Pop Culture Under a Microscope

When She Said She Wanted to Tea Party, that Wasn’t an Invitation

Sarah Palin will be in Chicago May 12 to raise money for the Republican Party, but the event at Rosemont Theatre isn’t the only one using her popular appeal to draw a crowd.  If the tickets for the fundraiser are a bit rich for your budget–or if you’d just rather ogle her naked than hear her speak–there’s also the Sarah Palin lookalike contest at the Admiral Theatre (a gentlemen’s club).

A contest like this is like an outsized, publicized catcall.  And as always happens with catcalls, someone will surely rush to defend the Contest as merely a “compliment,” or simple admiration.  In fact, the Sexy Sarah Palin event (“less taxation, more flirtation!”) purports to be “supporting the Tea Party movement,”  donating a portion of the proceeds to the cause.  But how can you explain the sentiment behind such an event without addressing the belittlement of Palin herself?  Okay, so you find her attractive.  That is not, in itself, injurious.  But to subject her to sexual scrutiny (by proxy and without her consent), during the very same evening she is giving a political lecture, is to suggest, loudly, that you disregard whatever she has to say and offer her physical appearance as the more proper means of assessing her.  That however she intends to define herself, she cannot escape her other role as the object of YOUR sexual fantasy.  Even if you say you’re on the side of her political project, there’s no way to get around the fact of your subverting her chosen identity.

This is how catcalling always works, on the street, in the officeplace, or through an orchestrated media event: the message to the catcalled woman is not just, “I find you attractive,” but, “whatever else you are, remember you are still the object of male desire.”  That’s why it’s offensive, even threatening, when it happens.  And the organizers at the Admiral aren’t leaving it as a joke amongst their audience–they’ve invited Palin to be a “celebrity judge,” making damn sure she’s aware of exactly how they’ve pigeonholed her.  (She hasn’t responded, surprise surprise.)  This is a hostile act, no matter how you slice it.

Ad for the Admiral Event

My guess is that the donation to the Tea Partiers is an afterthought and a joke; Admiral Director Sam Cecola apparently sponsored a similar event in Vegas right before the 2008 election, and I simply can’t imagine that kind of undercutting coming from an ally who supports her supposed “message.”  (If it really is, then I guess that says a lot about the status of women in the Republican Party.)  Still, it’s not fair play, even for her detractors; that the Huffington Post reports it, sans commentary, as though it’s simply an amusing item is a low blow too, I think.  Don’t get me wrong: I’ll be the last person to take Sarah Palin seriously, but on the basis of her ideas, her ideology– her ignorance.  Even if you think she’s wacko, it’s not acceptable to undermine her simply on the basis of being an attractive woman–any more than it was to undermine Hillary Clinton for being an *un*attractive woman.  We deserve to be regarded according to the roles we’ve chosen for ourselves (to the extent that we can even talk about women’s roles in terms of “choice,” unproblematically).  If I’m a porn star, then that’s one thing–at least I’ve consented in some way to being sexually objectified; but if I’ve entered the public sphere as a politico or a pundit, then evaluate the strength of my positions, not my ladylumps.  If you think Sarah Palin is insane or reprehensible, say so; don’t divert the whole discussion by simply calling her a MILF.  Friend or foe, it’s still offensive to keep directing attention back to her sex.

The Huffington Post.  “Sarah Palin Lookalike Contest Being Held at Chicago Strip Club the Day Palin Speaks at GOP Fundraiser.”  27 April 2010., Inc.  <>.  29 April 2010.

The Admiral Theatre.  “Sarah Palin Contest – $5,000 Cash.”  <>.  29 April 2010.

The Onion AV Club.  “Admiral Theatre to Hold Sarah Palin Lookalike Contest.”  Onion, Inc.  27 April 2010.  <,40524/>.  29 April 2010.

Ticketmaster.  “An Evening with Sarah Palin Tickets.”  <>.  29 April 2010.

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1 Comment

  1. Darn, I was getting excited to read another Palin bashing blog post.

    What would be worse is if people voted for Palin because of her sex appeal… like we heard so many women did for Bill Clinton.

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