Sarah Palin, Feminism, & Double Standards

It seems everyone has their thoughts and opinions about the first Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, these days, and I am no different.

I was surprised when I heard McCain had picked her, but I was also happy that a woman was now on one of the political party's top ticket.  It didn't matter to me what ticket she was on- as a woman and a mother, I thought it was a step in the right direction.

If you are a regular blog reader of mine, you may remember the post I wrote in May, about how I felt the media in particular, had portrayed Hillary Clinton in a sexist and discriminatory way, simply because she was a woman.  If I thought that was bad for Hillary Clinton, it has just been beyond belief, the attack the media and blogs have launched against Sarah Palin in just over a week. 

This just makes no sense to me whatsoever.  For years feminists like Gloria Steinem, have been advocating for women that they should be able to have a choice.  They shouldn't have to give up careers in order to be mothers.  Women should be considered as equals and they should have the same chances and opportunities as men.  One of Gloria Steinem's quotes I have always liked is, "I've yet to be on a campus where most women weren't worrying about some aspect of combining marriage, children, and a career.  I've yet to find one where many men were worrying about the same thing."

There is a woman in the national spotlight, in the running for one of our country's highest positions, (never mind her politics for a minute) who has combined marriage, children, and a career, and is successful at it.  Instead of feminists like Steinem acknowledging that this is indeed a breakthrough for women, she writes an article for the LA Times (Wrong Woman, Wrong Time) basically saying the only reason Palin was picked by McCain was "to please right-wing ideologues."   Steinem also asserts "that feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman, but making life more fair for women everywhere."  

 If Steinem really believed the above statement, why didn't she make a similar statement about Hillary Clinton?  Hillary Clinton was one woman, as well, running for one job.  How does it make "life more fair for women everywhere" if Clinton were to be elected president, but it would not make "life more fair for women everywhere"  if Palin was elected vice president?

Steinem continues,

"And American women, who suffer more because of having two full-time jobs than from any other single injustice, finally have support on a national stage from male leaders who know that women can't be equal outside the home until men are equal in it.  Barack Obama and Joe Biden are campaigning on their belief that men should be, can be and want to be at home for their children."

Sarah Palin's husband, Todd, is becoming a stay-at-home Dad.  Isn't this what Steinem was hoping for in part when she wrote, "...until there is a support on a national stage from male leaders who know that women can't be equal outside the home until men are equal in it? "

Futhermore, when a male presidential candidate picks a woman for his running mate, it sends a message to women and to men, that he believes his pick is qualified and capable of being an effective vice president.  What many have considered obstacles and reasons why Sarah Palin should not have been picked, McCain saw the very thing Steinem wants- "a male leader(s) who know that women can't be equal outside the home until men are equal in it? "

It seems to me John McCain and the Palin family already figured out, what Steinem wrote about.  Palin's husband Todd, is equal in the home, and will be home with their children.  In my eyes, the support on a national stage for women, that Steinem talks about Obama and Biden needing to bring, is already here.

Why do we need "male leaders"  to bring support to working women, and to help make men equal in the house, when it is already been in place for years?  Not just with McCain, Palin and her husband, but with the thousands and thousands of working families, where the mother works, and the father stays at home.  It seems like a real insult to working mothers, and stay-at-home fathers.  

I can't help but wonder if Steinem would feel this way if Palin wasn't a Republican, but a Democrat?  It makes me wonder if the type of feminism that Steinem has been pushing for, for all these years, has more do with politics than gender?

The most repulsive part of the attacks on Palin have been her character as a mother.  The media and others criticize and judge Palin as a mother. The argument is being vice president would take too much time away from her family, and how could she possibly balance all of that, especially with a pregnant 17-year old daughter, and a special needs infant? 

Why is that any of our business?  Do we question other working parents, who have more than two kids, special needs, or other challenges, or do we assume they will figure it out?  Todd Palin is going to be the stay-at-home parent.  Why do we insist on the parent at home in this case has to be Sarah?  Where has all the talk about fathers being at home gone?  Does this mean that stay-at-home fathers aren't quite as good as stay-at-home mothers?  Isn't this what women and feminists have been fighting for all these years for?  Now that we see this on a national stage, suddenly women with babies and families, shouldn't be at high profile jobs.  They shouldn't be taking on career aspirations. 

The double standard here is amazing.  Barack Obama has been campaigning now for about 18-months, and I have not heard one word, about how he will balance his family life, nor has he been judged on what kind of father he is. 

During the last year and a half, how much time has Obama spent with his girls?  Unlike the Palins, Obama's wife, Michelle, has not announced that she would be a stay-at-home parent, should Obama become president.  That is their private decision to make, and we assume they will figure it out.  Why aren't we granting this courtesy to Palin and her family

If being vice president takes so much time away from family, (even though the father would be at home) wouldn't being president take even more time away from Obama's family (and we don't even know if there will be a stay-at-home parent?)  Yet we don't hear the same "concerns" for Obama's family being discussed.  Don't two young girls need their father around during their formative years?   Why are we so quick to judge a strong woman as a mother, when we don't judge a strong man as a father?  

It is really interesting for me all the issues that have been brought to light by Sarah Palin running for vice president.  It has made me question what "feminism" is all about to begin with.  Is it only OK to advance your career when you have 2.1 kids, but not three or four, or seven? 

Is feminism about advancing women, and breaking through glass ceilings from the board rooms to the White House? Or is it only "politically correct" to break glass ceilings as long as your politics don't fall on the wrong side of those ceilings?

(Orginally posted on A Mama's Blog on 9/8/2008)


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