Happy Halloween, and Thoughts on Sexism

Happy Halloween, and Thoughts on Sexism

Halloween feels over for me because I celebrated last weekend. I was a cat.

Halloween always brings out the feminist in me. It’s a time so ripe for discussions of gender that I almost feel bad for my friends because of the onslaught of feminist rants. Speaking of feminism, my professor was going on about Sarah Palin today and I defended her. Which, of course I am not a Palin supporter, but when a white, academic male starts dissing any woman, I feel some sort of instinct to defend her. I was arguing that for all her faults, Palin certainly spoke to a subset of Americans—lower middle-class mothers, maybe with multiple kids, maybe not the primary breadwinner in the household, maybe not from either coast—that are often devalued in our society. Anyway, I was just pointing out that alien as their experience may be to me, I can understand how Palin resonated with them in 2008.

Then my professor asked me if I thought his extremely negative reaction to her was based in sexism, to which I automatically replied, “Absolutely.”

I had to pause and really think then, and partly take it back, because I didn’t want to just label him a sexist because he doesn’t like Sarah Palin and she happens to be a woman and he happens to be a man. He asked me if I felt that, overall, reactions to Palin were based in sexism. That was such a hard question to answer, because you can’t just label anyone who disagreed with her sexist. There were obviously strong points to be made against her, overwhelmingly strong ones. So how could I argue sexism when criticisms of Palin were largely warranted?

In the end, I couldn’t make a coherent case. I feel sure with more thought I would be able to, which is partly why I am writing this down—so that I can think it out. But anyway, I just thought it was interesting how willing I was to defend someone who by all accounts and purposes I detest, just because she’s a woman and my partner in conversation was a man.


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