Sunday, September 7, 2008

Io's Insights

Io has a great post about Sarah Palin and the fact that it is being crammed down our throats that she is a mother. It really is getting a little ridiculous. I had started to leave a comment for Io, but then it turned into a giant rant, so I've moved it over here. So, before you read, go read Io's post (and the comments), and then come on back.

I totally agree with Io about her thoughts on this topic. In a few short days, Sarah Palin has become a caricature of a woman. With any other candidate, we'd be talking about gun control, abortion, foreign policy experience, offshore drilling, ANWAR, Iraq, the economy, etc. But here were are, talking about how she is a parent. It's the ultimate sexism, because if she were a man, it would simply be taken for granted. As we get more women in high offices, I think this will eventually change, but Sarah Palin is also missing a big chance to change things. She has allowed herself to become part of the problem. You can hate Hillary Clinton all you want and criticize her for being cold and harsh--she didn't use Chelsea as a prop. It's offensive to me that Palin is willing to prostitute herself in this way. And we most certainly wouldn't be talking about this if Romney had been the pick, despite the fact he also has a pack of children. He trotted them out for the photo op, but they weren't exactly central to his campaign theme, IMO. Motherhood seems very central to the Palin Persona. Does the campaign really think America is that dumb, that the Motherhood Gimmick is going to win them the election? And do they really think that little of Hillary Clinton supporters, that they think that Hillary supporters are going to see a vagina on the ticket and be blinded by the light in the voting booth? What I liked about Hillary was that she was tough and smart and had good ideas--things that had nothing to do with her gender. Voting based on gender is like voting based on color or religious preference. . .superficial and absurd.

I wish they'd shut up and talk about stuff that matters, because frankly, being a parent is rather pedestrian. It's normal (well, normal in neighborhoods other than this little corner of the blogosphere, perhaps). It may make one slightly more qualified to lead the PTA in a town of 6000 people, but it certainly does not make one more qualified to lead a diverse nation of 300 million people. In other words, it should be a nonissue.

But my feelings about the Mommy Candidate situation are multifaceted. As a successful, childless professional woman over the age of 35, I have had a whole lot of experiences with the mother vs. nonmother debate. On one hand, there are definitely those out there who think that motherhood gives one superpowers mere nonmothers don't have, and I have been condescended to more times than I can count, and yes, it's annoying.

On the other hand, there are those who think that I can work harder and do more because I'm not tied down by burdens at home. So, in some sense, I'm more valuable (and, I get a lot more dumped on me and a lot more expected of me sometimes--my supervisor is a middle-aged, childless, single male-- which isn't fair to me, either). Men, by the way, are not subject to such an analysis AT ALL, in my experience. The women in my office who have kids have to deal with the subtle discrimination all the time(the "I'm not sure she can do it, because of the kids," generally whispered in a voice that is meant to sound concerned about the woman in question.) It's highly offensive not only to the woman in question, who is generally as hard working and present as I am, and certainly as all of the men in the office. Yet, I've seen men with the same number of kids, whose children are the same age, not face any scrutiny at all, while women in the same position have to prove they can "handle" the job and being a parent. It's such crap. America likes to think that it's achieved equality because there are women in the boardroom, but just because we're sitting there doesn't mean we are treated equally.

So I guess what I'm saying is that while I'm totally annoyed that there's so much coverage of Mommy Palin, I am also all to aware that there are so many important professional jobs where motherhood is an impediment for very intelligent, highly competent women. And I'm not entirely sure that the vice presidency will not be one of them. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop for Ms. Palin, because when you live by the sword, you die by it, too, and America is still a very sexist place for professional mothers.


Shinejil said...

Amen, sister! I think we need to keep raising this issue again and again, until it becomes part of public consciousness.

I love how Republicans only started giving two figs about "sexism" and "the gender card" when it became politically expedient to do so. Thus, Hillary=whiner, Sarah=discrimination victim.


Io said...

Excellent post my friend. There is just so mach to say about this subject and it's just so complicated - with Palin specifically there's the sexism that mingles with her own exploitation of her motherhood. So I have to acknowledge the sexism, but then she's putting it out there, but then even if she is it's not right to....argh. And then my hear explodes.

JamieD said...

I don't think there is anything I can add to your post!

I have often thought that if it were Palin's husband running instead, I wouldn't even know how many kids they had.

Carlita said...

YES! YES! and more YES! How true this is....and how difficult to fix. I struggle with this issue on a personal level nearly every day and am forced to acknowledge that I am suffering the consequences of having waited too long to have children because I couldn't imagine balancing something so important (children) with something else so time consuming (my work).

We as a society have failed to metabolize the blatant truth that NOBODY has ever dedicated themselves to a highly demanding career and their children at the same time. The 24 hr/day rule applies to men and women alike. Men, however, have failed to question the value of sitting back and letting someone else raise their children while they focus on their ambitions. Women are not only often conflicted about the relative merits of both endeavors, they also have a much harder time finding a willing and able partner to fill in for them.

Vote! said...

It's the media making a big deal out of Palin being a mother. She has done nothing more than Hillary, or Barack or any other candidate has done. They too have had their kids on stage and talked about their kids during speeches. Beyond that I had not heard Palin whine about the media being tough on her because she's a mom. I have also not heard her using motherhood to promote or defend herself. It's the media (and bloggers- democrats and republicans alike) that has brought her motherhood and gender into the forefront and made an issue of it much like they have done with Obama's race. It's an issue because the media has made it an issue. Sarah Palin has given a couple of speeches. That's it. I have not heard her parade her motherhood beyond introductions and a few comments.....nothing more or less than the Clintons and the Obamas have done. We have yet to see what Palin will really do. EVERY candidate, no matter what the political party, uses what they are, what they know, where they come from, their personal trials, tribulations and joys to their advantage when seeking office. Palin is not alone in this. Every single one of them has done it. Obama and Clinton too. Why do you think Hillary stayed with Bill after being so humiliated by him? If she was really a "strong" woman she would have dumped his ass for the embarrassment and humilation he caused her. No, she stayed because she needed his political clout, popularity and fundraising ability so she could run for president one day.
The Obamas had their kids on stage and Michelle has spent a lot of time talking about her girls. The Clintons had Chelsea on stage and in the background all the time and talked about her too. The hyprocrasy is disgusting.
If Palin were a man and nothing else was different we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Heather said...

Another Amen! I'm so sick of hearing about her being a mother as well. I hope this can blow over quickly, so people can go back to debating the issues and not the people. I'd love to see a debate between Palin and Biden. I don't think she could hold her own.

I haven't become a huge fan of Obama yet, as I really wanted Hilary to win the nomination, but IMHO he did a great choice of Biden for VP.

Lifeslurper said...

Queenie! Thanks so much for this post! The Palin situation disturbs me so much (even from the safe distance of Australia!) that I think I have been distracted from possibly the main objection, which you have pinpointed precisely....good on you!

Wordgirl said...

Excellent post.

I kept reading and agreeing and agreeing.

Did you read Anna Quindlen's piece in Newsweek about sexism? It's very interesting as well.

Can you imagine had the democratic candidate for vp been a woman who had returned to work after the birth of her child, let alone one with special needs, can you imagine the Republican outrage?

Or is that just bitter ole me?


Barb said...

Again - great post. Bravo.