From the halls of social science, a theory: “Sex Appeal May Have Hurt Sarah Palin.”

The conclusion is based on interviews with 122 undergraduates. Basing anything on interviews of undergraduates is suspect to me. This is research?

“We hypothesize that focusing on a woman’s appearance will promote reduced perceptions of competence, and also, by virtue of construing the women as an “object,” perceptions of the woman as less human.”

I prefer this explanation, written from a male perspective:

Palin exudes sexual confidence and maternal authority, which in a relatively conservative culture like ours is the most recognizable and viscerally comprehensible form of female power. It makes a lot of men uncomfortable, but that’s because it’s the kind of female power they are most often subject to, and most often fail to successfully resist.

Or this, from a female perspective:

Conservative though she may be, I felt that Palin represented an explosion of a brand new style of muscular American feminism. At her startling debut on that day, she was combining male and female qualities in ways that I have never seen before. And she was somehow able to seem simultaneously reassuringly traditional and gung-ho futurist. In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment.

Sarah’s persona — her good looks, her America-is-great attitude, her happy marriage — was a threat to many in the Democratic / liberal / academic / women’s movement world at many different levels. You don’t need to be a freaking social scientist to figure that out.

Regardless, a good excuse to run a picture of Sarah.