This week, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times wrote an excellent op-ed about female role models as intellectual thinkers, drawing an interesting comparison between Marilyn Monroe and Sarah Palin. Dowd argues that as much as Monroe was a sex symbol, she understood that it was “cool to be smart.” In contrast Sarah Palin runs her campaign on an anti-elitist platform, arguing that politicians should be more like the people they represent, actively going against the intellectual image. In doing so, Dowd writes that Palin is working to make “ignorance chic.”
The rise of Sarah Palin has been heralded as indication that the social conservatives are as comfortable as the liberals with a woman in office. But it is important to take note of what kind of message and image is represented by the women they support. What Dowd correctly argues is that many of the women in today’s political spotlight are less proud and willing to demonstrate brain power than the “most famous Dumb Blonde” in history.
As we edge ever closer to the November 2nd elections, it is critical that voters, especially among the female population, think about what kind leaders we seek in our politicians. It seems that to be seen as an intellectual is now a campaign disadvantage, which is why many recent female and male candidates have played down their academic accomplishments. But Sarah Palin takes anti-elitism to a destructive level. While backlash against traditional Ivy League elitism is understandable, it is possible to be an intelligent candidate who is still in touch with the real world. The scope and variety of problems currently facing the United States government requires leaders who understand the country they represent, who are capable of thinking carefully and creatively. In such circumstances, women should be proud to demonstrate their intellect.