As feminist radicalized by motherhood, I have often been dismayed by the tendency at times, for some on the Left, to drop feminist concerns like a hot potato, when another liberal cause is involved. One case in point (much to my chagrin as a long-time vegan) is PETA’s exploitation of women in the service of saving animals, with their “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign.Another case in point, was the uproar over Carrie Prejean’s opposition to gay marriage. In response to Prejean’s comments, Hilton hurled the “B” word. Apparently, sexism is OK of it’s used against an opponent on the Right.That’s why I was relieved when Keith Olbermann took the side of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin - the first day, that is - in the controversy over recent jokes by David Letterman. Then of course, Palin began to milk it for all it was worth, and Olbermann noted that the dust up had passed its “sell by date.”
Olbermann and others have rightly pointed out that Letterman’s jokes: referring to Palin as sporting a “slutty flight attendant” look, and her (unspecified, but clearly implied 18-year-old) daughter (Bristol, who, while pregnant - along with her then-boyfriend - was paraded onto the stage at the Republican National Convention) being “knocked up by Alex Rodriguez” were out of bounds.
Since then, Olbermann, as well as others, have pointed out the hypocrisy of Palin objecting to the targeting of her daughters, while herself exploiting them in the campaign as well as in this drawing out of the Letterman controversy. (The fact that Bristol is now on an “abstinence tour,” despite her admitting on camera that abstinence doesn’t work, certainly suggests that the governor might have pushed Bristol into that role.)I shared Olbermann’s initial response to Letterman’s jokes - out of bounds, as acknowledged by Letterman himself. And yes, Palin’s further exploitation of her daughters to score political points is appalling, as is the absurd notion that Letterman was joking about the statutory rape of her 14-year-old.
But there’s another - even more disturbing - hypocrisy in Palin’s dredging up of issues of rape and young women’s self-esteem: her own record on rape and sexual assault. Alaska’s record on rape and sexual assault is atrocious. According to Star Alaska (Standing Together Against Rape):
“Alaska is the # 1 state in the country for Rape and has been for 23 out of the last 30 years (FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm).
Anchorage has the ninth highest sexual assault rate of any city in the United States, and Fairbanks is ranked first (FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm).
Fairbanks’ rape rate is 4.7 times the national average (FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm).
AK’s Child abuse rate is six times higher than the national average. (Department of Public Safety/ AK CDVSA Annual Report for FY 2006)”