and now for the swimsuit competition...
what has this to do with current events, you ask?
well, for one thing, "heather unruh bikini" once again turned up atop the keyword rankings for my blog. and, for another thing, 1984 miss alaska contenstant sarah palin, nee heath, began her pursuit of a public career walking around in a bathing suit, (video footage here, in case you're not fully researched on your political punditry), and now she's outraged, outraged i tell you, that she and her family have yet again become the butt (no pun intended) of late night talk show jokesters.
my first reaction to david letterman's characterization of her style as that of a "slutty flight attendant" was shame, uneasiness and disquiet. i like to think that was as it should be. then, to my further shame, uneasiness and disquiet, i took a moment to muse on the whole concept of flight attendants as envisioned almost eighty years ago in this fine upstanding country of ours. from the moment ellen church parlayed a nursing certification into a job offer from boeing air transport, aka united airlines, we all happily spent the next forty years requiring as condition of employment, among many other things, that such women be single and, at least in male air traveler fantasy and to a possible connotation of sluttiness, available. think i'm coloring it wrong? think about it--the nursing requirement was quickly dropped, and boeing summarily fired the first married stewardess--their word, not mine--and bragged about it in their 25th anniversary speeches on the subject, and you can read all about the whole thing here on their web site). so, if you think about it, letterman's joke would have been reasonably considered a redundancy as recently as in my early lifetime.
so, yes, david found it fair game to characterize both an entire profession, as well as a particular national politician, as given to sluttiness. as we've observed, given that the profession itself has its roots in implying a coterie of airborne geishas, and that the politician in question once thought it quite reasonable to pursue a career based primarily on her looks in a bathing suit, this is neither so hard to imagine, nor to joke about. myself, i'm ashamed that we live in a culture where such things are jokeworthy, since i'm naturally and immediately appalled that we might ever hire and parade women as worth little more than their appearance and impressions of "hospitality". but we do it, and i say we're all hypocrites (me included) to feel this sense of outrage about it without resolving to actually do something more to stop it.
so, with that in mind, rather than shoot the messenger, (mr. letterman), perhaps we might be reserving some of the vitriol for folks like mr. trump and others who build businesses based on the exploitation of women. (for starters, we could resolve not to patronize their businesses...)
the real sticky wicket arrives in the persona of ms willow palin. not satisfied with skewering her absolutely-asking-for-it-if-you-ask-me mom, (beauty pageant contestants turned national politicians who show up in public places like yankee stadium are going to hear it all, and i don't feel sorry for their hurt feelings one bit), mr. aging pervert david letterman was further compelled to read a joke (who knows who wrote it) that in an "awkward moment during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by alex rodriguez". on the one hand, recalling that sarah's older daughter was offered up to the national media circus resplendant in her fully knocked up state last fall, this is one of those things that you think holds that same kernel of truth required for all good humor. but then you realize (as i only did very belatedly today) that the daughter in attendance at the ball game was actually only 14 years old and never (to our knowledge) having been with child. the la times blogs had the headline right: "aging man, 62, jokes about girl, 14".
let's all be clear about this: 14 year olds and fornication are clearly defined in combination as rape in our culture, and in our legal system, no matter how you slice it. ("age of consent" is one of our favorite phrases, and 14 isn't it). not having the cojones to retract the statement, and apologize clearly about having stated it, are to mr. letterman's discredit. yup, if it had been bristol, we'd be having a different conversation. but it was willow, and it was absolutely a joke too far. fcc fines and even a suspension should be thoroughly discussed.
so what else do we do about it?
again, observing that the would-be-miss-alaska is playing the public appearance game, i have little sympathy for her or for her feelings. think of enduring such as a job requirement. just because it's a bit more rigorous a requirement than trotting around a stage in a bathing suit isn't any reason for us to cut this woman any slack. she's a caricature, as ronald reagan once was as an actor turned politician, and we can only hope she learns to be as gracious about it as ronny turned out to be. it is what it is. bathing suits should never be considered stepping-stones to public office. AND, because of this, they're going to make jokes all about it each and every time. deal with it.
and, puh-leeeze, spare me the "don't make jokes about my kids" part, too. if you don't want them in the public eye, KEEP THEM OUT OF IT. but taking them out to a public place like yankee stadium will never qualify as such. sure, we all might wish everyone could enjoy a ball game with their kids, but presidential hopefuls cannot, and it's a de facto requirement of the profession to expect the jokes will come. nope, not about 14 year olds and alex rodriguez, (i should think he might have a case against mr. letterman himself, come to think of it), but about each and everything else.