Action Figure VS Nutcracker

It was perhaps galling that one of the smartest questions asked of Hillary Clinton in the past 18 months was posed after a presidential debate in which Clinton did not participate. But it was appropriate that it came from a journalist who understands as well as the New York senator that the path to gender parity is lined with potholes.

“Why do you think Sarah Palin has an action figure, and you have a nutcracker?” asked CBS anchorwoman Katie Couric on her nightly webcast — her so-called after party — following the final presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain on Oct. 15.

From Rebecca Traister’s article on the rise of Katie Couric, Campbell Brown and Rachel Maddow.

5 thoughts on “Action Figure VS Nutcracker

  1. I was just listening to Slavoj Zizek talking about this on NPR:

    “What worried me a little bit more is this Sarah Palin operation, namely […] there is something in the Palin phenomenon. What? Did you notice how, till now, the majority of successful feminine politicians played the phallic, masculine game. They presented themselves as more masculine, more tough guys than men themselves. Margaret Thatcher, the true Iron Lady, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, up even to, a little bit, clearly Hilary Clinton had this cold-bitch-who-is-tougher-than-Bill-who-is-soft and so on.

    And, I claim that here it’s a different phenomenon. Sarah Palin proudly displays her femininity. It’s a kind of a dream of ‘I can be a woman.’ So, the way she rhetorically tries to win over men is not by being more masculine than men. It’s mobilizing this typical feminine rhetorical resort which is this sarcastic undermining of male authority. Like, ‘Ha ha ha, community organizing!’.

    It mobilizes this deeply feminist rhetorical device which is mocking male authority. You know, like, men are bombastic, big phrases and so on. A woman can afford this kind of sarcasm and so on. And I think that at a certain level, rhetorically it works.”

  2. To follow up, I guess what I took from the Zizek talk is that Palin’s rhetoric (particularly as it relates to her femininity) may be more subversive, in a sense, than people give her credit for. In the Salon article cited in this post, Traister remarks that Palin’s cutesy self-presentation shows that “she is only here to conform to traditional feminine norms that do not threaten testicular dominance,” and I think that Zizek would have disagreed with that somewhat.

  3. It is important to remember that all these descriptions are descriptions of people’s perceptions, not objective facts.

    I have to say that I really don’t get it either, I experience Clinton as confident and very intelligent; I object to calling that ‘phallic’. I’ve heard a lot of people say Bill is really brighter, but given her debate performance, I doubt it.

    It’s also important to rememer that the descriptions are culturally relevant. The extent to which one’s gender gets displayed varies from country to country, though I suppose the growing sharing of TV programs, etc, is muting that somehow.

  4. i have definately felt she was more subversive than people give her credit for from the start. i’ve been annoyed at how progressive women especially have not considered the possibility and i’m sad that it may have been a guy to be the first to publicly say so.

  5. dk, interesting! I noted at first with some glee that the conversative media men seemed to choke at praising a mother who had a very visible and important role in politics and the work arena. i mean, it’s like that was feminist and anti-family values.

    Since then, though, they seem to have calmed down, and one worries why she’s now a favorite of Rush’s. i wonder if she didn’t indeed work pretty hard to subvert her subversiveness.

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