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Going Rogue: A Photo Essay Culture Jamming Sarah Palin

December 3, 2009

More Important Than Sarah Palin

“This is not a [book] to be taken lightly. It should be thrown aside with great force.”

Dorothy Parker

If Dorothy Parker were alive today, she would more likely have cited another quote of hers in relation to meta-celebrity-cum-politician, Sarah Palin: “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

About a week or so ago, perusing one of my local independent bookstores with my camera in hand, I came upon the book Sarah Palin didn’t write sitting amidst the biographies of other important figures in history.

The book was almost ironically sitting there next to two authors; champion of manners Emily Post and “Goddess-of-the-Right” and conservative intellectual, Ayn Rand.  Both of these women wrote books. To date, we still haven’t been informed of which books Sarah Palin has read.  But Mrs. Palin assures us that she is looking forward to a long and vibrant career as a writer.  I am sure Lynn Vincent appreciates the work. . .

As I looked at the books around me, it was all-too-easy to find interesting juxtapositions which left the half-term Alaska Governor looking fairly pathetic.

Virginia Woolf wrote her own book. In A Room of One’s Own, she considered whether a woman given the same gifts for writing as a man, would have the same opportunities as a man to be heard and even listened to. Woolf did this in 1928 when the opportunities for a woman weren’t the same. Sarah Palin tried to have books banned from public libraries while serving as mayor of Wasilla, AK.  Does it make you wonder even for a second, what Virginia Woolf might have thought of a woman like Sarah Palin?

Of course being in a book store and being surrounded by many books, some of which were written by women to much acclaim and literary quality, it was easy to line up book after book which framed Palin in a rather pallid light.  Isak Dinesen, Doris Lessing, Ayn Rand, Dorothy Parker. . . Whether or not you agree with any of these writers ideas or philosophies, they are still women worthy of respect.

But Sarah Palin has never claimed to be a writer, I hear the arguments. . . On this we can agree.  But a leader. . . Past and future!  That’s where she is an inspiration!

Ah yes, Sarah Palin looks shining as a half-term Governor of Alaska and lest we forget, Mayor of Wasilla, AK. The Governor who took time out of her busy schedule to run for Vice President of the United States of America, despite her own self-proclamation months before that she wasn’t even sure “what the V.P. did”.  She looks really good when you set her alongside Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor who through the Social Security Act, helped establish pensions for elderly Americans, child labor laws, and the unemployment benefits you very well maybe thankful for today.  Yes, well it is true that Palin did spend $400,000 of state money to keep aerial wolf hunting legal in Alaska, and it’s true that’s good sportsman-like, you betcha!

Aw shit, and this guy, despite being held in jail for twenty-seven years in jail as a political prisoner of his own country, went on to lead his nation for five years AND write his autobiography? Hell! He’s not even American!

A Short Walk in Manolo Blahniks

*     *     *     *

I began to think about writing this piece even as I took these photos, knowing that the ideas would eventually exist somewhere outside of my camera, my heart or my head.  I began to start thinking of the piece as a lamentation (go ahead Sarah, look it up) not simply about the quality of individuals thrust into the spotlight.  In this case as a tool by a desperate political candidate seeking to lend himself further legitimacy and gender credibility. For me personally, I saw this an attempt to understand the sort of ideal of women that exists in our modern American and even more importantly, global culture.

I do realize it in my mind that this is largely a construct of our corporate media culture, but there were two things in my mind when the idea of this essay came about: A nameless woman on television shown in a crowd at a Sarah Palin rally, and my own mother.

The woman was holding up a sign which indicated her support of Sarah Palin in some manner.  She was a middle-aged woman, in all likelihood older than Mrs. Palin herself.  She was not one of the women who you would find in the crowd that Mrs. Palin was addressing, but amongst those behind her who had been put in place as background material.  If you weren’t looking at Sarah Palin, you were supposed to look at people like her and see how Sarah Palin was an inspiration.  What I couldn’t get past was this look in her eyes, as she hung on each and every one of Mrs. Palin’s unintelligible words.   A look that I can only describe as wistful adoration. . . And that look, for this woman; all I can say is it made me sad.  Quite honestly, it’s hard not to get cynical when I think about the celebutard culture that we are fed in the world of Politics and Leadership, Culture and the Arts, and Spirituality.  I have to remind myself on a regular basis that there is more than the Sarah Palins and Lady Gagas of this world.

And then there’s my own mother, who raised me ably by herself with the loving support of her parents.  It wouldn’t be until after I was an adult living on my own that my mother would remarry.  Being raised by a single mother, with a strong grandmother influence and a grandfather with equal respect and honor for both of these women, I have come into the world with an indelible mark left by women.  There is no accident that I have a large tattoo of a bare-chested Goddess on my left arm, and it has to do with the influence that women have had on me my entire life.

As a reminder of the good news in the world, and my further belief in the power, influence and capability of women I want to end by saying that we don’t have to cheapen our ideals of what it means to be a man or a woman, nor should we let a warped media do it for us.  Because it is so important that we protect all women’s rights, both in this country and abroad, I suggest starting with an organization like The Girl Effect.

If you don’t know about the organization or the significance of just what “The Girl Effect” is, you can click on the image above to learn more.  In addition, you can help spread and be a part of the movement on Facebook by clicking here.

Finally, I would like to list just a few of the women that I think of when I think of important women:

  • Rachel Maddow
  • Lisa Gerrard
  • Rep. Barbara Lee
  • MeShell Ndegeocello
  • Neda Agha-Soltan
  • Rachel Correy
  • Kimberly Peirce
  • Senator Barbara Boxer
  • Amy Goodman
  • Natacha Atlas
  • Michelle Obama
  • Dr. Helen Caldicott
  • Majora Carter
  • Benazir Bhutto
  • Alice Waters
  • Cosi Fabian
  • Katrina vanden Heuvel
  • Nigella Lawson
  • Katha Pollitt

And to the women in my life past, present and future. . .family, teachers, friends, and loves who I have known, this piece is dedicated.

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