The media has played Third Party in Election ’08 better than any Ralph Nader or Ron Paul ever could. Sometimes, it’s a great help, like when reporters stop gushing over a candidate’s appearance long enough to ask pressing questions. More often than not, some complex issue gets flattened into a fury of sound bites, or a YouTube melange of indecipherable garbage. In the recent back-and-forth, the Dems and Repubs are making the identity politics volley of the Primary season look like just that, sport.
But, as we know from the early battles between Hillary’s contingent of strong post-Steinem feminists and Barack’s upstart Black professionals crowd, the story runs much deeper than a fiery speech. At first, it was Senator Obama’s charge to persuade the old guard of civil rights leaders that he was both his own man and a capable torch-bearer for their (seemingly) extinguished legacy. We all know how that went at first but, Obama came out of it with minimal scrapes and only a few Uppity Negro labels.
Now, the parties are impetuously staking claim to American womanhood, specifically using VP nominee Sarah Palin to contest the Left’s feminine examples like Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. Lost in the shuffle is just how diverse and powerful American women of all castes are.
Does media put Hillary, Michelle against Sarah, Cindy? Read on…
The GOP playbook On How To Divide Women reads something like this:
Hillary Clinton – Strong, White, smart, aggressive, unapologetic, maternal but not soft on issues, loyal wife
How to turn Americans against her – Show her to be “too smart” but not feminine or wifely enough. Portray the nagging wife as a bother to the country. Dismiss her as a whining weakling, or an incompetent competitor. Suggest her lack of traditional femininity might make her a lesbian.
Result? Success! The media bought the idea fully and guillotined Hillary in public view, favoring Barack O. as a favorite son.
Michelle Obama – Strong, Black, loyal wife, attractive, smart, motherly, tough, unapologetic, tenacious, stylish
How to turn Americans against her – Use the Barack strategy but more finely tuned. Portray her as an ungrateful elitist incapabale of seeing the value of this Great Country. Question her patriotism. Mention her aggressive defense of husband as an example of her uppity affect. Label her an angry Black.
Result? Success so far. Michelle Obama came on to the national scene with all aspects of her strong black womanhood intact but has shifted to the background in the Barack-American family portrait. She amplifies her role as mother much more than her role as professor/intellectual. Somehow, it seems like she’ll remain above the judgments but the fact that she’s modified herself is already unfortunate.
Sarah Palin – Simple, working class, strong (but not too strong), motherly, motherly, attractive [link], white, motherly, wife, deferential, gun-totin’, fishin’, huntin’, baby-making, rural, maverick
How to get Americans on her side – Show her commitment to family as her biggest asset. Cry out unfairness or sexism when anyone mentions qualifications for office.
Result? Judging by her speech, only moderate success. The word “hockey mom” has been shoved down the American throat. Their family image endears her to some but may show her weaknesses as holes in her wholesome story continue to manifest.
Cindy McCain – Rich, White, quiet, opulent, elite
How to get Americans on her side – Reduce her to a minimal role. Divert cameras away from her glassy eyes and expensive wears.
Result? Resounding success! Cindy McCain is the quietest potential First Lady since…Laura Bush. She runs from the spotlight like no other.
Finally, women are at the front of the line in terms of media coverage but the image vendors have closely defined what women should be doing or saying. All of these women identify with other women, but the Powers That Be will keep them spliced in narrow terms for polling purposes and votes won. There is no coinciding idea of femaleness that will properly appease all voting blocs and, as normal as that is, we are expected to emphasize only difference.