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November 13, 2009

Ann Althouse Is Dumb

At least about Sarah Palin.

Althouse argues that Sarah Palin's "passivity" and reluctance to stand up for herself vis a vis the McCain campaign's determination that she should start her interviews with Katie Couric and the like proves she's kinda dumb.

She seems to be making some feminist point about women being just as capable of men and therefore, her thinking goes, needing to act in that fashion, and not whine later that their opinions were overlooked.

Why didn't you have a say [about what media you were interviewed by]? There's that "really" hedging: You didn't really have a say. You're pleading passivity and impotence but you want us to think you have what it takes to be President of the United States?

As a general proposition about women's need to assert themselves, maybe she has a point, but here, I think her Sisters Gotta Do It For Themselves analysis overlooks a major point: Sarah Palin did not act as a subordinate to John McCain due to her sex, or her gender's desire to avoid conflict, or anything at all like that.

She acted as a subordinate to John McCain because she really was as subordinate to John McCain. Althouse's analysis seems to easily gloss over the fact that John McCain really was the boss here, and Sarah Palin really was the underling.

I don't know if Althouse, being a tenured (I assume) professor, really has a "boss" anymore, or if her status means that she's essentially the Boss of Herself. So perhaps she has forgotten: Whether you are male or female, and whether your boss is male or female, the boss gets his way.

The underling may offer suggestions. The underling may protest. But at the end of the day, the boss gets his way.

So I don't view this as some kind of "Sarah Palin is too weak to stand up for herself" thing. I view it instead as "Sarah Palin joined a team, with the express (and historically well-founded) understanding that all choices about the campaign are ultimately made by the actual captain of the team -- the presidential candidate -- and conducted herself accordingly, despite the fact that she thought the boss was erring badly."

I just don't understand how that is so easily blown-off as immaterial.

So, Sarah Palin acted as if she were not John McCain's equal? Pssst: Keep it low, but she wasn't John McCain's equal.

If Ann Althouse did have a boss capable of firing her, I can assure her that the boss would get his or her way, male or female, and she, as an underling, would not get her way, and Althouse's sex has little to do with that. And in the end, every one of Althouse's suggestions might be ignored, and that would have nothing to do with Althouse's sex, or intelligence, or willingness to stand up for herself. It would have everything to do with the basic concept of the boss gets first and last say.

What am I missing? Is this some minor technicality easily elided?

She may quibble that in this case, Palin was not a clear subordinate in the sense she could be fired. She could be fired, of course, but admittedly, firing Sarah Palin would have doomed John McCain more than he was already doomed. So that would have been an unappealing option. Palin did have some leverage here, then, more than most subordinates. (But every subordinate has that leverage, too: Your boss obviously wants to keep you on, which is why you're still employed in the first place, so firing a valuable employee is never a cost-free decision.)

But even if she had some leverage, that doesn't mean she should exercise it willy-nilly. She came into the situation as a subordinate and even if she could, theoretically, start throwing her weight around and making demands -- even if she could, hypothetically, demand that the ticket be a true partnership -- what kind of a monster would do that?

This was John McCain's candidacy, to win, or to piss away, as he saw fit. He chose the latter, as we all know. I don't think it's necessary, in order to prove one is a strong woman capable of standing up for herself, to be a total dick.

Which is what Althouse seems to be arguing. That if Palin failed to act like a total dick and disrespect the clear, 230+ year understanding that the presidential candidate is the decision-maker as regards the campaign, and the vice presidential candidate is an adviser only (and often not even that-- I don't think Joe Biden had much say in the Obama campaign, but fortunately he truly was too stupid to realize he was being condescended to like a retarded child), then she's somehow unqualified for the job of President.

Different jobs have different job descriptions. It is the job of the vice presidential candidate to support the presidential candidate and defer to him. That is the job description; that is the job's responsibilities. I don't think the fact that she correctly served in one job proves that she's incapable of performing in a completely different job.

This also seems lose-lose for Palin, because she did, in fact, eventually go a bit rogue and assert herself. And in those situations, she's called out as not being a team player and sabotaging McCain's chances and acting as if she's the boss when she's not. (Note: Althouse isn't making this case, so there is no contradiction on her part.)

But in fact that's what McCain's people are claiming: That even Palin's minor deviations from the script given to her constituted disloyalty and a failure to act according to the captain's orders.

So what is the correct strategy here? Just pretend she's actually the boss and the presidential candidate and therefore entitled to make any campaign decisions she likes?

I don't get that. Althouse's argument seems to be rooted in some form of overcompensation where she's claiming that women should never act as subordinates even when they are, in fact, subordinates. And if women did behave in such a manner (thankfully, they do not), they would be bad employees and their bosses would be justified in purging their companies of these chronically insubordinate, incompetent female employees.

But that's the thing about Sarah Palin: The mere mention of her name is enough to make normally-sensible people begin babbling silliness.

Actually: This ties into one of the more destructive memes in feminist thought: That to assert oneself as a woman requires that that woman behave unreasonably.

I read this a lot on feminist sites. Crap like "In order to prove you are the equal of your husband, you can and should make him go without sex for up to an entire year, or more, if that's what your free-thinking independent-minded heart desires."

There is a lot of very unpleasant overcompensation among feminist thinkers, where it often suggested that "equality" means, somehow, utter dominance and total lack of any interest in compromise and give-and-take. That every compromise or gesture towards comity is somehow a betrayal of one's womanhood. That strict mercenary self-interest in all things is somehow elevated to a virtue, and any deviation from that, a sign of weakness.

Again: I don't understand why the feminist ideal should be acting like a total douchebag about everything.

Men don't see it as an ideal to be aspired to that we get our way on everything and show no interest whatsoever in compromise and balancing respective interests. Why does the feminist ideal often seem to suggest that is the goal?

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posted by Ace at 03:38 PM

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