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November 17, 2009

The truth hurts: Newsweek's Palin cover


Newsweek used this photograph of Sarah Palin as this week's cover shot.

The headline reads, "How do you solve a problem like Sarah? She's bad news for the GOP--and for everybody else, too."

It's a damned good question, and I couldn't think of a better image to make the point.

Palin posed for this picture as part of a photo essay captioned Governor Palin, The Runner, which ran in the August issue of Runner's World. When I saw this image in its original context, I was appalled that a sitting governor would pose for a shot like this; or this stretching shot that puts the visual center of gravity squarely on her crotch.

Maybe Palin didn't realize that the photographer, Brian Adams, was depicting her this way. If so, he totally fucked her over. But I think she was on board with the concept. If Palin had assailed Runner's World for making fun of her, I might now take her complaint about Newsweek seriously. She liked the Runner's World spread, though. She thought it was appropriate. [NB: In an earlier version of this post, I misspelled Brian Adams' name "Bryan Adams." Today, I got an email from a firm called Web Sheriff telling me that they'd take legal action if I didn't apologize to the rock star Bryan Adams and ACI for any injury I might have caused to his reputation. So, I sincerely apologize to Bryan Adams. I wouldn't want my name associated with these ridiculous pictures either.]

There's nothing scandalous about Palin showing some skin, or wearing Spandex. But this cover image is deliberately styled to make the then-governor of Alaska look like a Vargas pinup girl. Unlike the other images in the series, this one references her status as a governor. As she poses like a swimsuit model, she's clutching one icon of political power--the Blackberry--and leaning on another. The theme isn't Sarah Palin, athlete. The theme is Sarah Palin, Sexy Governor. (As in: one of those dime store Halloween costumes: sexy cop, sexy lady bug, sexy sanitation worker...)

Predictably, Palin complained that Newsweek's use of the image was sexist. Yes, the image was plucked from its original context. The whole point was that the picture was appalling it its original context. Newsweek is holding this picture up to the world and asking: Who does this? 

The bottom line is that Palin's a clown. She doesn't get a pass because her chosen clown persona is stereotypically feminine.

She caricatures herself. Day in and day out. Good for Newsweek for pointing and laughing.

The story is about why Sarah Palin is a problem for the GOP. The picture answers the question. She's a problem because she's a freak with no judgment who regularly makes a spectacle of herself.  Obviously, she's a potential problem for America because she's an incompetent leader who supports terrible policies. But that's not Newsweek's question.

Newsweek's question is why she's bad for the GOP. The answer is that she's dragging down her party because it's impossible for adults to take her seriously. Not because she's beautiful or maternal or fit, but rather because she has no decorum, no dignity, and no common sense. I mean look at her, she's working the goofy MILF persona like that's a perfectly normal thing for a governor with presidential aspirations to be doing.

Palin's not even bad news for her party because she's ignorant or radically reactionary. Lots of American politicians are both and they do just fine. Palin has the double whammy of being ignorant and absurd. She's absolutely not ready for prime time. John McCain plucked her from obscurity as a publicity stunt and he lived to rue the day.

The tighter the wingnut base embraces her, the more clownish they reveal themselves to be.


actually doing some research i find there is an orlando based wedding photographer named brian adams. very talented, but...

i knew bryan adams was a photographer, if this is the rock artist, he missed his calling.

well, maybe not.

No, they didn't! They sent me 500 words of legalese warning me against defaming Bryan Adams, demanding an apology, threatening legal action, etc.--but they didn't bother to explain the photography angle.

Oh, good grief. Look at that light fixture.

Now that is funny. Seriously?

That's a seriously middle class light fixture.

"This woman is just a human being and not a pre-packaged, handled, politically correct, self promoting, politician."

Wow. It's kind of hard to wrap my mind around this kind of paranoia and tenuous grasp of
reality. Let's look at your claims one by one.

1. Pre-packaged: Palin turned out to be a disastrous pick for McCain's VP, from her general ignorance of crucial issues to a questionable career in local and Alaskan politics to a number of potential ethics violations. It's hard to believe that McCain did a thorough vetting of her. But what she did have was a life story and personality that would appeal to the Conservative base: conservative Christian, middle-class with blue-collar pretensions, folksy charm, sexiness, special needs child whom she carried to term, etc. Pre-packaged? I think so.

2. Handled: Oh please. She was extremely heavily handled, by her own admission. Read her book. "Going rogue" refers to a minor disagreement she had with the McCain campaign about whether to continue campaigning in a state. This is the extent to which she was a maverick during the campaign.

3. Politically correct: Perhaps not as such, but she sure was quick to level complaints of sexism towards anyone and everyone who criticized her.

4. Self-promoting: Nah. She just happens to run with perfectly styled hair and makeup. She keeps an american flag draped over her chair, and an Army pennant on her window; it's a candid shot, really. And she really only did the spread because that magazine so wanted it, and she didn't have the heart to say no.

