Love of Gossip, Dislike of Palin Don't Justify Sexist Standards

Yesterday [I wrote this essay on Saturday, but glitches on the site prevented me from posting it until Sunday],  I thought I must have misread two sentences in the juicy USA Today story by Jackie Kucinich and Catalina Camia [1] about The Rogue, Joe McGinniss's unauthorized biography of Sarah Palin.

First, Kucinich and Camia recount gossip about Palin, the kind of stuff that's warranted if Palin really broke some laws - both moral and otherwise - while holding herself out to be a devoutly religious, highly moral person or appallingly unwarranted if there is no basis for the stories.

But no matter how much one might love gossip and dislike Palin's politics, anyone interested in eradicating sexism should be frightened by their report that McGinniss describes Palin's marriage to Todd Palin as rocky and that "an unnamed source" attributes that to Sarah's "lack of domestic skills." They quote another unnamed source, this one described as "an old friend," as saying that Sarah would "burn water."

Why did these writers - especially when at least one and probably both are women - pen such sentences? And why did their editor let them stand, especially when the article was presented not as an opinion piece but a news story? They jump out from the story, sounding like a schoolyard taunt, "Nananana, and your marriage sucks, too!" And aren't you just dying to know who cooks those wolves she supposedly shoots?

Although we might dismiss what Kucinich and Camia wrote as simple silliness, the blaming of the rocky state of a woman's marriage to her poor cooking skills must be pointed out and critiqued. Gee whiz, is that what makes a marriage meaningful: culinary abilities? Why does a major, national newspaper publish such stuff, when it is both sexist in general and alarmingly superficial in its implications about what a longterm relationship ought to be?

I would not want to have dinner with Sarah and Todd Palin, not even a glass of iced tea. But regardless of our preferences for political candidates and regardless of our sex, let us call out those who matter-of-factly purvey the tired, old sexist tropes.

[1] Jackie Kucinich & Catalina Camia. (2011). Analysts: "Rogue" book may not hurt Sarah Palin. USA Today. September 16, p. 4A.

About the Author

Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D.

Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D., a clinical and research psychologist, is an associate at Harvard University's DuBois Institute and former fellow in Harvard Kennedy School's Women and Public Policy Program.

You are reading

Science Isn't Golden

Valentine’s Day Alarm: Violence Against Women by Budget Cuts

Devastation is in store if VAWA funding is wiped out.

Awardwinning Play, Film About Humans, not Psychopathology

Works Focus on People's Complexity, Nuance, and Strengths

The Naked Emperor and the Vanishing Veteran

It's essential to expose the hidden and tragic loss of support for veterans.