News & Politics

Post Watch: Fearless Ladies, Point Your Pens

Parker got 11,000 pieces of hate mail after one Palin column. Photograph by Chris Leaman.

The Post’s Ladies Who Lash Out have lambasted Sarah Palin.

“Note to soon-to-be-former Gov. Sarah Palin: Big girls don’t quit,” Ruth Marcus wrote after Palin announced she was stepping down as governor of Alaska.

Anne Applebaum weighed in: “She smugly asserts the right to decide who is a patriot and who is not. It’s not about ‘country,’ in other words, it’s about hypocrisy. And Sarah Palin is full of it.”

Kathleen Parker, the Post’s conservative female pundit, wrote: “Meanwhile, getting real, can we stop pretending that Palin is interested in anything other than her own ambition?”

Parker penned a column poking at Palin on September 26, Parker’s birthday. “For a present I got 11,000 hate e-mails,” Parker says. “They transcended anything I’ve experienced in 22 years as a columnist. Ones like ‘You should have been aborted and left in a dump.’ ”

The only one of the Post’s formidable female writers who didn’t shred Palin was fashion critic Robin Givhan.She took aim at South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, who “spent nearly a fortnight describing his affair with an Argentine woman in the kind of overwrought and salacious terms of a Harlequin bodice-ripper.” Givhan then assessed Jenny Sanford’s beachwear: “The wife has responded with calibrated contempt for his behavior, a grudging offer of Christian forgiveness, and the relaxed wardrobe of a regular at Canyon Ranch.”

The Post might be in turmoil over how to make money and combine print and online operations, but it has assembled a fearless group of female columnists. For years, women criticized the Post’s lack of female voices; now it has a choir. Sally Quinn, blasting Palin in her On Faith blog, makes a Fab Five.

“Many right-wing Christians don’t believe women should work outside the home,” Quinn wrote. “Yet here was Sarah Palin, resigning as the governor of Alaska, for political reasons. This is not putting your family first. We should not be surprised.”

Marcus was particularly vicious toward Palin. She tells Post Watch: “Her behavior has not promoted the cause of taking women seriously in politics.”

Marcus describes herself as a feminist, though she doesn’t write from that perspective all the time. “I would be more bored writing it than people reading it,” she says.

Parker is a relatively new voice. Syndicated since 1995, she joined the Washington Post Writers Group in 2006. “When I write an op-ed for the Post, people pay more attention,” she says. “It’s a very engaged readership. I used to feel they were more intelligent, but after some of the e-mails I received, I’m not so sure.”

The attacks on Palin didn’t go unnoticed by her defenders. Fox’s Greta Van Susteren called Quinn “delusional” and her On Faith essay “the most incredible personal attack for no value.”

No value? The Ladies Who Lash Out are creating buzz and controversy in print and beyond.

This article first appeared in the August 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.   

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