Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"The New Agenda Has An Action Item"

October 5, 2008: Letter from The New Agenda to Mr. David Plotz
October 5, 2008
David PlotzEditorSlate Magazine
Dear Mr. Plotz,
The New Agenda ( is a non-partisan women’s rights advocacy group with men and women members nationwide. The New Agenda monitors news coverage, blogs, print media, as well as statements by political pundits, political campaigns and other commentators for sexist bias, derogatory language, misogynist attacks, and denigrating statements about women.
The New Agenda strongly objects to an article by Tom Perotta published in Slate on Friday, September 26, entitled, “The Sexy Puritan.” The article, which purports to examine Governor Palin’s impact as a “powerful new Christian right archetype” is capped by an illustration of Palin in high heels, perched on a stool, with her breasts popping out of her skimpy dress and a bible squeezed between her bare thighs. This article and the accompanying illustration were also featured prominently on Slate’s front page on Saturday, October 4.
In his article, Perrotta claims that as a “Sexy Puritan,” Governor Palin is a “particular type of woman” who “engage[s] in the culture war” by “advocating conservative positions” and by “embodying nonthreatening mainstream standards of female beauty and behavior,” thus providing “a little thrill along with your traditional values.” Perrotta supports his theory about “Sexy Puritans” by citing a sex blog called “Christian Nymphos,” “whose authors,” he says, “offer candid how-to advice on anal sex, fisting, and ‘masturbating for your husband.’”
Perrotta states, “There’s a sophisticated strategy of co-optation at work here—not so different from the one employed by Christian rock bands that look and sound almost exactly like their secular counterparts—an attempt to separate ‘sexiness,’ which is both cool and permissible, from actual sex, which is not.”
With this claim, Perrotta implies that Governor Palin has cultivated “sexiness” in service of her conservative Christian agenda. This is tantamount to claiming that she is “asking for” the graphic sexual imagery which he uses to illustrate his point. There is the implication that by “engaging in the culture war,” as he claims Palin is doing, she is associating herself with the sexualized women whom he describes in the article.. In truth, Governor Palin has done nothing to warrant such spurious comparisions, and Perrotta is merely employing the time-honored tactic of using gratuitous and vulgar sexual imagery to demean and discredit a woman in a position of power while implying that she is complicit in her own degradation.
After referencing the sex bloggers to support his argument, Perrotta disingenuously claims, “God knows, I’m not trying to link Palin to the Christian Nymphos; I’m only trying to locate her within the context of the great American culture war.” In fact, linking Palin to the Christian Nymphos, and to “anal sex, fisting, and ‘masturbating for your husband,’” is precisely what Perrotta is doing.
It is unconscionable for a mainstream publication such as Slate Magazine to provide a forum to discuss sexual acts in relation to a political figure who has done nothing to invite such discussion. In actuality, Mr. Plotz, it was you who opened up this avenue of discussion about Governor Palin when, in your Slate article of September 9 entitled, “I Dream About Sarah Palin. Do You?”, you wrote that a couple of men you know “have mentioned that they’ve been having sexual fantasies about the Alaska governor.” “I’m sure they’re not alone,” you added.
There is nothing in Governor Palin’s dress or demeanor that is sexually suggestive; however, in the follow-up article to your own, a number of the men whose dreams you published contain sexual or romantic images of Palin, and a quick Google search turns up two other instances where Tom Perrotta introduced the subject of anal sex in his own novels.. Clearly, anal sex a subject to which Perrotta has devoted some thought.
Have you no shame, Mr. Plotz? As the editor of Slate Magazine, you are responsible for its content, and it is our opinion at The New Agenda that your publishing of articles of this nature about Governor Palin is a calculated attempt to demean her, perhaps in order to compensate for the fact that, as your wrote in your own article, “night after night, she appears in my dreams, always as a scolding, ominous figure.” It should be apparent to all that your and Perrotta’s visions of Sarah Palin have everything to do with your own imaginations, and nothing to do with the actual woman.
We realize that this is not the first time that Slate Magazine has diminished its reputation by publishing bigoted material, but we at The New Agenda hope that you and Slate Magazine will reconsider the publication of such degrading, sexist content in the future. We request that you meet with representatives of our organization in order that we may clarify our concerns.
We look forward to hearing from you.
The New Agenda

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