The Sexist

Sexist Comments of the Week: Sarah Palin Hot Or Not? Edition


Last week, everyone's brain exploded over a couple of Newsweek Sarah Palin covers. One cover, which ran last week, was criticized for depicting the former Alaskan governor as too sexy (left). Another, which ran last year, was criticized for depicting the Republican vice-presidential candidate as not sexy enough (right).

The indignation accompanying the covers—"How dare Newsweek present Palin as overly sexy!" and "How dare Newsweek present Palin as having stray lip hairs!" respectively—miss the point. The problem doesn't lie in Palin's looks, people. The problem is Newsweek using Palin's looks as a stand-in for her political failures.

Take the headline tagged to last week's cover: "How do you solve a problem like Sarah? She's bad news for the GOP—and for everyone else too." Placed alongside a photo of Palin posing saucily in running shorts, the treatment implies that Palin's "problem" has got something to do with her killer bod. I think it has more to do with her radical right-wing political beliefs.

Last year's Palin cover contained a similar treatment: "She's one of the folks (and that's the problem)," the cover announced, next to a zoomed-in close-up of Palin's face. Some criticized Newsweek for unnecessarily exposing Palin's lip hairs, blemishes, pancake make-up, and fine lines to the world. The real trouble with the cover is that Newsweek, again, used Palin's physical appearance to represent her politics—this time, to illustrate that her "realness" is a "problem." Lacking political experience? That's a problem. Lip hairs? Not so much.

The comments sections on the stories produced such helpful commentary as "NEWS WEAK HA; SARAH PALIN HAS A VERY NICE FACE SHE IS NOT A PHONY NEWSWEAK HA" and "Only un-evolved Neanderthals find her attractive. She looks and acts like a $20 coke-head hooker on a Seattle street." Despite the deluge of body-snarking comments, I did find a bit of constructive commentary hidden between the cries of "hot!" and "not!":

Jennifer, on Newsweek's zoomed-in Palin face, writes:

I honestly think the response to the cover is more sexist than the cover itself.

There have been plenty of closeups of older men with skin full or wrinkles on the cover and no one claimed them to be ‘flaws’ that should have been hidden in order to somehow help him maintain his integrity. The fact that the people crying wolf attribute a woman’s looks to something that can ultimately be a ‘flaw’ in her and her overall appeal in, not a beauty contest, but a political election, shows you a lot about their view of women.

We are all humans, and what happens to humans when they get older is that their skin wrinkles. There is nothing ‘flawed’ about that.

Katie, on Newsweek's running-short body shot, writes:

I’m not sure calling her an ugly hooker is any vast improvement over whatever winking sexual antics she’s responsible for in the past. The whole point, as far as I’m concerned, is that her looks have nothing to do with anything. Or they shouldn’t. I really don’t think she has “baited” sexist behavior. She’s gotten it because she’s a woman. She absolutely deserves criticism for being a ridiculous joke of a candidate, a recklessly misleading author, and a general nutcase.

. . . she doesn’t deserve criticism for being a woman who has legs and long hair and posed for a running magazine picture…in runner’s clothes. I’m not saying that’s what you’re going for. But I don’t think the answer to unnecessarily glorifying Sarah Palin is unnecessarily denigrating her.

  • Swagner863

    Newsweek has established the analogy to "The Sound of Music". Mother superior did ask the question "How do you solve a problem like Maria." However, Maria evolved to fix a dysfunctional family and save it from evil. Newsweek may have unwittingly written America's FlashForward.

  • Reid

    I'm more bothered by the stray American flag. What the hell? Do they just keep them around? Is it respectful to toss it over a chair like that?

  • Katie VW

    Is it sexist to show posed photographs of a celebrity? One who likes to giggle and wink and who has posed for provocative pictures showing her cleavage and legs? Someone who's an ex beauty queen? Someone who's running around with a gossipy tell-all memoir that dishes dirt on other people? Hmmm... I don't think so.

    If she wants to be treated as a serious, intelligent woman with political aspirations and goals, perhaps she should be acting like one instead of like a celebrity who lives to love to hate the media?

  • the fat nutritionist

    I think this kind of commentary (hot! not!) also highlights the precarious knife-edge women exist on when it comes to appearance.

    The zone of acceptability is so razor-thin that one person can't even stay within it if they dare to have more than one photograph taken.

  • Emily

    @Katie VW "If she wants to be treated as a serious, intelligent woman with political aspirations and goals, perhaps she should be acting like one instead of like a celebrity who lives to love to hate the media?"

