Rep. James Clyburn, assistant minority leader, typically dispenses male condescension. "Sarah Palin just can't seem to get it -- on any front," he tells Bill Press, a liberal radio talk-show interviewer. "I think she's an attractive person. She is articulate. But I think intellectually she seems not to be able to understand what's going on here." (You just can't trust a pretty face, even if she was woman enough to get elected governor of a state and to run for vice president on a major party ticket.)
When Clyburn was asked why powerful men talk down to Palin, he hurried for safety behind the skirts of his wife and daughters, saying he had discussed all this with the women in his house.
A Washington Post columnist likens abstaining from attacks on Palin to a character on the old Seinfeld show deciding to give up boudoir romps to free brain power "to learn Portuguese, Euclidean geometry, become a whiz on 'Jeopardy' and solve a Rubik's cube."
Like teenage boys, pols and pundits take their fun ganging up on her. But it's not just feminine stereotypes that cause her trouble. Old-guard feminists criticize her for not fitting into their stereotype. She doesn't talk about conventional "women's issues," such as universal child care and parental leave. She offers maternalism in a different voice by showing concern for the future of our children who must confront the effects of a trillion dollar deficit.
"What did we buy?" Bachmann asks about the stimulus spending, in the manner of a spouse examining the credit-card bills. "Instead of a leaner, smarter government, we bought a bureaucracy that now tells us which light bulbs to buy." Women know how to budget and know the pitfalls of spending money they don't have. That may be why more women than men, according to some of the exit polls, voted for Republican House candidates last November.
Many of the tea party women were nurtured in the PTA, but they've learned quickly how to use that experience in the home -- and now in the House.