Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Some Things To Consider Re: Bristol

Is it okay to use Bristol as a talking point? Is it not okay? And why do we think it's okay to give AK so much sh*t generally?

It's possible, if not factual, that we're giving Palin and her family far more gender-biased, sexist commentary than HRC ever explicitly received. And we're certainly making more fun of Alaska than is really necessary. As one who loves West Virginia, I try not to saddle Alaska with oakie/redneck/frontierspeople diction in a bad way.

I do make fun of California too. In fact, I think I could mock pretty much any state, so that must make it okay to go after Alaska.

But on a more serious note, what of Bristol Palin? What of her situation?

I think the "No going after Bristol" blogger is more incorrect than the "She's fair game" blogger, but both have valid points.

The thing is, most of what I've seen isn't really going after Bristol personally. It goes after her mother for the choices she's (you can use "she" as the pronoun for either woman) made. There are good facts out there supporting that Alaska isn't necessarily an abstinence-only bastion of unsafe sexual practices and ignorance. And crap happens in every family. Having spent the summer strangely fixed on ABC Family's (let's not discuss ABC's definition of family-friendly programming in the 8pm hour, but whatevs) The Secret Life of the American Teenager, I have to say what I WANT to see is Sarah and/or Bristol Palin giving an Amy Juergens style address to the camera about why teens should talk with their parents about sex and maybe avoid these really, truly heavy problems facing the fictional Amy Juergens and the real Bristol Palin.

This is what is most negligent about the McCain campaign and RNC turning the pregnancy into some sort of perverse chastity symbol where chastity is remaining pure enough not to abort your fetus.

Celebrating Britol's choice (oh that word) to keep her baby does more to condone (oh THAT word) teen sex and pregnancy than Juno and Juergens and free condoms in high schools combined.

Bristol has nothing to be ashamed of, per se. But while she can later take pride in responsibly raising her child, no doubt with the loving support of a strong family, she should not be prideful right now.

Note that in nearly all articles, the situation is described as the disclosure that Sarah Palin's unmarried, teenage daughter is pregnant.

Her marital status isn't really the issue, is it? We don't generally condemn unwed mothers these days. The more relevant fact is she's a teenager. Girls shouldn't have little girls or little boys of their own. Not at 17. With no child, college is easier, starting a career is easier, exploring the world is easier. All those things are 100% possible even with a posse of children, but do we really think Bristol's life is easier now than it might have been had she made different decisions about 6 months or so ago?

This isn't about the morality of premarital sex or abortion. It's about helping our daughters, sisters, and friends make reasoned decisions - about preserving their choices. It's not about the choice to remain pregnant, it's about the choice to get pregnant in the first place.

And politically, it's about evaluating whether you want to elect a party that can't see the real issues here, even after supposedly having a corner on this issue-market since at least the point at which Dan Quayle went after Murphy Brown.

Talking about Bristol Palin is fair game, so long as we stick to a consistent, strategic playbook. The GOP isn't. So I'd advise you not vote for them.


An aside: Consider this and mull both HRC and Palin's candidacies and the narratives we've placed on them:

So where do women fit into Guyland? Peripherally, at best, Kimmel says, and when we're considered, we're in a double-bind. "[Young women] want to be smart and pretty, feminine and successful. Yet this leaves many of them feeling like they have to live up to two impossible standards…In a now famous study of the life of women on its campus, researchers at Duke heard a phrase that seemed to capture the core of this new femininity on campus: 'effortless perfection.' You can do it all, but you mustn't try too hard," or else you'll scare of those guys who are deeply afraid of an assertive woman, Kimmel says. "The appearance of effortless is the way young women reconcile such conflicting demands. 'I just happened to be beautiful and brilliant. I can't help it. Don't hold it against me.'" (This makes me think of Sarah Palin, who has continuously downplayed her success in the few days since she's been running for Vice President. Just today, Palin demurred, "I never really set out to be in public affairs, much less to run for this office." Because trying hard is icky! I digress.)
Actually, reading this again just in the time it took to post it this evening, I'm changing my mind on what can be drawn from it. This notion that "shucks, it's a calling, I never WANTED to be president, I haven't been gunning for success or working towards a goal because that would be wrong" is pervasive in American politics. Only in politics, however.

Is it a hold over from our British roots? There's a burning need not to take too much credit for one's accomplishments yet also a constant cultural emphasis on success, goal-setting and achieving, and winning-for-winning's-sake. We can't reconcile these opposing forces, which is probably why we have so many 24 hours news channels now. They lay the foundation for our love/hate relationship with hypocrisy.

I mean, look at it. Right there is a particularly ugly example. We're a country of dreams, of THE dream, dammit. But if you get caught achieving what you dreamt of, well, you better make sure you're not in a public profession when it occurs.

I think this applies to both sexes in politics. But women do start much younger.

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