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September 17, 2008

Your Turn: Pink, Red, Blue, Red, Mustard, More Red, Click

Ruby Slippers-1

… If a pic was ever worthy of a “Your Turn.”

Here’s the story.  I’ve been holding onto this shot for about a week now.  I’ve been completely transfixed by it, but am not sure how to read it.  I think there are two men in the shot, and the rest women.  Although there are three or four men in the shot, the women are highlighted.  The camera fascinates me.  I wonder about the “demographics” of the audience members in this Fairfax, Virginia crowd and wonder how representative they are.  (Class has definitely been on my mind as I’ve thought about this image, especially as the newswire has filled up lately with more pictures of enthusiastic women at Palin/McCain rallies.  In that regard, what I find actually atypical about this image — which should be good for an email, or two — is how much younger and somehow “less-Republican” looking these women appear.)  Of course, the shot is so sexually charged.  And yet, I look at those shoes and I keep thinking: the Ruby Slippers.  But then, I hate the analogy because I see Palin as more of a wannabe.

I don’t even know which links — out of the flood of words being invested on gender and the presidential race — to pair with this picture.  Rather quickly, there’s this morning’s rather schematic AP story about Hillary canceling an appearance next week that Palin was planning to attend (also noting how one of her major fundraisers, citing Obama’s “arrogance,” has jumped to McCain.  And then, playing off the image much more literally, there’s the Wall Street Journal slide show titled: “Buying Palin’s Shoes,” about how SP’s personal style has “sparked a buying frenzy.”  Then, there’s this piece from Reason titled: A Great Moment for Women: Why Sarah Palin is good for America along with a write-up from pollster Peter Brown titled:  “Palin Stokes Class War Among Women.”

What do you see and what do you think?

Update 9/18/08: The NYT includes this shot in its politics slideshow today.  This is turning into a theme.

(image: Stephan Savoia/AP. Sept. 10, 2008. Fairfax, Va. caption: A supporter of Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, keeps her eyes on her during a campaign rally.)

  • Scarabus

    I was struck by the “ruby slippers” allusion. But I think it works at least two ways, depending on audience—as always!
    Positive angle? Palin is sweet, courageous Dorothy. (Tin Man, you have a heart already. All you need is this heart-shaped pin. Dorothy, you could have returned home to the Alaska Independence Party any time you wished. All you had to do was tap together three times these beauty pageant awards.)
    Negative angle? From the get-go Dorothy demonstrated that she was characterized by courage, compassion, and empathy. Governor Palin? Quite the contrary! Earlier evidence is lacking, but absolutely every datum regarding her career as an elected official demonstrates that she is tough and nasty and inflexible (but that’s bullying, not courage); that she is totally lacking in compassion; and that she empathizes only with “Joel’s Army” and with those who shoot wolves from airplanes.

  • shannza

    What about the fact that the shoes are out of focus? We can’t see a sharp picture of the shoes, yet we know what they are. It parallels the fact that people don’t really know much about Palin, but they feel like they can relate to her. I also think that Palin’s signature style of knee length pencil skirts and fashionable pumps is a strong contrast with Clinton’s pantsuits. Clinton, as a Democrat, already had an uphill battle to secure her Commander in Chief credentials, and so played down her femininity, but Palin, in a party perceived to be dominated by men, can use hers to highlight diversity.

  • Kit (Keep It Trill)

    My first thought was “The Devil’s handmaiden would wear these.”
    No, I don’t think for a second that John McCain is the Devil, but his ideas and hers combined about ‘bomb bomb bomb Iran’ and not blinking about getting into a fight with Russia is demonic.

  • donna

    The Red Shoes is an awesome story. Dance, Sarah, dance!

  • bystander

    Ruby Slippers, or The Red Shoes?
    I’ve considered both, and I fear for Palin, the more appropriate story might be Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes. As for the class element, maybe that’s alluded to in The Red Shoes film (if not fairy tale), as well.

  • John Purvis

    Aren’t those the slippers Dorothy took when the house fell on the wicked witch. She’s not in AK anymore.

