Sarah Palin’s Toenails

Huffington Post is catching some grief over a post by Anya Strzemien titled “Sarah Palin’s Toenails: What’s Painted On Them? (PHOTOS, POLL).”  Apparently, the Alaska governor and former Republican vice presidential nominee had some manner of decorative adornment on her nails which were in display in some orange strappy sandals:

While some are taking HuffPo to task for journalistic silliness and questioning whether they have a foot fetish, the most prevalent theme of the critics is whether it’s sexist to comment on how a female public figure looks.

We’ve said many times that focus on a woman’s body parts instead of her ideas and actions is sexist, and that such belittling is aimed at women on both the left and right by both men and women.  In this case, some will argue that HuffPo is just having a little fun.  However the comments posted after the stroy are classist, sexist, and hateful, which can’t be a surprise to Huffpo.  So what about encouraging comments that you know are going to be a mysogyny fest?  Is that sexist, too?

Teresa Kopec, who tipped me to the story via Twitter, observes, “There is a lot of anti-woman BS that is going around lately against Palin, Sotomayor, the women targeted by Playboy, etc.

While perhaps it’s splitting hairs, I would distinguish between sexism and double standards.  There’s not much doubt that the way women look is more commented upon than the way men look.  That doesn’t necessarily translate into thinking women’s intellects or skills are less important than those of men.

I don’t think, for example, that Hillary Clinton or Sonia Sotomayor have been viewed as silly sex objects.  It’s certainly true that Clinton’s appearance has been at issue as long as I can recall her being in public life (which is to say, since 1991 or so).   When she was First Lady, her hairdo was especially commented on, as was her choice of pantsuits vice dresses. And WaPo’s Robin Givhan devoted a whole story on C1 to Hillary Clinton’s cleavage.  And then there was the case of Condoleezza Rice’s commanding clothes which, according to a C1 story in WaPo, spoke of “sex and power,” also from Givhan.

Do we comment like that on how male public officials dress?   No, we don’t.

To be sure, there’s the occasional story on John Bolton’s hair or Dick Cheney’s Auschwitz outfit or John McCain’s $520 Ferragamo loafers.   But they’re decidedly less common.

Still, Clinton is almost universally perceived as an extraordinarily bright and competent woman.  She catapulted to the United States Senate despite no real record of her own and was considered the hands-down frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination six years later.  And Sotomayor’s words and judicial record, not her toenails or fashion sense, are what we’re focusing on.

Palin is almost a separate case.  She was a virtual unknown on the national scene when McCain tabbed her, so her national image was forged by instant impression.  By vice presidential standards, she’s extraordinarily attractive.  She’s young and a former beauty queen. Further, she dresses in a way that plays up her sexuality.  Why, a recent scientifical study found that Palin’s sexiness hurt the ticket.  Naturally, the news of said study sparked a round of blogospheric discussion about Palin’s hotness and a backlash against bloggers talking about Palin’s hotness.

Still, while the focus on her appearance goes well beyond what would be normal for a male candidate, it’s not like there wasn’t plenty of commentary on her preparation for the job.  Indeed, I’m sure she’d rather we spent more time talking about her legs.

As to this particular controversy, it’s a silly blog post and some of the commentary it drew was particularly unattractive.  Palin is a polarizing figure, which doesn’t help.  Then again, one can scarcely imagine, say, Tim Pawlenty appearing at a public event in jean shorts and sandals, the male analog to what Palin was photographed in.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Yes James, Palin is polarizing in that she stands for something and is vocal about it. She is pro American, anti socialism. She understands when you are broke, you do not spend more or borrow more money. She also understands government does not create jobs, buy businesses or control industries. Palin knows government has no business in the health care business. If that is polarizing that means there are those who want those things. Hope they fail to get them.

  2. Triumph says:

    She is pro American, anti socialism.

    Actually, she has close ties to a political party that calls for dissolution of the union and her biggest accomplishment as Governor has been to oversee the socialismo, Chavez-style permanent fund dividend handouts to Alaskans.

    The broad is an anti-American commie.

