It is this hatred of female sexuality that fuels much of the Palin Derangement Syndrome. During the cultural revolution of the 1960s, liberals who were enlightened about the dignity of blacks nonetheless often expressed a deep-seated misogyny. Pornographers like Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt are two obvious examples, as are the male “free love” hippies who were out to get theirs from women without acting honorably. But it also expressed itself in more mainstream cultural forms. I recently saw Robert Altman’s movie M*A*S*H for the first time in years, and I was stunned by the brutal hatred of women in the film, of the debasement of them and their sexuality. It was not enough to verbally reject the patriotic and, yes, sexy, Margaret Houlihan; she had to be publically humiliated in a practical joke that exposed her naked body to a large group of men — a kind of gang rape. It’s not a far step from there to Keith Olbermann calling Michelle Malkin “a mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick.”
It’s important to emphasize that what is striking about Palin, and what I am talking about, is not just her beauty, but her sexiness, and that these are different qualities. There are beautiful woman all over the media: Megyn Kelly. Dianne Sawyer. Soledad O’Brian. But the raw, fertile, wild Alaska woman sexuality of Palin is of a different degree. When pictures of her in her running shorts were published a few years ago, the reaction from most guys I talked to went beyond the hubba-hubba quips murmured when an attractive woman passes by. It was more like stunned silence. They — and, OK, me — had been seized by not only appreciation, but desire. Going through puberty in the 1970s, I was programmed to think of liberal women like Barbara Streisand and Diane Keaton as the sexy ones — conservatism was for steely Phyllis Schlafly and cold Anita Bryant, who was beautiful but not sexy.
With Palin, everything has changed. The dynamic, explosive, and primordial power of her kind of sexuality explains why some Palin-haters lose control of themselves, even if it hurts their own arguments. The most obvious example of this, of course, is blogger Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan’s hatred of Palin has curdled into something truly bizarre. He doesn’t blast her anymore, but instead has retreated into a state of paranoia. Palin is not an idiot; she is a dark star, a dangerous and manipulative entity who is deeply evil. It has gone beyond sarcasm to the worst kind of fuming high school bitterness. When the newspaper editor hates the most popular girl, it’s hard to get a coherent argument out of him.
And the truth of the matter is that Sullivan, like Frank Rich and the creators of “Sex and the City,” may have a serious problem with women. Especially when it’s a woman who is a cyclone of fertility and sex appeal who has actually, to the dismay of the pro-abortion left, had children. She has become more than merely human. She and her legs have achieved a kind of talismanic power over the hateful, resentful and pathetic.
Mark Gauvreau Judge is the author of several books, including Damn Senators and God and Man at Georgetown Prep. His articles and essays have appeared in various publications.