooks it for your dinner, gives you a blowjob, and shuts the hell up!

And dressing her up is integral to this fantasy, fast as it is now fading. Dressing her up is part of why they can like her—because she doesn’t threaten them. She is a strong, ambitious woman just like Hillary Clinton, but she’s not scary because the dressing her up, along with all this “learning at McCain’s knee” grossness and her demonstrated willingness to bow to the almighty Penis Power by bearing a baby no woman could possibly want just to prove her husband’s continued virility***, makes them feel that they are still safely in charge, even if she’s the one in the Oval Office. They think that if her programming ever failed and she started voicing opinions different from theirs, that all it would take to get her back on track would be for a guy—any guy, even them—to sidle up to her and whisper, “Psst, honey, you don’t really want to do that, do you?” Dressing her up like that kind of dude’s fantasy of a working woman—woman first, worker second—is a huge part of creating that fantasy. Spike heels, tight skirts, jackets cut as much unlike a man’s as possible—it’s like her outfits are pulled straight out of their fantasy lives, giving them the illusion that they had a hand in dressing her. And a person you dress isn’t your superior, or even your equal. A person you dress is your child. Maintaining this illusion that Joe Asshole is the giant hand making Caribou Barbie act is worth any amount of money to the party, so getting it at $150,000 is a relative bargain.

Furthermore, I bet Hillary Clinton’s wardrobe is worth $150,000, or at least something on a similar scale. The only difference is that she, like the rest of us, built her wardrobe piece by piece over a number of years. But Sarah Palin got lifted from Outer Mooselick to the national stage overnight, and didn’t have time to build a wardrobe. The clothes she had weren’t suitable for the job she’s seeking, and neither she nor the campaign itself could afford to re-outfit her, so the RNC handed a few consultants an expense card and Palin’s measurements and sent them to Nieman and Saks with orders to make sure she would never be caught wearing repeats. Oh, what, you thought she went herself? Not a fucking chance, buck-o. Every minute of every day is booked for her from now until Nov. 5, and not with non-poll-affecting shit like checking out her own ass in a three-way mirror. No, if she’s not in front of a crowd, she’s traveling to the next crowd or sleeping. Possibly both of the latter two at once. So, yeah, a bunch of image consultants with someone else’s credit card and no budget constraints blew 150 grand on nice clothes. Wouldn’t you?

So, no, I don’t think the $150,000 number is unreasonable at all. But the real reason we should stop fucking talking about it is that it’s not really a slam against an out-of-touch GOP. Let’s quit lying to ourselves: When people say, “OMG, the RNC spent more than I make in five years on Sarah Palin’s outfits!” what they’re really saying is, “OMG, that Sarah Palin chick is so vain and frivolous!” Because that’s how it is for women. Women who appear not to care whether men find them appealing are threatening bitches who just need a good dicking, except no one would touch them with Bea Arthur’s dick, amirite!? Women who men find appealing but accidentally let slip that they don’t just roll out of bed looking like a dude’s pornified wet dream are high maintenance and shallow and, by extension, dumb. That’s all there is. Only ugly women can be smart, and they’re all bitches. Pretty women can only be stupid.

That’s why most of the columns on this topic start off “God, the GOP’s stepped in it this time,” and end with “What did Palin even spend it all on?” Because it’s really about Palin. It’s about Palin. It’s about Palin. It’s. about. Palin. Get it? It’s the party’s credit card, but the real story’s about Palin. About how she’s totally frivolous because, like every other candidate, she’s working with her party to build an image, and about how frivolous women are dumb. Can’t trust those bitches, spending all your hard-earned money on shoes! Don’t they know how hard you work? Don’t they know how much things cost these days? Why do they need another cardigan or pair of pumps anyway? They already have like a million! Dagnabbit, you have three pairs of shoes and that’s plenty! What does she even do with all that stuff?

You see it now, right? The reason this story is sooooo appealing, that no news outlet or blog or stranger on the bus can resist it, is that it feeds that narrative. That women really are too shallow to do serious shit like run the country or work outside the home. That women are bad with money. That women are stupid. That women can be safely shut out and dismissed. That men should really be in charge. In a campaign season where, for the first time, several women are unapologetically demanding a desk in the White House, these narratives about stereotypes confirmed and order restored are just too tempting to ignore.

————————–
*OK, it turned out kinda long, but it’s still quick for me because I just ranted and posted without bothering to edit for clarity or flow or anything. Sorry!

**Fucking delicious, BTW.

***In case it wasn’t completely, brain-numbingly obvious, that was sarcasm. Many parents choose to have children they know will have Down Syndrome, and many of them do so for reasons that have nothing to do with their stance on abortion. I wouldn’t pretend to know what factors led to Sarah and Todd Palin choosing to carry Trig to term, but I think it’s telling that the base jumped to the conclusion that it’s because the governor is pro-life. Regardless of what led to their decision, as a pro-choice liberal I support it and advocate for more and better assistance for caregivers of special-needs children.

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One Response

  1. You mention the double standard inherent in this discussion about Sarah Palin’s expenseive wardrobe/makeup. I blogged about this recently. http://unapologeticfeminist.com/2008/10/sarah-palins-expensive-makeup/

    Ultimately, I think the fact we are calling this news is evidence of the sexism and double standard in our culture. I am sure that Barack spends a pretty penny on looking good. Politicians are selling themselves- they are about branding. Barack is the hot, young, revolutionary, rockstar- for example.

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