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JOEL STEIN

Real vice presidents can have curves

No need to skirt the issue -- some modern-day female politicians are hot.

September 12, 2008|JOEL STEIN

John McCain has presented voters with a decision most of us never thought we would have to confront: Should we sexually objectify the vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party? Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, 44, who was runner-up for Miss Alaska and is often photographed holding automatic weapons, is so attractive that Alaskans have bumper stickers that say "Coldest State, Hottest Governor." If 1980s music videos are to be at all believed, two minutes into one of her interviews with Charlie Gibson, Palin is destined to toss her glasses and unleash four feet of hair while the top three buttons of her blouse explode in a cloud of smoke.

American men know how to deal with male politicians. When they're good-looking, we call them gay. When they're not, we call them "distinguished-looking" or "Joe Lieberman." But, until now, we haven't been forced to fully consider the beauty of our female politicians. It's not that Hillary Clinton or Condoleezza Rice aren't attractive; they're just attractive in that "Oh, your aunt looks lovely in her wedding photos" kind of way.

But in the last few years -- for reasons I assume have to do with either yoga, organic food or advice from Dr. Oz -- women in their 40s and 50s have gotten truly, deeply hot. Madonna hot. Demi Moore hot. Stifler's mom hot. In 1990, the only way a woman could have had five kids and still look like Palin was to have been knocked up in high school with quintuplets.

It seems as if the prudent thing to do would be to ignore Palin's hotness -- to refrain, unlike Rush Limbaugh, from calling her "a babe" or, unlike Joe Biden, from saying she's "good-looking." Sexualizing Palin is dangerous because it shifts the focus away from her leadership skills, diminishes her from a subject to an object and could anger that insane-looking, snowmobile-racing husband of hers. When she posed for Vogue last year, Palin said of the media, "I wish they'd stick with the issues instead of discussing my black go-go boots." A good method of getting reporters to do that, of course, is to not pose for Vogue or talk about your go-go boots. Still, I understand her point. Which is that she wears go-go boots.

But I think whatever wave of feminism we're on in 2008 demands that I objectify Palin. Just as Obama Girl, JFK's teenage admirers and anyone who's been within 100 yards of Mitt Romney can swoon without implying those guys' ineffectualness, I think women are now taken seriously enough that I should be able to admit to noticing a female political leader's hotness without being accused of sexism.

In fact, what's sexist is men's fear of sexualizing the women we take seriously. It implies that men find power unattractive; that we segregate those we desire as sexual partners from those we want as intellectual partners; that our image of hotness is confined to the young, dumb and full of weak policy positions.

I would like to live in a world in which young men dream about sex with a woman who is vice president instead of whatever job it is that Kim Kardashian holds.

So I've decided to begin the full-on exploitation of Palin, a woman whose fiscal policy I admire and who also I hope accidentally releases a sex tape on the Internet. I considered creating a Palin pinup poster that could be sold at Spencer Gifts, or shooting a film about a bespectacled Alaskan governor who saves a fishing boat full of men about to die of frostbite by providing body heat.

But I settled on calling my friend, Scott Brown, a writer at Entertainment Weekly, to see if he had any great ideas for a love song to the Alaskan governor. Yes he did. The song and video, "Drill Down (to Your Heart)," which he posted at Time.com, contains such lyrics as "You enthrall me like Tina Fey / If Tina Fey had a loaded AK / And had a hundred babies / And some of them had babies."

I hope I'm right, and that we are capable of both drooling over Sarah Palin and listening to what she has to say. Because if we can, and if Barack Obama wins, maybe he'll make 49-year-old Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm the attorney general. Growing up in California, she was named Miss San Carlos.

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jstein@latimescolumnists.com

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