I almost choked on my Cheerios this morning as I watched Matt Lauer’s interview with Sarah Palin on the Today Show. Because I found myself agreeing with her for once, and wanted to high-five her through the screen. I will not be addressing her motive(s) for speaking out about this or her politics because neither is relevant to this particular issue. I’m sorry I don’t have a full transcript, but I transcribed the important parts myself.
I don’t know if David Letterman’s joke was about fourteen year old Willow Palin or eighteen year old Bristol Palin (as he claims), but it doesn’t really matter. Palin is operating under the assumption that it was about Willow, and her comments to Lauer reflected that.
Palin told Lauer it’s a sad commentary on society that people would chuckle and laugh at jokes about statutory rape, adding, “It was a degrading comment about a young woman and I would hope that people really start — really rising up and deciding it’s not acceptable. No wonder young girls, especially, have such low self-esteem in America, when we think that it’s funny for a so-called comedian to get away with being able to make such a remark.”
Whoa. This is not something I expected to hear acknowledged, by Sarah Palin of all people, on national television. Sexual objectification hurts girls. Treating sexual abuse as a joke, or just a girl’s lot in life, hurts them.
Lauer then read from a statement Palin made prior to the interview, in which she said that jokes like Letterman’s “contribute to the atrociously high rate of sexual exploitation of minors by older men who use and abuse others…” (!!!!!)
Lauer admitted the joke was “in bad taste” but asked, “can you really connect the dots to criminal activity the way you did in that statement?”
Oh, I’ve heard that before! Laughing at sexual violence has nothing to do with sexual violence. So-called “little things” like rape jokes, and “big things” like rape, exist on the same continuum. It’s called rape culture, and I thought Sarah Palin came pretty close to describing it without actually using the term.
Palin told Lauer she could, in fact, “connect the dots to a degrading statement made about young women, and that does contribute to some acceptance of abuse of young women.”