Electile Disfunction: The Burlesque Binds of the Sarah Palin MILF Frame

Document Type

Article - Merrimack Access Only

Publication Title

Feminist Media Studies

Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

This essay combines Burke's burlesque frame and Jamieson's double binds to create a hybrid gendered theory for rhetorically analyzing the aggressive sexualization of 2008 United States vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The essay develops our theory titled the “burlesque binds” and explicates a specific form of a burlesque bind: the “MILF frame.” Palin's aggressively sexualized representation was united under the crass acronym MILF, which stands for “Mom I'd Like to Fuck.” The MILF frame emphasized Palin's feminine qualities, positioning her as a “trophy vice” with no political acumen, and highlighted her masculine behaviors, but deflated them through sexual objectification. The unification of the binds and burlesque theories reveals how Palin's role as a social actor was not simply circumscribed but shut down: she was deemed unfit by both masculine and feminine standards, by both public and private sphere conventions. Although Sarah Palin has arguably been the most prevalent subject of the political MILF frame, our essay catalogues other instances of female political leaders experiencing this type of symbolic degradation, suggesting the MILF frame's vast influence.