With Ike moving eastward and our chances of rain diminishing and even our evacuees canceling on us, I feel I have to return to a burning question that never quite gets solved: What is wrong with men?

Last night, I watched Charles Gibson’s interview with Sarah “I’m Ready to Serve, But Not Ready to be Interviewed” Palin.  I sat, chin in hand, glowering at the TV, then exchanging IMs with my daughter during the commercial breaks.

“She looks completely incompetent!”

“She didn’t even know what ‘hubris’ meant.”

“I’ve got a lot more respect for Charlie Gibson.  He’s asking some tough questions.”

“Notice how impatient he is with her?  His foot is tapping all the time.”

“She can’t pronounce ‘nuclear.'”

“She’s a disaster!”

“Don’t you love that line about being able to see Russia from Alaska?  Like it gave her foreign policy credentials!”

“Why does she keep using his name over and over?  She sounds like a used-car salesman.”

“And that accent!  It’s so grating!”

You get the drift.

After my husband got home, I very helpfully filled him in with the absolute disaster that was Sarah Palin during her TV interview.  He listened and nodded while I paced and shrieked.  Sheer incompetence!  An insult to womankind!

We watched more of the interview during Nightline.  He just sat there while I stewed and brooded.  Finally, it was over.

“You see what I mean?” I demanded triumphantly.

He shrugged.  (Shrugged!)  “I didn’t see anything that would change most people’s minds,” he said.  “If you’re liberal, you still don’t like her.  You think she’s scary.  If you’re conservative, you still like her.  I don’t see anything that changes that.”

He was, he told me, trying to be objective.  Trying to look at the interview from the point of view others might have.  (Have I ever mentioned how much I hate objectivity?)

“You didn’t think she was awful?” I asked.

“I think she’s scary,” he said.

I sat and brooded some more, disappointed with his unflappability.  Tomorrow, I thought, I’d talk with my women friends and my daughter.  We would rant and rave.  I would quote Joan Walsh’s column in Salon about how Sarah Palin seemed just about as articulate as Miss South Carolina trying to explain why Americans couldn’t find their country on a world map.  (

Then we’d go back to the burning question about what is wrong with men, anyway.  But it occurs to me that there’s another question afoot that I can’t quite answer: What is it about Sarah Palin that drives women insane — and why doesn’t she affect men the same way?

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

5 comments… add one
  • denise Link

    I had the same reaction you had. I was embarassed for her because she was clearly lost and in over her head. As a woman I find sexist the insistence that she should be handled with kid gloves, or that it was unfair to ask her tough questions. Many of them I didn’t know the answer to either, but I’m not trying to fulfill the highest office in the land. The media has not bashed her. They have lavished praise on her and much of it unwarranted. She has done no more as a working mother than the rest of us do everyday. That doesn’t mean we are prepared to stare down Putin. To be fair she is smart, strong, and assertive. But she is also snide, nasty, and sarcastic as she was in her introduction at the RNC. As women we understand she is being used by her party and she is allowing herself to be used. She is a pawn to attract women just because she is a woman. Her qualifications were not even a factor in that choice, and that is wrong and insulting. That fact that more women aren’t insulted is baffling to me.

  • Didjya watch that beast Bay Buchanan on CNN commenting on Palin’s interview? She just slathered praise all over the interview. It was flawless, she insisted. At one point she was asked to turn the tables for a moment and discuss anything in the interview she thought Palin could have done better. Nothing, she said. Really, every answer was handled brilliantly.

    I agree with your husband. I think Palin’s interview was both terrifying and unlikely to sway the opinions of most people. I’d suspect that anyone who is still debating which candidate to support probably doesn’t know (or care!) what the Bush doctrine is either. They probably also don’t realize the substantial threat Russia poses to the world, or how ill equipped the U.S. presently is to prevent further aggression.

    I have been sick about this election. I literally cry every day. I’m in my early 30s, so this is my future that is being thrown in the trash by people who might just drop dead of a heart attack before 2012. My parents feel the same way. My mom said she’s angry that the progress she and her contemporaries made in the 60s and 70s is being dismantled, but even more angry that I’m the one who will be stuck with the bill.

    And to Denise, I promise you, every woman I know is thoroughly insulted. And disgusted.

  • I am most puzzled when I hear people (such as McCain’s daughter) accusing the media of attacking Bristol. I haven’t heard a word against Bristol. Any references to her pregnancy are about Sarah and abstinence education. Or should I say “education.” Such a red herring…

  • rachelbirds Link

    They want to have it
    both ways — family values but
    don’t talk about it.

  • Alas, I think your husband is right. Most people do not watch political candidates the way some of us obsessives do. She did or said nothing that was going to make the morning news. She only had to get through the interview without disgrace and she did more than that. People who have already made up their mind would not have changed it. I think there is a real chance that McCain’s cynical gamble of choosing a woman VP will make him, and her, seem like real candidates for change.

    Deleted here a whole essay on how to attack Palin as a candidate and not a woman, something neither the right nor left seem to be able to manage.

    Then more deletions as I tried to explain how someone facing a potential election in the UK as well might see what you are seeing.

    Too tedious, it turns out, to parse. But it is always well to remember that the whole world is watching.

Leave a Comment