She stands elevated on the stage with her legs slightly parted in her 5 inch black designer heels. From in between her legs, we see a young man staring up at her with his mouth open, dazed by what he is seeing. This is all that we see of her. A woman with no face, only killer legs and great taste in shoes. We see the young man, his face, his emotions, his longing gaze, and from the pink t-shirt that he wears we learn that these legs belong to, and have come to represent, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
This is an all too familiar view of Governor Palin. Throughout her campaign, media coverage has focus on her legs shoes, suggesting that there is more than the content of her speeches that the electorate should be paying close attention to and critiquing. This obsession with Palin’s body has moved out of the confines of “gentlemen’s magazines” and obscure blogs, taking root in mainstream media as illustrated by the Reuters image referenced above. Through these types of sexualized portrayals, the media is reasserting the political space as masculine, constructing Palin as a sexual object upon which masculine desire is freely projected. Relying on gender stereotypes and following trends of the male gaze, these images reduce Palin from a political agent, to mere parts of whole, showing her in an idealised sexual form, as a pair of legs, to be enjoyed and consumed by male spectators. In the click of a shutter, photographers around the country capture a moment of fantasy, and Governor Palin is transformed from a hard working, self-made politician to the VPILF, as she is so often described.
Looking back on Palin’s comments about her plans to shatter the glass ceiling in which Senator Hillary Clinton made 18 million cracks, I can’t help but marvel at how quickly those cracks seem to be sealing up. Increasingly, I am convinced that voting for a pair of legs because they belong to a woman does not equate to furthering policies that advance women’s rights or challenge structures of oppression. In fact, it seems that it can solidify quite the opposite.
So even though I may covet Governor Palin’s famous pair of Jimmy Choos, I am defiantly basing my vote on policy issues that will ensure that one day that glass ceiling is shattered. I’m voting Obama ‘08!