Obsessed with the media obsession with Sarah Palin? So is Amanda, who covers it this week. Also, a 30 year report of abortion in America, and pledging your virginity one year at a time.
Links in this episode:
On this edition of Reality Cast, it’s Palin-palooza! I don’t necessarily want it to be, but the people apparently really want to get to know the Republican running mate, so I’m obliged. Also, a Philly radio station tries to get year long leases on virginity pledges, and I interview the research director from the Guttmacher about a 30 year study in abortion trends.
We’ve put out the 5th video in our series of videos. This one was a particular favorite of mine, because I’m obsessed with language and framing issues.
- insert reality check *
You can find all the videos at RH Reality Check.
I don’t purport to fully understand the cult of personality that’s grown up around Sarah Palin, but if monitoring the media coverage of this election is any indication, well, we do know that the cult exists.
At first, a lot of it has to do with the aftershocks of the Clinton campaign. Call it the "Did you know they let women vote now?" effect. Yes, a mere 88 years after women were guaranteed the right to vote, female voters have become a focus of interest. But now, I think it’s because it’s so obviously a gamble for the votes of the religious right that it continues to be interesting. McCain has problems with voters on issues like the war and the economy, and so he’s resorting to reinstating the culture wars.
By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the infamous ad where McCain claimed that Barack Obama got a rise out of teaching kindergartners about sex. Planned Parenthood ran a rebuttal ad.
- planned parenthood *
McCain has made some appeals to moderates on issues like stem cell research, but it’s hard to deny that his campaign staff has reviewed the numbers and decided they can’t win without the religious right. Thus Palin. And thus why she gave one of her few interviews to noted right wing demagogue Sean Hannity.
Thanks to Keith Olbermann for boiling down the interview to 62 seconds. I won’t play all of it, just a sample.
- palin interview 1 *
If you don’t get the picture, here’s the Daily Show’s take:
- palin interview 2 *
One thing I think is interesting is that apparently throwing softballs to Palin means tip-toeing around culture war questions. This makes sense and gets at a game that any politician trying to cater to the religious right has to play. You have to tell two different stories—one’s all about gays and loose women to the base and the other is about, well, anything else for the moderates. And that’s the strategy Palin is taking. All tax cuts on big networks, but videos circulating indicating her alliance with right wing fundamentalists are rallying the base that was sort of bored by McCain.
The most egregious example of trying to play both sides of the fence has got to be Bill O’Reilly’s, though.
- oreilly palin *
A dishonest tactic. If you check the RH Reality Check issues page on this, it’s very clear that Palin wants to ban abortion, and that can’t happen without an overturn of Roe.
Of course, all this is going on alongside another debate about whether or not Sarah Palin is a feminist because she’s a woman with power. Brian Lehrer put together a panel of feminists to discuss the issue.
Here’s Gloria Jacobs:
- palin feminist *
And Courtney Martin:
- palin feminist 2 *
I’m not sure when people stopped defining feminists as people who support women’s equality, and instead as women who have big paychecks and/or opinions.
- insert interview *
Thanks to the listener who alerted me to this Philly radio station called the Beat 100.3 that’s started an Abstinence Is Kool Club. A real sign of the times, I’d say. I remember when I was a teenager, a radio station in El Paso teamed up with a dance club not to promote no sex, but safe sex, mainly by handing out free condoms at the door of the club. Local religious groups threw a fit, which I think was my first inkling into how anti-choicers aren’t trying to reduce the abortion rate so much as they just generally hate sex. Because if ever a place needed free condoms to stop the spread of disease and unplanned pregnancy, it’s a dance club.
Anyway, the point is that we live in more uptight times, and a popular radio station pushing abstinence has got to be evidence of that. To their credit, they aren’t trying to shame anyone into giving up sex until marriage. It’s more about getting girls to put off sex for a year. Yes, I said girls. Because the message is aimed at girls and girls alone.
- abstinence is kool 1 *
I am usually categorically opposed to being a grammar nazi, but I can’t help but point out that the catchphrase "Abstinence is cool, and I’m not doing it," implies that the speaker is not doing abstinence. That said, I know why she’s going with the clunky phrase, and it’s because "doing it" is a euphemism for having sex. It’s funny, because the last thing that most pop music engages in nowadays is euphemisms for sex. Kids today prefer raunchy over euphemism, a development I have to say I’m comfortable with.
Anyway, you can see why this is offensive, and it’s because they don’t even try to pretend that this is about anything but making girls and girls alone feel bad for being sexual, which is apparently a guy’s territory. I can sympathize with why you might focus on girls alone, because girls suffer more ill effects from irresponsible sex than boys, especially when it comes to unplanned pregnancy. But the result of this is that you just end up reinforcing the message that sexual responsibility is all on female shoulders and that you can’t even talk to guys about responsibility. And then there’s this:
- abstinence is kool 2 *
And that’s the danger in defining sexual responsibility as a matter of just if you say yes or no, and not about the larger issues of using contraception and being respectful towards yourself and others. Abstaining for a full year is a symbolic gesture that doesn’t communicate more than, "Sex is bad." It doesn’t help you learn to use condoms when you stop abstaining. It doesn’t do much at all.
And this part got on my nerves:
- abstinence is kool 3 *
What, it doesn’t count unless you get a guy to say it?
Again, it’s hard for me to get angry about this. It’s sexist, but their hearts are in the right place. It probably is good for high school kids to be more patient and really consider their first time instead of rush right into it. They’re not aiming this at all women or suggesting that you’re a dirty slut if you have sex outside of marriage. It’s aimed right at getting girls to delay sexual activity, nothing more.
But I challenge the staff at Beat 100.3 to widen their scope and start educating about a more pressing problem, which is safer sex. When I was a teenager, you saw a lot of pop culture figures like Left Eye Lopez from TLC pushing condoms, and I have no doubt that sort of advocacy is what helped lower the teenage pregnancy rate in the 90s. And now it’s climbing back up.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts. The folks at Media Matters have started monitoring smaller market right wing talk radio and have found that powerful women are one of the major bogeymen, along with gays and people who want to take away your guns. I liked this rant from Lee Rodgers in San Francisco:
- lee Rodgers *
In case you’re following along, it’s wrong to be sexist to Sarah Palin, but it’s okay to call other female politicians ugly skanks because they were not in beauty pageants. That’s the sort of consistency you can take to the bank. So long as it’s still solvent.