  • mikeg

    howz that tanning bed workin out?… not so much

  • harrier

    I don’t know. This picture scares the hell out of me. Those women don’t look stupid. For some reason I can’t name, it reminds me of photos of idolizing, swastika-banded German youth looking up during a Hitler speech. Maybe it’s just Palin. I just don’t remember a time when a member of a religious sect which sees the fiery immolation of the entire earth as a good thing had a shot at the presidency. I was just listening to a recording (a wonderful one, actually) of “I want to sing Glory when the World’s on Fire.”

  • elfpix

    Every symbol in the image reflects the abject failure of the women’s liberation movement to actually free women.
    No sensible, capable woman who is in the habit of taking care of her body would be wearing those shoes. They are bad for the spine, bad for the toes, bad for the arches, make the body sick.
    In addition, the image brings to my mind the first VII workshop in which Chris Morris presented a slide show from his coverage of the Bush administration’s early years. It was filled with the faces of adoring women, entranced, deeply enamored and seduced.
    Very scarey. And very unliberated, unequal.

  • Marie

    Look! Not only is she a candidate, she can wear high heels! Now that takes experience and accomplishment.
    The shoes are so shiny that they are all surface, except for the killer heels. Beauty queen or Femme fatale? A woman’s version of a macho statement.
    Being held up above the usual woman/flat-heels. But the higher she is propped up, the harder she’ll fall. Seems a little precarious from this angle.
    Actually, the first thing I think of is that Kay Hagan has been using the Ruby Slippers meme to encourage NC voters to “send Elizabeth Dole back to Kansas.”
    I am struck by how blond the spectators look, and the lack of sunglasses in use. It’s difficult to look adoring when you are squinting.
    I love the young woman’s expression to the right, and how she’s half glimpsed from behind the gams. Looks like she is taking a considering look, perhaps pausing in her photo-shooting to see just who is in front of her. Things look different in person than from behind a lens. Or maybe she’s just setting up her next shot. From that angle, it’s almost all leg, wouldn’t you think?

  • Michael

    I appreciate your website and your observations/insights… I was kinda surprised, however, for someone who apparently spends a lot of time looking at photos and their nuances, you clearly didn’t look carefully at the “red shoe” photo. I quickly saw at least four males and said , “what?..two men…I see four, immediately”. Not earth-shaking…but look more carefully, please. You might be missing some key elements which could also change your perspective.

  • Eileen

    At first glance, I noticed the three women as much as the red, shiny shoes.
    The youngest woman appears to be focused on the shoes, not the candidate ….”O-o-oh, I want a pair of those”. The woman with the camera seemes focused on, and adoring of the candidate.
    The woman in the front, the only one with a visible McCain button on her shirt,seems to be expressing some deep thought through her facial expression However, her focus is not on the candidate in the red shoes. Her eyes are focused elsewhere and, given that she appears to be the age of a woman who has seen more of the women’s movement than that other two, I wonder if she’s thinking, “How did we get to this point with this candidate?”
    And the red heels tie it all together. They’re up on the stage, but how seriously can we take the person who wears them?
    Thanks for this site.

  • kate

    The shoes are out of focus, diffuse, as if in a dream and the faces of the women in the clear focus of the shot present real woman, faces lined and their dress not sexualized. These women seem seduced so many women are always, by the mythology of the “real” woman in our culture. This “real” woman can wear the torturous high heels, pencil skirts and other sexualized clothing without pain, without rebuke, clean the floors, care for the kids and get her husband’s support — as long as she stays within the confines of the box she’s been put in.
    I see Palin as representative of the strong aspect of the old patriarchy in the Republican party. They have cynically used the illusion of Palin as a successful woman to further their goals. Fact is, Palin, unlike Clinton or so many regular working woman, has not had to get to where she is by working hard, having to demonstrate under brutal criticism, her intellectual skills and having to rename over and over again her accomplishments that so many wish to bury. Unlike Palin every woman who wishes to succeed by her own merits must go through the gauntlet of male scrutiny and approval; some do not make it to the other side.
    Palin on the other hand, like the red shoes is an attempt to blur the line between the old guard patriarchy with their accompanying myth of “Freedom through Cooperation”. “Cooperate, wear what we tell you to wear, dance, sing, dance, not for men, but first for the women who we must keep subservient and obedient as well.” This all screams from Palin.
    The red shoes remain intact, impeccable, shiny, as long as Palin remains compliant and as she does, much to her handler’s delight, she renews hope in the old myth that, as long as she plays by the rules, the boys will let her be and red spike heeled shoes, pencil skirts and sexy nods and waves will not get her tagged whore, but simply entitled, “Hockey Mom”.

