Two blogs have caught my eye this week, both featuring controversial women.
The first, no regular user of WordPress can have failed to notice; having been little mentioned in the press, the Alaska Women Reject Palin Rally is hearteningly reported on the Mudflats blog, and details the protest which saw over a thousand Alaskan women picket Sarah Palin’s post convention homecoming. How bitterly disappointing it is that the woman with the best chance of making the White House perhaps ever has such retrograde views on both human rights and scientific fact; and how intensely frustrating that the world doesn’t seem to mind.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Harriet Harman holds the equivalent job to that which Palin is vying for, but the contrast could not be greater. A champion of womens rights, with her head firmly screwed on, Harman is Palin’s political opposite. Harman is no stranger to being slagged off in the British press for her feminist policies, and the blog I came across yesterday sadly reflects how a lot of British men feel about her. It is written by an angry conspiracy theorist, but the views expressed on it are far form isolated; they are just a slightly less eloquent regurgitation of the views routinely expressed about her by the right wing press.
Palin is feted by a stunned British media; even the Guardian, opposed to her politically, saw her as a curiosity and gave her far more coverage than she deserved. The amount of over exposure is illustrated by a quick Googlefight; Sarah Palin gets nearly twice as many hits as her Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden. The contrast between the coverage she and Harman receive is exemplified in The Sun article comparing her to “that boot-faced robot of political correctness Harriet Harperson”.
Why is our homegrown womens champion routinely belittled while this Alaskan medievalist is so celebrated? I worry it is a question of glitz and glamour as much as it is one of politics. Harman is neither dour nor unattractive, but inhabits the drab world of UK politics, and is unlikely to send women rushing to the shops to buy her glasses or have them copying her hairstyle. Harman is upfront and unashamed of her feminism, while Palin hides behind her super-woman exterior a set of downright dangerous policies that could set back the fight for womens equality in America by decades. That the UK is so transfixed by this woman and so unappreciative of Harman means either the press is inheritently shallow, sexist or both. While I would like to think it is the former, I fear that sexism has rather a lot more to do with it than we would like to admit.