My Twitter acquaintance Leslie Sanchez wrote an interesting book this year, You’ve Come a Long Way, Maybe: Sarah, Michelle, Hillary and the Shaping of the New American Woman. While I wasn’t crazy about the frequent references to the “liberal media,” her book told the obvious truth that many of us women get, but a lot of TV shouting heads don’t — it’s not OK anymore to refer to us, especially high profile women like Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama, in sexist terms. Whether you’re a fan of the Dems or the GOP, there really are no excuses anymore to talk about us as nagging ex-wives or beauty queens. While it was clear that talking heads of both political persuasions were guilty of playing the sexism card (and they continue to do so), it seemed to me that this summer the GOP was even more likely to attack its own.
Sarah Palin got dissed by fellow Republicans at a recent RNC fundraiser. Meghan McCain takes heat for not toeing the GOP party line on gay marriage and for criticizing Ann Coulter. And while Sonia Sotomayor isn’t a Republican, she’s hardly the most liberal judge out there and is being attacked as if she was the next incarnation of Jerry Brown. With all these women on the short end of the conservative’s stick these days, I’m beginning to wonder if the GOP likes girls.
Sure, they have a big love-fest with Ann Coulter and Liz Cheney, two women who are adept at channeling the darkest side of Republican politics, but it seems like the GOP increasingly has a problem with women unless they agree that our country is “importing terrorists” or unless they’re willing to be mean to small children. In addition to questioning people’s political bona fides, I sense a sudden surge in resorting to petty juvenile ugliness if political women don’t agree with what are becoming lockstep GOP positions.
Conservative darling Laura Ingraham (one woman the GOP does seem to like) took her disdain of Meghan McCain to the mean girl level of suggesting that her views should be discounted because Ingraham thinks McCain is fat and talks funny. To her spunky credit, McCain finally announced that anyone who wants to mock her size can kiss her fat a$$! Sarah Palin was the next big thing for the GOP when she was John McCain’s running mate, but today the not-so-subtle inferences that she’s incapable of anything other than advocating for abstinence only sex education are hard to escape.
There seems to be a purposeful blind spot when it comes to processing anyone, especially women, who doesn’t gratefully accept the GOP wisdom that men have laid down before them and who decide that perhaps they can — *GASP* — think for themselves. Sure, it could just be that right-wingers don’t like these three women — but there’s a pattern that’s becoming disturbingly common in how some Republicans talk about women they disagree with. There is a marked increase in resorting to personal insults, mockery and language my third-grade daughter and her classmates know better than to use. Sotomayor is too judicial to say what she’d probably like to about Republican (and media) attacks that her temperament is suspect because she criticizes lawyers who’ve come before her if they were ill-prepared or disorganized when they were in her courtroom! I hate to break it to the GOP leadership, but if that’s a disqualifier, then every judge I’ve ever practiced before would be out on their bums!!
Seriously, isn’t it clear? Lots of men and some women in the GOP seem to be afraid of those who deviate from the approved party line. It’s sort of like the political equivalent of the old Saturday Night Live skit where every theater-goer, who seems to have been hypnotized, describes the bad magic show in the same words –“It was as good as Cats. I could see it again and again.” Wander from the Rush Limbaugh-approved script and you’re smacked down as a critical, short-tempered, unqualified, plus-size diva.
Maybe I shouldn’t raise the issue. If the Republican party isn’t careful with its continued slams against women who think outside the small conservative party box, it will find itself with no women other than the current handful who seem to enjoy playing the inflammatory games of Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich. As a Democrat, that’s OK with me — but I know there are plenty of moderate Republican women who are looking for a reason to stay in the party and feel like that’s becoming more difficult. If the way the party is set up now doesn’t change, all those bullies will find themselves without women voters. The good old boys are going to need those votes — unless they’re planning on cloning themselves in time for November 2012.