  • ST

    In the late 80’s we used to call red stilettos “CFM shoes” meaning “come f.. me” –I think they are pretty provocative for a candidate representing herself as a conservative religous mother, but maybe not for one who is being marketed as “hot”.

  • lucaites

    Kate nails it!

  • g

    I love the parallel with Andersen’s “The Red Shoes.” WE all know how that turned out.
    And I am not convinced that the women are looking at her adoringly. I see a lot of skepticism in the faces.

  • delfinajones

    Hooker for Jesus?

  • KansasKowboy

    The mooseblood red shoes are the color of the GOP. I bet 9/11 Rudy wishes he could where them.

  • mudkitty

    “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

  • Tina

    The Devil Wore Prada

  • Annoying Old Guy

    Actually, Kate anti-nailed it. She manages to describe the Progressive/Left/Feminist response to Governor Palin quite accurately. That’s who is labeling Palin a “slut” and “whore” because she doesn’t fit in their proscribed feminist box. One need merely look at the vitriol used on this very weblog to see that. Or contrast the treatment of Palin vs. Senator Biden as the two Vice Presidential candidates. Or even Senator McCain vs. Palin to see the sexism, the people who, when Palin has “to demonstrate under brutal criticism, her intellectual skills and having to rename over and over again her accomplishments that so many [on this weblog] wish to bury” refuse to even listen? At least the “old patriarchy in the Republican party” makes the effort to pretend to listen.
    Just consider that, unlike Senator Clinton (who married in to her power) or Senator Obama (who got his career going by sucking up to some of the most corrupt politicians in one of the most corrupt states in the USA), Palin took on and smashed an “old boy” power network. What such network have Clinton or Obama attacked, much less beaten?
    Clearly, what this picture represents is how everyone is looking past Palin, keeping her sexuality at the center (especially the Modern American Left), refusing to view her as a complete woman, discussing her based on the reactions of the crowd, not who she is.

  • mudkitty

    AOG – no one is labeling her a slut except you.
    Most of us here are talking about much more nuanced and subtle matters. We’re talking about literary references. Sorry if that’s beyond your purview, AOG.
    Palin NEVER took on the old-boy-network – she sought and received Ted Stevens endorsement – it’s on tape, you can’t deny it. And now she’s joined the Washington old-boy-network, when she joined the McCain ticket. McCain is the quintessence of the old-boy-network. And what’s funny, not ha ha, is that old boy McCain is hiding behind her corrupt skirts.
    This is why, if you support McCain and Palin, you support liars.

  • APB

    Can you check out the photo number 8 that appeared alongside the a-head in WSJ, which was taken at the same rally. I had asked for comments on this and Nin Burman had replied just a bit. Notice the other two photos (number 1 and 4) as well.

  • Annoying Old Guy

    You might want to look up a guy named “Frank Murkowski”, unless that’s beyond your purview or insufficiently literary. Apparently I am also too unsubtle to properly understand the nuances of a reference to CFM shoes. I knew I shouldn’t have put off that literacy course!

  • KansasKowboy

    Further comment about the red shoes being the color of the GOP. The beauty queen is now a cheerleader and she is wearing the teams colors.

