Sarah Palin’s Alaska

Confession: I have been using several of my last 168 hours to watch multiple episodes of Sarah Palin’s Alaska on TLC. I have a business reason (I wrote a short post over at the website as part of the “Meta-conversation” the show is having). But let’s face it. That’s not the reason I’ve watched at least 6 hours worth of Palin-mania over the past week. I really like the show.

Part of the appeal is purely visual. Alaska is stunning. It would be awesome to watch anyone climb part of Mt. McKinley, fish by two brown bears fighting, trek over the tundra to hunt caribou, or mush up on a snowfield. Then you have to add in that Palin and her family are stunningly attractive too. She’s easy on the cameras even after three shower-less days on the tundra, sporting hunting fatigues, a red bandana and caribou blood.

Speaking of which, it is hard to believe that we were even having a conversation two years ago that she was a diva with her $150,000 borrowed wardrobe. Having watched Sarah Palin’s Alaska, I now suspect that the RNC forced her to wear the new clothes because she is willing to be photographed in a red bandana and fatigues after three days on the tundra. Brushing her teeth after camping on the beach in Nome? Bring it on! This is truly a woman at ease with herself. As she put it, “When critics say what they’re going to say, I can let it roll off my back like a duck lets water roll off its back because I have a great Alaskan family, and there’s a lot of strength in that.” Since Chuck Heath (Palin’s dad) plays a big role in the TV show, you see where she came from. Namely, a guy who has a pile of antlers in his front yard and badgered one of the Trig Truthers (per Going Rogue) that “I know Trig is hers, dumbass. I was there when he popped out!”

There is very little political in the show, which is probably good for her campaign to establish a broad appeal. The only reference to her (extremely ill-advised, in my opinion) campaign against the “Ground Zero mosque” is her mentioning that she Tweeted “refudiate” when she meant “repudiate.” The show hints that her positions are grounded in a pragmatic, business-owning conservatism (she and Todd Palin own a commercial fishing operation). As for her pro-life feelings, that is simply shown in her abundance of children, and then her reference at one point to the fact that 80-90% of babies with Down syndrome are aborted. But not Trig: “You can have your opinion,” she says. “We have ours.”

A few thoughts after mulling over the show. First, I fail to understand why so many women who speak of themselves as feminists are so anti-Palin. Perhaps it’s the abortion issue, or maybe a visceral urban disgust at seeing caribou butchered and trees sawed down (as she points out, where do you think your paper comes from?)

But even if you disagree with her politics, here’s what Palin represents to me: the idea that you can have it all — a big Career with a capital C and many, many children — and not be frazzled or guilt-ridden. Indeed, you can be pretty shockingly happy. Unlike many other feminist icons like Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama, Palin is a completely self-made woman. She took Todd’s name, but she is the reason you’ve heard of it. She also pushed herself onto a national stage while bearing five children. It’s hard to overstate how important this is, but she has been pregnant at least 7 times that she’s mentioned (in Going Rogue she talks of grieving over multiple miscarriages), many of these while in the public eye. With Trig, she bought a pregnancy test in New Orleans because “There was no way I could buy a home pregnancy test in Alaska. The cashiers would know, the people in line would know… The last time I’d tried, about seven years before, one of the [local residents] had caught me at the grocery store trying to hide one in my cart. That was when I was mayor. As governor, I knew that my life was even more of an open book…”

Watching Palin enjoy her children and enjoy her platform is a great antidote to the reality that, as she puts it, “Society has made women believe that they cannot do both — pursue career, or education, or anything else, and still carry a baby.”

Palin certainly is pursuing a career, though which career is unclear. That brings me to my second thought. If she wanted to be president, resigning the Alaska governorship would not have seemed to be wise. Though given our celebrity culture, maybe she is calculating that she can build a better platform through television, books, and so forth. Ronald Reagan gave speeches and radio addresses during his 1970s years in the wilderness, and that ultimately helped him refine his message and build a base of support. As a sitting governor, Palin probably couldn’t have been a regular on Fox News, for instance. But watching Sarah Palin’s Alaska, it’s not clear to me that Palin wants to be president. Hunting on the tundra now, she has a small entourage. As president, she’d have a much bigger one, and shooting a caribou or cutting down a tree would be analyzed as a political act. And she’d be away from Alaska, which, as she puts it, she loves “like I love my family.”

Anyway, it looks like there won’t be more episodes, so we’ll see what Palin’s next act will be. But watching the show reminded me how much people can enjoy their 168 hours — how much you can pack into a full life.


4 thoughts on “Sarah Palin’s Alaska

  1. She is getting a lot of heat over this shooting this past weekend, apparently b/c of her politics — but I tend to agree that she’s not particularly violent — if anything carrying a child with down syndrome to term after you’ve had so many kids would indicate a real respect for life (I am pro choice actually but I’ve carried a baby and I can see why she carried this little one to term) . I’m not up to date on everything but we had a terrible suicide here last week where I live, and then this shooting this past weekend appears to be the result of mental illness, and poor mental health services and a real inability of our society to help those struggling with depression and worse mental health services. So I’m enjoying more that conversation than the weird attacks on Palin and her politics. Politics and arguing with the other side and being comfortable with yourself as a woman after bearing 7 kids or however many it is — isn’t violent in any way or abnormal — and it is funny how our society thinks and portrays that it is while leaving the truly disturbed and mentally ill among us — those who really need help and support out in the cold.
    I’d be more interested specifically as a working mother to see what her support system looks like (& costs) and what her day to day choices look like. The last weeks of pregnancy are exhausting — the medical community is exhausting — but having babies and working is really very very fulfilling if you manage to find that balance … and maybe she really has… so the question is how — and what does that actually look like — family, nannies, babysitters, limits? Buying pregnancy tests in other states…. etc.
    Also a bit more like you said about what is she DOING? That is, right now, what is her work? Making TV shows? Running a business with her husband? It is a little unclear and most successful and happy people have a lot of very sort of lists of goals both for their professional aspirations and for their

  2. Also while you are on the subject of interesting women and political — this woman giffords is kind of interesting — she has no children as far as I can tell and that is sad — but she has had a great life and career — she is married to an astronaut — her campaign for re election was super competitive and she is apparently very good at making and raising money — very good the ny times says — ” the $3.4 million that Ms. Giffords raised was more than any other Congressional candidate in Arizona. In the heat of the campaign last fall, Republican officials expressed exasperation at the strength of her candidacy, often referring to Ms. Giffords as one of the smartest and strongest Democratic incumbents in the country.” she worked on wall street and has run several companies — there are a lot of women out there like this and it is inspiring to hear their stories… if she had kids obviously that would be very upsetting given the current situation but that makes it even greater for those of us working mothers looking for role models — I dont know a lot about her politics but she seems like a really admirable woman, not afraid of anything, and the fact that she is doing that well after a bullet to the brain is pretty amazing.

    1. @Cara- yes Rep. Giffords does sound pretty amazing, another woman who is really battling it out in tough political competition, and winning. Let’s hope she wins this tough battle she’s in now…

  3. [email protected] [email protected] Palin stepped into it again yesterday by announcing that she is headlining a hunting convention. Like she says, “Don’t retreat, reload.” One thing for sure, a lot of rural America stands behind her. She has momentum but I doubt she has enough public skills to win a primary, much less the presidency. She does provide good material for Saturday Night Live though.

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