  3. Eric Florack says:

    Actually, she has close ties to a political party that calls for dissolution of the union

    Ummmm. If you’re trying to suggest this a negative, it ain’t working.

    As for the rest… oh, for the love of mike.
    Granted, James, it’s a silly post, from a site desperate to hang any negative they can on the woman, even at the cost of bending their own rules about not being critical of a woman’s appearence. Now, if you’d like a demonstration of how that double standard works… Sit back and watch the reax to…

    I don’t think, for example, that Hillary Clinton or Sonia Sotomayor have been viewed as silly sex objects.

    Heh.
    Yeah, and I note with some irony that these are likely the best looking females the Democrats offer to the national scene.

  4. PD Shaw says:

    Aaron Schock, my Congressional Representative, was voted “hottest Freshman” by the Huffington Post. His abs were also discussed by Howard Kurtz on CNN and other media. I think it’s all a way of minimizing the richness of his life experience as someone born in the 80s.

  5. Brian Knapp says:

    Palin knows government has no business in the health care business.

    Well, government has funded hospitals, research, and emergency care since basically forever (exaggerating of course)…so, how do they have “no business” in health care? It would seem that they have a direct interest in it. Right?

  6. Steve Plunk says:

    Brian, You know what we are talking about. Government paid health care. More specifically expanding it to socialized medicine.

    The left will always prefer to talk about Palin’s sexuality rather than her policy positions. Policy is a grown up topic that requires emotions be checked and logic employed. Her sexuality plays into cheap politics and snark, something the left is relying on increasingly.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    Ummmm. If you’re trying to suggest this a negative, it ain’t working.

    Oh? So the dissolution of the union is a good thing? How patriotic of you…as for the anti-socialist screeds, Palin would have more credibility on this issue if she didn’t practice such things herself…

  8. Derrick says:

    The left will always prefer to talk about Palin’s sexuality rather than her policy positions. Policy is a grown up topic that requires emotions be checked and logic employed. Her sexuality plays into cheap politics and snark, something the left is relying on increasingly.

    Alright, let’s talk issues. Palin when asked about foreign policy had little to say about say the Middle East or Iran or North Korea, except for boilerplate “she loves Israel” and wasn’t even slightly aware of the “Bush Doctrine”. Then of course, she used her proximity to Russia as evidence of her foreign policy knowledge while not even participating in the few discussion where Russian officials engaged the Alaskan govt. Palin also maitained that she was an “expert” on oil issues, but as Triumph says she has run the most socialistic-program in this country outside of say Medicare from one state. Also instead of providing detailed policy prescriptions for America’s dependence on oil, we got “Drill, Baby, Drill” as if slogans are a subsistute.

    Those are just a few of the issues that I can mention without once talking about Palin’s sexuality. Face it, the evidence against her ability to be anything outside of a local politician is just damning. You can use execuses about the “left” and “the media”, but if she tried to run for Governor outside of one of America’s smallest states by population I’m guesing the Tim Pawlenty’s or Brian Schweitzer’s would make mincemeat of her.

  9. anjin-san says:

    More specifically expanding it to socialized medicine.

    You mean like the US military has? Yea, damn socialists…

  10. anjin-san says:

    Palin would have more credibility on this issue if she didn’t practice such things herself..

    Good point. Palin does keep the government checks flowing up there in the Peoples Republic of Alaska…

  11. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    triumph, That has been proven false but nice try. Anjin, the military does not have socialized medicine. You have to serve in the military to get VA benefits. But then, facts never were your strong suit. Misrepresentations and falsehoods are where you shine.

  12. Drew says:

    Palin’s toe nails?

    Uh….er……well…I…um……gaaawwwd…

  13. Brian Knapp says:

    Brian, You know what we are talking about. Government paid health care. More specifically expanding it to socialized medicine.

    Yes, I understand what you mean. But, when governments directly finance the facilities where this “business” takes place, and it also directly finances a lot of the research that is the basis for said services, and it subsidizes the manufacture of some of the products, the waters are much merkier than the sudden shouts of Marxism seem to indicate. Just saying.