  • jhaygood

    I see the younger faces with a look of wonder and youthful admiration, and the older woman, who looks like she’s been there and back, seems to be thinking, “This isn’t my first pony ride, and I need to be convinced…”

  • mudkitty

    Far from it Jhay.

  • g

    AOG, I suggest you read some more information about Palin. I can understand how you’re cheering for your “team” in this sport, but you should really consider what it would be like for our country to be governed by someone as personally vindictive, unethical, and incompetent as she seems to be.
    there are plenty of other, far more competent Republicans, men and women, would would carry out the Republican agenda.
    You defend Palin because all you care about is winning.

  • Johanna

    Kate , who called Clinton a “regular working woman” nailed it? How many regular women made possible their brothers’ receipt of half a mil. in return for pardons to convicted felons? Also, she has a team of makeup people, hairdressers, and botox peddlers with her at all times. The rest of us have to get up in the morning and put ourselves together as best we can.

  • HockeyMom

    Don’t pictures often say more about the photographer than they do about the subject? In this picture I notice what the photographer wants me to see–a bunch of women looking adoringly at the woman who owns the pair of legs in red shoes. I hate high heels and have trouble walking in them. However, I have friends who practically live in high heels and don’t feel right when they are wearing flats. I make no judgment on women based of the height of their heels. I think that Sarah Palin is scary and totally unqualified to be vice president or, god forbid, president. Most people and definitely the media have no idea how to even talk about powerful women without making it about sex. Maybe this cycle will help to get that out of our system.
    I was at my hair salon today and we were talking about Sarah’s hair, and in particular, the recent article (NY Times?) about her hairdresser and the tremendous thought that they put into crafting her “hair image.” We all agreed that her hair and her glasses were not at all about her sexuality, but were all about obfuscation. This isn’t a person who wants to tamp down her hotness, but who is trying to create all kinds of static around her face so you can’t see who she really is. Her image management is fascinating to me.

  • zzyzx

    Cameras, rest and motion. The camera seems to be in the hands of the young strawberry blonde; it’s about the way one holds a camera when not shooting, but wanting to be at the ready. Her face is not particularly enraptured, more thinking about that next shot. The older woman in red w/button has a more skeptical expression. What we can see of the others’ faces it’s hard to tell if they are smiling or squinting. Don’t see a lot of rapture, but perhaps curiosity. Don’t be too sure these women will go back home and have second thoughts. I’ve also noticed that the women (and the ones in the photos APB linked) are really quite young and perhaps more influenced by republican parents or just plain old enthusiasm for another woman in a leading position, regardless of what is beneath the skin.
    Is it not less the abject failure of the women’s liberation movement, than the deliberate undermining of the ERA and the movement by corporate interests combined with fundamentalism and it’s strong paternal model?
    Something that has been nagging at me about the way the male republican talkers talk about her. I’ve only heard snipets so may be off on this, but there is something really quite basely sexual, or rather sexualized, about their attitude. They accuse the left of being sexist, but it’s really their own commentators that are getting all hot and bothered about her and not at all concerned about her intelligence (sic) or politics.
    And another thing. Women are more critical about women than men are, just ask any trial lawyer picking a jury. We can’t be fooled by wanting to get her into bed. And the ‘labeling’ of Palin as a sexual object has less to do with her than with the fantasies of those republican men. She is merely the object upon which they place their lust just as Hillary was the object for their hate. She’s a tease. As long as she can keep up the illusion of availability, they will love her.
    KansasKowboy: Rudy may have worn them, haven’t you seen the photos? or
    AOG: Perhaps you are the one who hasn’t been listening to Palin. Her answers, even when bordering on plausible, are masterpieces of rambling politico mumbo-jumbo, which she iterates so fast that one can barely keep up with the syntax, let alone any serious thought behind it. In addition, I didn’t see the words “slut” or “whore” on this site until reading your comment. Perhaps that is more revealing of you than of the other commenters.
    Hockey Mom: “Maybe this cycle will help to get that out of our system.” Don’t hold your breath, or, men will be men, will be men, will be men……
    Why Palin and not Olympia Snow?

