Sarah Palin On: Sarah PalinThis is absolute, unmitigated bullshit.
Palin: Do you know they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Lipstick.
Barack Obama On: Sarah Palin
Obama: But, you know, you can't—you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig.
Katie Couric On: This Election
Couric: One of the great lessons of that campaign is the continued and accepted role of sexism in American life.
Obama Ready to Lead? No. Ready to Smear? Yes.
I believe my credentials on being willing to take Obama and his campaign to task for sexist dog whistles, overt sexism, and failure to defend against sexism are well-established and unassailable. I have no reason nor desire to give him a free pass on anything—because, quite frankly, though I want him to beat McCain, I don't want him to do it on the back of misogyny. I have called it out when I've seen it, and I will continue to do so.
But this isn't one of those times. Obama was categorically not calling Sarah Palin a pig—which is easily discernible by viewing the original part of the speech in its entirety.
John McCain says he's about change, too. And, so, I guess his whole angle is: Watch out, George Bush. Except for economic policy, healthcare policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy, and Karl Rove-style politics, we're really gonna shake things up in Washington. That's not change. That's just calling something, the same thing, something different. But, you know, you can't—you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig.Sarah Palin is not mentioned, or even alluded to, except insomuch as she's part of the McCain ticket. But Obama didn't even say "the McCain ticket"—he said "John McCain." And he was talking about John McCain's policies.
If anything, the immediately following line, which was not included in the video, "You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still gonna stink," is the genuinely offensive one. It's not a commonly used expression, as "lipstick on a pig" is, which makes it more suspect. "Stinky old fish" could be construed to be an attack on McCain, with the emphasis on old, or an attack on Palin, with the emphasis on fish; either way, it's a nasty turn of phrase to use against the McCain-Palin ticket, and Obama ought to strike it from his stump speech immediately.
But that line isn't what the McCain campaign is complaining about, and it's not the one they stuck into a campaign advert. Instead, they plucked out the "lipstick on a pig" line, so they could juxtapose it with Palin's "lipstick on a pitbull" line, and then label it "Barack Obama On: Sarah Palin," despite the fact he quite evidently was not talking about her.
The thing about dog whistles is that they have to make some sort of sense. In the context of Obama talking about McCain's policies, and how they don't deviate at all from Bush's policies, suddenly implying Sarah Palin's a pig makes no fucking sense. It's a total non sequitur. However, implying that McCain's dressing up the same old shit as change is like putting lipstick on a pig, well, that makes sense.
Look, if Obama had been talking about Palin being added to the ticket, and how, even though she's a woman, she embraces the same anti-feminist policies as every other bloody Republican, and that's no more real change than putting lipstick on a pig is, that would be a dog whistle. If that's the context we were talking about, this post would be very different indeed.
But that's not what happened.
And the thing is, McCain knows it. He's not so stupid that he could watch the source video and utterly fail to see the real context of Obama's use of the phrase. But he is disingenuous enough to nonetheless stick it in a campaign advert and mendaciously accuse Obama of saying it about Palin.
And what really pisses me right the fuck off about McCain's erroneously playing "the gender card" is that the next time Obama genuinely uses a sexist dog whistle (and pray to Maude that he doesn't, for a whole lotta reasons), there's just going to be one more layer of bullshit that feminists have to plow through to convince our allies that, yes, in fact, that was a dog whistle.
The Right co-opting feminist rhetoric, and twisting it into some funhouse mirror version of feminism to be used as a weapon against the Democrats is just a fucking nightmare—and deliberately so. That they will further discredit feminism in the process of destroying Obama is not a bug of this strategy, but a feature.
The Dems and their partisans left themselves wide open to it. That doesn't make it any better. Especially because I fear the lesson they'll take away is to distance themselves further from feminism in the future.
We're gonna need a lot of teaspoons.