    The same can be said of the auto industry. We are socialists now, but subsidizing trillions in infrastructure for specific use of that industry was okay for the last century? It doesn’t make sense. Maybe that’s just my anarcho-capitalist roots speaking.

  14. sam says:

    Zelsdorf consults his glands and offers up:

    She also understands government does not create jobs, buy businesses or control industries.

    Gosh, Zels, she must have become bewitched, about the job thingy, anyway.:

    February 24, 2009, Juneau, Alaska — Governor Sarah Palin (Sarah) submitted a FY2009 federal economic stimulus supplemental bill to legislators today that requests authorization for projects that will provide jobs and needed infrastructure improvements in Alaska (AARA, 2009, ¶1).

    The legislation will provide $461.1 million in authorization for aviation, transit, highway, and bridge projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The ARRA was signed into law on February 17, 2009 (AARA, 2009, ¶2).

    “These federal economic stimulus funds will generate new private sector jobs in Alaska to work on these important highway and aviation projects,” Governor Palin said. “Our state Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) has worked closely with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration, and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to understand the requirements of the stimulus package and be able to meet the accelerated timelines for use of the funds” (AARA, 2009, ¶3).

    Oh, and the stuff on her toenails says, in Inuit I’m told, “Show me the money.”

  15. sam says:

    Ah, source for the pwnage of Zelsdorf the easily pwnable.

  16. anjin-san says:

    You have to serve in the military to get VA benefits

    Its government administered and provided health care that is paid for by taxpayer dollars. Does not sound like a private sector deal to me.

  17. JKB says:

    Sorry but military medicine isn’t socialized medicine, it is workers compensation. Pretty hard to order someone into danger under threat of execution and then say to bad, so sad you got hurt. Kind of has an impact on other members’ enthusiasm. The military maintains a medical corps because they need to be able to send doctors, nurses, etc., into harms way to work under bad conditions without renewed negotiations. The VA handles the workers comp claim treatment for those who have left active duty. If you need somebody to charge a machinegun nest, you don’t want them thinking of how they’ll pay for medical care if they are wounded. Oh, and private insurers don’t offer reasonable rates for people who charge machine guns, risk anti-aircraft fire or live in areas receiving aerial bombardment.

    But should you want to see how government run health care might go, well, if you active duty you go to the front of the line even if you just have a sniffle while the retiree with the broken hip waits weeks for corrective surgery. If you are higher ranking or in an important assignment, you can be bumped to the front of the line with a phone call. In its simple form, if you’re needed, if you’re connected, if you’re powerful, you get great service. If you’re in your waning days, if you’re no longer a cog in the machine, or if you’re no longer “somebody”, it’s back of the line.

  18. lunacy says:

    Clearly, none of you spent time observing the cattishness of women and the other.

    If Hilary were attractive, Republicans would make more snide remarks about her fashion. As it stands we only have the peach pant suit to make fun of.

    If Palin were ugly, Democrats would not be focusing on her toenails. They’d find something ugly to draw attention to. Does anyone remember Reno? Albright?

    And, I am a firm believer that if Palin were less attractive (more androgynous) and upbeat (more dour) she would be taken more seriously on her ideas.

    I say this as a women who has flipped between androgynized and coquettish depending on how I want to be perceived and what result I ultimately want. Business meeting? Diana Prince. Getting out of a speeding ticket? Wonder Woman without the superpowers.

    Palin seems to try to wear both costumes at once. As have I at times. That makes her a doubly good target for the claws of her adversaries. Women (and some men) especially like to find fault in such women, petty and juvenile faults, especially if she is not on their team.

    Just read about Michelle Obama from the Right side of the sphere. Blacky O, the toilet paper wedding dress she wore to the inaugural ball, the city slicker outfit she wore to break ground for the kitchen garden.

    Pffft. Hiss. Meow!

  19. An Interested Party says:

    The bottom line with Palin is that her appearance is completely secondary to the fact that she is an incredible lightweight whose rise in GOP circles only shows how desperate a political party they are…does anyone seriously believe that she has any chance of securing her party’s nomination in 2012? And then actually beating the president in a head-to-head matchup? Please…

  20. DavidL says:

    Sarah’s plan for energy independence drilling for American oil in Alaska. The one’s plan for energy indedence, solar planeling Arizona. Your choice.

