I am finally getting around to reading Andrea Smith’s Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide.
Upon reading the introduction, by former 2000 candidate for Vice President (with Ralph Nadar) Winona LaDuke, I was struck by this paragraph:
As a Native woman, you can always count on someone “little ladying” you, or treating you as a novelty. When I ran for the office of the Vice President of the United States as Ralph Nadar’s running mate in 2000, The New York Times referred to me as something like “an Indian Activist from a reservation in Minnesota, who butchers deer and beaver on her kitchen table…. and has stated that the US is in violation of international law.” The New York Times would not refer to me in the same context as my opponents, as for instance, a “Harvard educated economist and author.”
What a difference 8 years makes. Or, what a difference a race makes. I’m interested in the difference in framing between the current female VP candidate and LaDuke. One is a radical, possibly anti-American activist who butchers her own meat…. and the other is a folksy, down-homey all American femme fatale who… butchers her own meat. One candidate is clearly framed as “the other,” while one is clearly framed as “one of us,” – Joe Six-Pack, if you will. Of course, “one of us” is a pretty specific demographic. In this Salon interview in July, 2000 LaDuke speaks to the framing.
I am not advocating for any female (or for that matter, any human) candidate to be judged upon their looks. The extra attention/scrutiny that Palin now, or Clinton during the primary season, received based upon their clothing, hair and makeup choices are absurd. The focus should be on nothing other than suitability for the positions being. This is what LaDuke was asking for – to be referred to in the same context as her opponents – relevant qualifications for the job. Yet in her case, her ethnicity and some of her actions were lifted up in a way that seems to intend to place her outside the “norm” for American citizenry. In the era of Sarah Palin, the same kind of activity is framed in such a way that somehow makes her even more the girl next door.