I saw a clip of Soledad O'Brien on CNN making a plea to John McCain to "free Sarah Palin". She said that the Republican campaign strategy to limit Palin's press interviews was sexist, "and there is no place for sexism in this campaign". Several times I have heard pundits express the opinion that it is sexist for media to mention that Palin is attractive.
Neither limiting media exposure nor saying someone is attractive is, of course, sexist.
It's sad and pathetic that everyone's starting to use the word sexist now, after most people vehemently (even angrily) denied that there was any sexism in the primaries. But while Palin isn't facing the same kind of ugly, overt sexism that Hillary faced, Palin's getting it too - just not in the way people are admitting to.
The sexism Palin is facing is the general dismissal and lack of respect that women often face. As I've said many times, sexism isn't something that men do to women: it's systemic. So I'll give an example from a female commentator, even though a thousand examples could be found from both genders.
In this New York Times blog, Judith Warner says she feels sorry for Palin - sorry for her because she's such a dummy and yet a trooper, sorry for her because she's been put in a situation where she looks like a fool.
Let me say again that I don't support Palin. I have endorsed Obama. But this characterization of her, in Warner's blog and elsewhere, as an air-head beauty queen is offensive and sexist. Palin is the governor of Alaska; not just governor, but a very successful governor by all measures: raising oil taxes, presiding over a strong economy, cleaning up corruption, passing strong legislation - and all that translated into an 80+% approval rating. These achievements may not qualify her to be vice president but they surely qualify her for some respect as a politician and public servant.
The sexist part of the Palin demonization is that Palin, like most women, is not taken seriously for a top leadership job on the basis of her gender. No male governor would be treated as if he was completely inexperienced. The repeated sneers about her "up-do" harken back to the relentless heckling Hillary faced as first lady over her hair: every time she had it cut a different way it was analysed in terms of her inability to be consistent, as if somehow ceasing to wear a hairband meant she was a hypocrite to have ever worn one. That grinding, relentless undermining of public respect was the real reason she was unable to succeed in her bid for Democratic candidate. People had been used for 15 years to disrespecting Hillary, and they just upped the viciousness during the primaries.
The worst part of the Warner blog post is the assumption that a woman with young kids cannot by definition have a demanding job. I can't believe that Warner realized she was saying this, but say it she did. Speaking of Palin's supporters, she writes, "women today... are unique in the extent to which they bond over their sense of imposture. ...They know she can’t possibly do it all — the kids, the special-needs baby, the big job, the big conversations with foreign leaders. And neither could they." That Palin can do it is evidenced by her years in politics. The reason she is able to do it, according to what I have read, is her extraordinary husband who takes on many of the child-rearing and housekeeping roles. It's really interesting how little this aspect of the Palin family is mentioned: could it be just too revolutionary and threatening to the status quo?
A campaign against Palin could be very effective based on her ignorance of foreign policy without resorting to the general characteristic that she's "ditsy and cutesy and kinda maybe stupid." She is obviously neither ditsy nor stupid. Cutesy may apply - I'm afraid when I envision Palin I'm starting to see instead the Tina Fey impersonation of her, which is both a compelling image and biting satire.
Yes, there are a thousand allegations against Palin. As I've said before, many of them are lies. Although I'm sure there are many others that are valid, after fact-checking a dozen of them and finding them invalid I have lost interest in the attempts to demonize Palin. I don't support her on the basis of her right-wing views, but as a woman I'm outraged at how she is being dismissed and disrespected.
The demonization and lies may backfire, as well. It has caused a lot of people, myself included, to root for Palin. I watched one of her debates in her gubernatorial primary campaign so I know she's an extremely effective debater (she cleaned the clocks of the incumbent and a former governor in the primary debate). I want Obama to win and I like Biden, but I have my fingers crossed for Palin. She is the lone woman crusading for the respect that is denied to many of us; the lone woman fighting to break the glass ceiling at last. That trumps partisan politics in my book.