When Papa Bear Meets Mama Grizzly
July 11, 2010 2 Comments
Bill O’Reilly interviewed Sarah Palin on immigration reform. Here’s how that went:
He used some old chestnuts straight out of the O’Reilly “How to be a Jerk to All” playbook. This one goes like this: when talking to a woman, make it clear that the only reason you’ve allowed her to speak for as long as you have is that you’re a tolerant, decent man. Not so polite as to be thought effete, though. When you interrupt, it’s because you’re a sensible man too, and there are limits to how much female nonsense you’ll listen to. If she keeps talking, indulge her. Play her little game, as you would with a child. Say everything in a tone of disbelief: “President Palin.” “Mama Grizzly.” And make it clear, once you’re done talking to her, that you need a towel with which you will wipe off your contempt. (He does a less measured version of the same thing when he talks to Dana Perino in the follow-up interview.)
What’s interesting about this, though, is how Palin responds. He railroads her, and she resorts to nervous smiles, head-bobs and petulant smirks. She looks like she’s arguing with her dad.
The fact is, she has limited choices. She can’t control how O’Reilly talks to her because it’ll damage how she markets her “strong woman” approach to politics. A strong woman, in the “Real America” that is Palinland, has no tools with which to knock down a Real American Man.
See, if the particular kind of woman-power you’re selling relies not on policy or equal rights but a gender-specific role, the role of the “mama” of the grizzly family, you’re in trouble when you’re attacked by the “Papa Bear.” This is because your model is one that assumes there’s never disagreement between the sexes, and that Papa Bear will always act in your best interest. Mama Grizzly and Papa Bear don’t fight in Mother Goose’s grizzly-land, where Father Knows Best.
Mama Grizzlies defend their cubs and America from the biggest threat to them: humans (a.k.a. liberals). They do not fight their own kind. If Mama Grizzly fought Papa Bear on his own turf, she would look subversive and scary. She would be undoing the Real American Family. She would be threatening the Real American Man. She wouldn’t be attractive and “sparky.” Worst of all, she wouldn’t be a mother, or a bear, but a human being.
As Walt Kelly put it, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”