    I have problems with this statement. While I believe that to be taken seriously you should BE serious, who is to say that Palin isn't dead-serious about the things she says?

    "One who likes to giggle and wink and who has posed for provocative pictures showing her cleavage and legs? "

    I have problems with this as well. So female politicians should not "giggle" -- there goes Palin. Prominent media figures compared Hillary's laugh to a "cackle" -- she probably shouldn't be a politician either. And the "provocative pictures" were for a RUNNING MAGAZINE. Was she supposed to wear flannel pajamas to show her serious commitment to exercise?

    The defense of sexism in the Newsweek cover simply uses MORE sexism to make its case! .

  • Giovanni

    If Sarah Palin was a joke of a candidate then what do we call Barack Obama? A rock star? The product of an admiring media which, along with the Obama campaign, produced a commerical success?

    We are now living with a substantive joke of a candidate whose response to the fact that he had no executive experience was the he 'ran' a presidential campaign. Palin scares the left because she is a conservative woman who attracts crowds on the same level as Obama. Nobody in either the Republican or Democrat party can do that right now.

  • Katie

    @Giovanni: No, Palin scares me because she's an idiot, a pathological liar, an extremist, and because she quit her job halfway through and still expects us to take her seriously as a political force. And she listed Glenn Beck as potential running mate in 2012. I mean, really, you don't even JOKE about that shit.

  • dennis kay

    Seems that all the effluvia from the Palin haters indicates what organ they use for thought. Were the present administration reflecting the people's will on major issues, Sarah would have no forum. The democrats are wrong on on health care, job creation (not a government function), availability of business capital, the 23% drawdown of the economy over carbon credits, the backtracking on Afghanistan, fiddling with Medicare, unapproved industry czars, the lack of support for Honduras, the bowing and kowtowing in Asia, the lip flapping about Iran, the PC-ness on terrorism, the whole Guantanamo issue and on and on... No wonder Sarah looks so viable.

  • dennis kay

    While I'm at it: Has anyone wondered why "right" is regarded positively while "left" is not? "Get the right answer, get right with God, be on the right side of an issue...." Go to the middle east for your answer. They do not have a lot of TP in the desert. They use their right hands for eating, touching other people and so forth. They use their left hands for.... and that is why touching people with your left hand is an insult. get it?

  • Eric

    "...radical right-wing..."

    Typical liberal diatribe.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    dennis kay- Everything you listed here that Dems are wrong on orignated from 8 years of Bush. Argue all you want about the direction we're heading, but the fact remains that tard-ass and his fundies base, yourself included, ran this country into the ground. If you think Palin or Beck or any of these idiots, who lack any real substance, will get us through this, then you're not only fucking stupid, you're fucking delusional.

    By the way, Ms. Beauty Queen here is the one pimping for attention to sell books. Her entire life, the choices she's made, are so unlike the "values" she claims to hold. Not of you seem to care about this.

    You all bash Obama because it's convenient. I could only imagine what you all would be saying if Palin and McCain were in today. Fucking Demos still right?

  • jane

    We all need to stop talking about Palin so that she will go away. I am a Republican and I have to say I can't stand that womans essance. She is not what we need representing our party.

  • Steve King

    Adrian Bent-Me: First off, nice language; we already know a lot about you from your choice of expletives.

    I've been saying this a lot recently, to supporters of both the left and the right, who love nothing more than pointing a finger at the opposition, blaming them for everything without a lick of common sense or thoughtful analysis involved, as if this were a football game. It's not. In fact, it's a lot more serious than any sporting event.

    Many like to blame Obama for leading us toward socialism and larger government, just as many like to blame Bush for all the current messes we find ourselves in. But the real culprits are the members of Congress (and I blame ALL of them) who have ensconced themselves as the "all-knowing" aristocracy of this nation, utterly forgetful that they ought to be taking their direction from us, the citizenry, rather than believing that they know what is best for us and then pushing through radical policy that effects us all without any discussion or deliberation.

    For the House to have passed the Health Care Reform bill without even as little as 72 hours of public review is reprehensible. Clearly, they view the current political climate as "us against them, winner takes it all," much like a sporting event. God help us.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    Steve King- Go fuck yourself. In Dante's Infernon, the ninth circle of Hell is reserved for pussies like you. Take a side, bash the hell out of the other or shut the fuck up you twit. We don't need the high-road here, because it's leading us off a fucking cliff. My choice of language is just indicative of what a snarling bitch I choose to be rather than a spineless dimwit.

    Have a good day bitches...