(UPDATE [h/t Alan Henderson]: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose)
I think one could perhaps make an excellent case for Heinlein as a female chauvinist. He has repeatedly insisted that women average smarter, more practical and more courageous than men. He consistently underscores their biological and emotional superiority. He married a woman he proudly described to me as “smarter, better educated and more sensible than I am.” In his latest book, Expanded Universe—the immediate occasion for this article—he suggests without the slightest visible trace of irony that the franchise be taken away from men and given exclusively to women. He consistently created strong, intelligent, capable, independent, sexually aggressive women characters for a quarter of a century before it was made a requirement, right down to his supporting casts.
Oddly, this complaint [“Heinlein can’t create believable women characters”] comes most often from radical feminists. Examination shows that Heinlein’s female characters are almost invariably highly intelligent, educated, competent, practical, resourceful, courageous, independent, sexually aggressive and sufficiently personally secure to be able to stroke their men’s egos as often as their own get stroked. I will—reluctantly—concede that this does not sound like the average woman as I have known her, but I am bemused to find myself in the position of trying to convince feminists that such women can in fact exist.
I think I know what enrages the radicals: two universal characteristics of Heinlein heroines that I left out of the above list. They are always beautiful and proud of it (regardless of whether they happen to be pretty), and they are often strongly interested in having babies. None of them bitterly regrets and resents having been born female—which of course makes them not only traitors to their exploited sex, but unbelievable.
I submit that Sarah Palin is the most Heinleinian candidate for Vice-President of the United States in this country’s history (indeed, possibly the only one other than Truman in 1944). The great question, answerable only by future events, is whether electing someone for being intriguing, even deeply intriguing, will in fact result in effective executive leadership.