  • Helen

    AOG, don’t be any more stupid than you can help. Feministe websites like Feministe, Shakesville and others have firmly flagged their intention not to use sexist and demeaning tropes on Palin (e.g. “slut”) that rightfully belong to the antediluvian Right. They actually do sexism-watch type posts on the media treatment of Palin. So sorry, but your made-up assertions just don’t fly.

  • mudkitty

    AOG – and you might want to look up the word “here” in the dictionary.

  • LanceThruster

    I’ve seen many of the PUMA sites go apoplectic over the Palin shoe shots (the same for HRC shoe shots). They claim it reduces a woman to an amalgamation of body parts, that the MSM would never focus on a man’s shoes (not true), that the overall desire/effect is to shoot up the woman’s skirt, and that it is clear evidence of rampant misogyny.
    Seems like they want to have it both ways. The looks are considered “stylish” but to focus on the style is said to be dismissive of the woman’s actual abilities.
    Sometimes a shoe is just a shoe. I think women are entitled to wear whatever fashion suits them. If Sarah Palin got $400 haircuts, would noting that constitute sexism or an equal standard (since Edwards’ had to deal with that nonsense). The arguments that women are “forced” to wear unhealthy, uncomfortable footwear seems disingenuous. When I wear cowboy boots that hurt my feet a little bit, the choice is strictly my own.

  • HarpoSnarx

    Frank Murkowski? The git who appointed his daughter,Lisa, a U.S. Senator? Apparently in Alaska that glass ceiling has a trap door.

  • zzyzx

    As The Bag has previously pointed out, the to-do about Edwards’ $400 haircut was an attempt to ‘feminize’ him (i.e., he must be gay) and thus minimize his seriousness as a candidate. Thus, it was also sexism.
    However, when men call those red high-heeled pumps ‘f-me’ shoes, and almost all men know what that means, and photos of Palin’s shoes just keep showing up, as if by themselves and for no other reason, then, yes, it’s sexism. Just because there was also a shot of Obama’s shoes with a hole in the sole, or McCain’s $500 loafers, doesn’t negate the former. It would really be a stretch to read sexism into the latter two incidents and they do not appear repeatedly. And don’t tell me women are just interested in other women’s shoes because that just won’t fly (well, except for NYC, maybe).
    Maybe one has to be a woman to be able to distinguish sexism because it is rarely a problem for men, just as racism is seldom a problem for the white majority. I can talk about racism but I can never “feel” it. Men can talk about sexism, but until you’ve walked a mile in red high-heels, you will never really know.

  • jean

    ‘And don’t tell me women are just interested in other women’s shoes because that just won’t fly (well, except for NYC, maybe).’
    Sorry, zzyzx, shoes are BIG. I know a woman who estimates she has 250 pairs. We are all (well, maybe not ALL) looking for the ultimate pair of cute shoes: c-f-m’s, comfortable, make your feet look small, and if another woman has ‘em, we want to know where she got ‘em! Not my fault if men’s shoes are boring.
    Don’t you remember Imelda Marcos?
    Is this sexist? Hell if I know. I’m just looking at the picture, trying to figure out what’s going on.

  • harrier

    Wow, what a thread! Looking back I see my Palinophobia took away from the subject: The photo. The more I look at it the more puzzled I am. I’ve never understood about shoes, and never saw “Sex and the City.” I gotta say, though, that it’s a great photograph, on its own.

  • deadantstomp

    as long as we are talking ruby slippers, perhaps it is worth remembering that Dorothy wasn’t the only person who wore the shoes. The analogy might be apt, but perhaps the house hasn’t fallen yet. Assuming it lands to the same effect as in the movie and Munchkinland gets to start recovering, I think we should remember to anticipate the flying monkeys and beware of fields of poppies.

  • iamnotstarjones

    I look at the photo and see aspiration in the faces of the women of the audience..that maybe they aspire to have a similar career trajectory as Palin while being a wife and mother. The red shoes are a lust object and result of Palin’s success.

  • Sergei Andropov
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