Monday, September 15, 2008

Sarah Palin: Backwoods Barbie?

You gentle readers might be surprised to learn that I am a Dolly Parton fan. I tend not to be drawn to country, but I do have a few "countryish" favorites (also Mary Chapin Carpenter, the Dixie Chicks, Sugarland, Nanci Griffith, and others). On the other side of the "unlikely" is I also like John Cougar Mellencamp. But back to Dolly.

I was working out at the gym on my lunch hour and listening to a Dolly Parton song on my iPod. At the end of the song, Dolly has a cute little "Thanks, y'all," which is decidely unfeminist in tone! She does not come across as a strong, independent woman when she talks about how many plastic surgeries she's had or how large her breasts are. But she is a phenomenal powerhouse of a musician. At the age of 62, she's had 26 #1 singles, a record for a female performer, and a record 42 top-10 country albums. In her career, she has published almost 600 songs! And "9 to 5" is a great feminist classic. If she's a close friend and collaborator of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, how can she not be a feminist and great for women?

As I was running on the treadmill, I pondered about the fact that I view her in a different way than I do Sarah Palin, another "Backwoods Barbie."

A few minutes ago, I read this great post on a blog I frequent, by a writer and Dolly fan who recently took in Dolly's show "9 to 5" and had his own ponderings about the similarities between their stories. I had to comment...and this is generally what I wrote in response:

I have traveled and worked in Alaska, and Palin is classically Alaskan. That’s why she is so popular there.

In my own blog and conversations, I’ve tried to stay away from casting aspersions on her family background and the parenting decisions she’s made. When we stoop to that, it makes liberals look elitist.

On many feminist blogs, women have said that Palin can’t call herself a feminist. Is it really right to claim that term only for liberals? Instead perhaps we should be happy that she uses that title…because other women (and men) shy (or run!) away from it.

Here’s what I don’t like about Palin: her political beliefs, difficulty to separate church and state, lack of ethics, cronyism, hypocrisy, and tendency to stretch the truth. She is probably qualified to be VP, but not to be president.

Personally, I would like for our president to have a law degree. Neither McCain nor Palin have one. I would like the president to be well versed in foreign affairs, diplomacy, and democracy, and have the ability to build teams and negotiate compromises, both at home and abroad.

Instead the Republicans pride themselves on their ability to “shake up Washington” (ha!) and be reformers, while their Palin’s own record contradicts that.

We have much to criticize Palin for, but I agree with you that if we can accept Dolly Parton as a feminist, we need to allow Palin to use that title too.

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