I have been feeling really guilty about not liking Sarah Palin. She’s independent, her husband helps raise the kids, she’s worked most of her life. I should luv her. But the minute she minced on stage in St. Louis Thursday, with her shoulder-length hair and stiletto heels, I realized why I don’t: she’s The Rules Girl.
Remember The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right, Ellen Fein’s and Sherry Schneider’s explosively controversial 1995 book that upended thirty years of feminist teaching about dating? Forget all that equality and intelligence stuff, The Rules advised. Who wants to be Hillary Clinton? Men are simple, attracted to sexual symbols and bright, shiny objects. If you want them, they argued, you must sport long hair and wear sexy, attention-getting clothes. The suit Palin wore for the debate was some amazingly iridescent material, and she sported an eye-popping sparkly rhinestone flag pin. The governor as the It Girl of the ’90s singles scene.
As the capital-letter Rules recommend, Palin knows she must Never Leave the House Without Makeup. And, so far in this campaign, she has scrupulously followed The Rules for dealing with mainstream media suitors: Rarely Return Their Calls. Always End the Date First. Never Make a Date for Saturday Night After a Wednesday Date. Never Make a Date for Meet the Press At All.
Palin follows all The Rules most indigestible to feminists. Let Him Take the Lead (“Bush Doctrine? In what respect, Charlie?”) and Never Tell Him What to Do or Try to Change Him (John McCain: “Governor Palin and I agree that you don’t announce that you’re going to attack another country.” Palin: “Well, as Senator McCain is suggesting here, also, never would our administration get out there and show our cards to terrorists, in this case, to enemies and let them know what the game plan was, not when that could ultimately adversely affect a plan to keep America secure.”)
The Rules provide a perfect model for GOP media prep. How a Rules Girl acts does not have to reflect what she really believes–or even what she knows, so long as it’s effective with the target audience. As with all such disconnected systems, a practitioner must keep The Rules nearby for reference. If you watch the video of Thursday’s debate, you’ll see that Palin constantly consulted her notecards. Fein and Schneider recommend keeping a copy of their book on the bedside table, hidden from view but close enough to consult if you’re tempted to, for example, linger on a phone call with a boyfriend beyond the prescribed time.