    I’d rather defend Sarah’s toenails than Joe Biden’s tongue.

  21. anjin-san says:

    Pretty hard to order someone into danger under threat of execution and then say to bad, so sad you got hurt

    Not a valid point. Retired vets with no combat injuries get government care. Spouses and kids of active service members get care. What does that have to do with combat?

  22. The male equivalent of Palin’s toenails might be something like Obama growing a soul patch. You know what? I think we’d notice.

  23. anjin-san says:

    Heh.
    Yeah, and I note with some irony that these are likely the best looking females the Democrats offer to the national scene.

    And I note with some irony that bit is pontificating about good looking women, a subject no one really believes he knows a damn thing about. Sorry bit, but there is no way a guy who spends any time with attractive women is walking around as angry as you are 🙂

  24. JKB says:

    Not a valid point. Retired vets with no combat injuries get government care. Spouses and kids of active service members get care. What does that have to do with combat?

    Well, retired UAW workers get healthcare. Spouses and kids of UAW workers get healthcare. It called total compensation. Families and retirees pay a fee for their coverage. Only active duty members incur no direct costs for their healthcare. How the co-pays and annual costs compare to the private sector, I don’t know but it is part of the military’s total compensation system.

    The military maintains a medical establishment to handle casualties, they treat active duty even for non-battle injuries in these facilities to maintain readiness, they treat retirees and families in the facilities if space available to fully utilize the in-place infrastructure and they provide healthcare/insurance for families and retirees just like other employers.

  25. just me says:

    You mean like the US military has? Yea, damn socialists…

    The military system pretty much sucked when I experienced it.

    The VA system in rural NH completely and totally sucks.

    If having the government pay for my healthcare means I get to have what the VA has, then i will take a pass.

    The system as set up by the military and the VA aren’t exactly examples of great healthcare. Having personally experienced both with my family it is nothing to be proud of or base a nationwide system on.

  26. anjin-san says:

    Well, retired UAW workers get healthcare.

    Sure do. And the government does not subsidize it and the doctors etc are not government employees.

  27. Eric Florack says:

    Well, retired UAW workers get healthcare.

    Sure do. And the government does not subsidize it and the doctors etc are not government employees.

    Then again, UAW workers, at least until recently, were not government employees as military folks are. You mean you really can’t tell the difference?

  28. TomH says:

    James, You imply Hillary got where she is because she is bright and competent. What a load of bull. She rode her husband’s coat tails! Without Bill no one would’ve heard of her.
    Several weeks after her husband left office and robbed the WhiteHouse and sold pardons, the NYT wished the Clinton’s would just go away. Obviously their outrage was shortlived when a Senate seat opened up. People felt sorry for her because Bill was a cheat.
    Hillary Clinton has earned nothing on her own, I don’t think Todd got Palin into the Governor’s office.

  29. G.A.Phillips says:

    Well at least she don’t put on blue lipstick, thats tacky.

  30. An Interested Party says:

    I don’t think Todd got Palin into the Governor’s office.

    Thankfully, no one will get her into the Oval Office…

  31. TomH says:

    I guess a strong self-made woman scares you libs.

  32. An Interested Party says:

    I guess a strong self-made political lightweight woman whether male or female scares amuses you libs.

    There, fixed that for ya…

  33. TomH says:

    I got it you’re talking about Biden. Or is it Thebama?

  34. An Interested Party says:

    It is well-known that Biden often sticks his foot in his mouth, no one can dispute that…and you can certainly try to compare the president to Palin, but such a comparison wouldn’t be viewed favorably by most people who deal in reality…you see, most people who are opposed to Palin, far from being “scared” of her, want her to continue to be front and center in the GOP, as that will continue to discredit that party…in the end, bringing up either the president or the vice-president doesn’t excuse the fact that Sarah Palin is an airhead who will never get anywhere near the Oval Office except, perhaps, as a visitor…