5. Politician: well, I might not disagree with you there. She certainly wasn't enough of one to complete her term of office. Real politicians might consider it their duty to fulfill their mandate, but I suppose Sarah Palin is above all that.

Montana, Palin is pretty much the Platonic ideal of the prepackaged, handled, self-promoting politician.

Incidentally, she does have a constitutionally-guaranteed right to speak her mind. Not only that, she has had plenty of opportunity to make herself heard on national television, most recently on Oprah (so much for the Obama-controlled media). What she does not have is a constitutionally-guaranteed right to do so free of criticism, or insults, or what you call "bullying" (which amounts to criticism and insults). The fact that you think that she should tells me you don't only have a tenuous grasp on reality, but of the Constitution as well.

Clinton was always seen going into McDonald's as that was his favorite - he loves the Big Mac. Get your history correct :-)

Nit-picking here, but shouldn't it be 'GMILF' rather than 'MILF'?

"If after being the Vice Presidential nominee, she does not have a constitutionally gaurenteed right to speak her mind without sexist, childish, insults and attempted bullying by the Obama controlled press, we are all in trouble and had better watch what we say"

Nobody has a constitutionally guaranteed right to be exempted from insults and bullying. Isn't asking for such a think an act of political correctness?

No, political correctness means not being a racist or a sexist. Treating conservatives with kid gloves isn't political correctness - it's what every patriotic American does.

While everyone was looking at her legs, they forgot to notice her feet. She's wearing ASICS shoes. the same shoes that she gives a blatant product placement nod to in her book. And in the same week where the far right criticizes Obama for bowing to the Japanese, Palin is giving a Japanese shoe company free press - or was it free? Was she paid for product placement? Or was she just used by ASICS and Runner's World as a patsy shill - in which case, was she an idiot for NOT getting paid? More here:

If the Killah from Wasilla wanted to strike a truly sexy pose she might try having herself photographed reading a book.

Its not Left Vs. Right its US vs. THEM lets keep that in mind at all times people... Restore the Constitution, Return the Power to the People and End the Illegal Federal Reserve


did you delete my comments?


never mind.

computers are weird.

Nope, no deletions. If your comment doesn't show up, feel free to post it again.

I think that using the image was pretty sexist and inappropriate. In runner's world, it made her look like a dummy, but speaking as a swimmer who has some high school swimming pictures out there floating around in the ether, I would be wicked pissed if I ran for office and one of them got slapped on the cover of a news magazine. I would be pissed even if it were a recent photo, of me in one of those sporty two-pieces that I don't actually swim in, for a photo spread for swimmers world, if there is such a thing.

All those other images you guys are talking about of male politicians did not end up on the cover of newsweek. And as women, it's pretty tough to walk the line between dressing and acting in such a manner that you can do business with the world at large, enjoying femininity for those of us who do (I only do occasionally, I prefer butchiness, but I'm enough of a pixie to "get away" with it), and dressing seriously. Yeah, I have boobs, and I don't feel like wearing a minimizer, loose clothes, or turtlenecks all the time.

So I think the picture in this context was a cheap (and sexist) shot, although the photoshoot was in poor taste. Posing for sexy pictures in one context does not, in my mind, mean that women should be able to be sexualized in another.

"Posing for sexy pictures in one context does not, in my mind, mean that women should be able to be sexualized in another." I agree. It would have been unfair to use Palin's old beauty pageant pictures or her basketball team photos or private family snapshots to make a point about her ineptitude as a politician. But the thing is, Sarah Palin posed for those pictures while she was governor in order to promote herself as governor. She thought this was an appropriate facet of her public image to pose for a national magazine in this way while she was in office. She's being talked about as a presidential hopeful for 2012. If this is the judgment she showed in her last chief executive post, that doesn't bode well for her political future.

But it was a sports mag.--I still think taking the photos out of context was inappropriate. They were inappropriate in context as well, but that was her choice (and it makes her look like a shallow jackass). And I don't think that posing or dressing in a sexy fashion in a fairly non-serious publication reflects on her judgment. I think the actual things she did in office (all that bridge to nowhere bs, taking away funding from covenant house which supports pregnant teens and other teens having a hard time) and in her campaign (failing to study up on foreign policy or domestic policy, taking cheap shots at her opponents) are damning enough. And that's what matters. If I liked her, I wouldn't care that she posed for sexy pictures. Even though I don't, I still don't care, and think it is a cheap shot, because being women we really can't win for losing when it comes to how we dress or how we present ourselves in connection with femininity and sexiness and sexuality. Look at poor Caster Semanya and Susan Boyle and all that they've had to say regarding how they feel about the whole femme thing. And closeups of Hilary Clinton's ankles. And scorn heaped on Janet Reno and Madeline Albright for being middle-aged women. I think they are two sides of the same coin, and I really don't like women being punished in any form for either going along with the beauty norms or bucking them.

Every time I see a woman's looks amplified, in 'favorable' or 'unfavorable' ways, I just balk. And if we all did, we'd see a lot less of it.

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