Sunday, October 19, 2008
Today's NY Times Week in Review section contains a chilling article on Sarah Palin's popularity with men. McCain's VP pick was selected at least in part to appeal to women, but it turns out that the big Palin fans, the ones who paint letters of her name onto their hairy chests and yodel their devotion to the cameras, are men. From the day McCain announced his choice, men's approval of Palin has led women's by a 10-point-margin.
What gives? And why is it dangerous?
I call it the hot babysitter effect. Now, more than ever, our country needs someone to look after it. Each of us is busy with our own affairs, our own homes, our own towns; the country needs someone to watch it for us while we go about the business of living. Ergo, electing a President is like hiring a babysitter.
So what do women consider when they hire a babysitter? Most of us look for competence. We want our babysitter to know about the important parts of babysitting: feeding, bathing, ensuring diaper security. We want to the babysitter to have babysat before. We want to hear that she has good references from her last job.
And men want to know these things, too. But some men -not all men, mind you- look at the babysitter and think to themselves: DUDE, she's HOT.
Never mind that the babysitter thinks reading the label on a Pampers box that one time at Safeway makes her an expert on diapers. Never mind that she can't string together a grammatically coherent sentence. Never mind that the babysitter slapped around some kid at her last job.
Sarah Palin is the kind of babysitter -the kind of woman- certain men love. She responds to, and is appreciative of, the male gaze. She does not gainsay male pleasures, even if they involve killing things or drilling enormous holes in wildlife refuges. Her primary personae are those of wife and mother: these are helpmeet roles, roles that prop up, and are integral to, the lives of men. There's no part of the life of Sarah Palin that is unavailable to, or separate from, men. She likes men. She approves of men. She smiles at them, tells them she likes their big boots and their big guns, that she'll take good care of their child.
The woman is dumb as a post. But I can report (only a trace of bitterness, folks!) that intellect is not usually the first thing men look for in their babysitters or any other woman. Maybe they look for it second, or third, or fourth. Palin's male fan base looks for intellect sixty-seventh, between skill at rabbit gutting and ability to whistle Yankee Doodle.
Alright, I'm getting snarky. But the fact remains: Palin's base of support skews, and always has skewed, male. "Palin is our kind of woman," a male fan tells the reporter.