While writing my previous post about Sarah Palin, I began to think about her role in our culture, and I realized she and Madonna have two fascinating similarities.
Women in our culture are respected only if they have suffered. A happy, accomplished woman, such as Sarah Palin, is scorned. Even Madonna is widely scorned; the articles about her nowadays are about her plastic surgery, her preference for boys barely out of their teens, and her workout regimen. No-one has addressed the fact that she has earned a billion dollars in her career, or tried to understand what made her such a cultural phenomenon, or talked about her marketing genius. Madonna has not suffered, therefore she has no sympathy and sympathy is the only way liberals can relate to people. Her face lift is up for discussion because it’s considered a weakness (vanity) while her incredible earning power is ignored completely. Feminists shouldn’t actually achieve anything, much less earn the kind of wealth that she’s amassed. That goes against the anti-capitalist grain, as well as the women-are-weaklings meme.
Sarah Palin has never relied on any liberal institutions to achieve her goals. She was not Affirmative Actioned into office. Her accomplishments in office are never discussed for the same reason Madonna’s aren’t discussed. If there is a political aspect to that denial, it is that of course you don’t want to discuss your opponent’s accomplishments. But I think from a strictly feminist perspective, her accomplishments cannot be discussed because it proves women are capable of achieving great things even without the “support” of liberal institutions.
Ironically, Sarah Palin and Madonna have an inverted sexuality problem.
Sarah Palin’s appearance is derided as a “slutty flight attendant”. Her flesh is shown on Newsweek, a magazine that fancies itself a major player in the news. Even her children are sexualized, and her choice to give birth to a son with Down Syndrome is discussed – even after liberals have told us time and again that a woman’s choice to “carry a pregnancy to term” is between herself and her doctor (I love the fact that her husband isn’t even included in that mantra.) Sarah Palin did not invite the sexual attention. She’s sexual (obviously) with her husband, but that is private. Certain political operatives use Sarah’s own ladylike behavior against her.
But Madonna did invite sexual attention. Madonna humped the floor in a wedding dress at the Video Music Awards two decades ago. She wore as little as possible. She sang about sex. She’s still doing that today. Madonna demands that every person – male or female, appropriate or not – has a sexual response to her. Yet even with her flagrant sexuality, nobody really talks about her in sexual terms. Nobody calls her a slut. Nobody scorns her for marrying twice, and having a 22 year old boyfriend. (In one interview she said that her boyfriends “have to be just old enough to dress themselves.”) The key thing to understand about Madonna and the media, however, is this: Madonna owns her sexuality. The media can not use it against her to make her a victim (and as I said, sympathy is the only way they can relate to anyone.)
Yet the sexuality problem is the same for both of them: it exists. I cannot imagine a man in any industry demanding to be sexualized (unless you’re an Enron executive, then you’re just asking for it.) Furthermore, I cannot imagine a man being degraded for being sexual. Even politicians caught with prostitutes and paramours do not suffer because of their sexuality. Nobody ever calls them sluts. One simply can not humiliate a man by pointing out that he is a sexual creature. But when the subject is a woman, the pillars of society go crashing, one by one, into the deep blue sea.