Friday, September 5, 2008

Sarah Palin's Parenting Choices Come Under Attack

There's been an eruption of crude sexism following Sarah Palin's nomination as the GOP vice-presidential running mate.

Most of the gender-related criticism of Palin so far has come from
radical feminists angry that a conservative Alaska Governor with five kids may well become President of the United States. But a particularly demeaning sexist double-standard is afloat as well, suggesting, essentially, that Palin's sacrificing nuturing motherhood for a high-powered political career.

A Boston Globe article yesterday practically turned Palin's career choices into a scandal:

The decades-old debate over motherhood and work is back, reignited nanoseconds after John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate.

It's raging everywhere from the blogosphere to the workplace. Consider what Adena Cohen-Bearak of Needham - a mother, blogger, and self-described feminist - had to say this week in her "MotherThoughts" blog: "Palin (who is 44) has 5 kids . . . ranging from 18 to 4 or 5 MONTHS old (the baby happens to have Downs). I don't really understand how she can be GOVERNOR with all those kids to deal with, never mind Vice President of the COUNTRY!"
It's not just blogging moms who are outraged at Palin's take-no-prisoners mothering style.

It turns out that Howard Gutman, a member of
Barack Obama's national campaign finance committee, attacked Palin for alleged parental neglect, and Sally Quinn at the Washington Post joined in with this criticism:

Not only do we have a woman with five children, including an infant with special needs, but a woman whose 17-year-old child will need her even more in the coming months. Not to mention the grandchild. This would inevitably be an enormous distraction for a new vice president (or president) in a time of global turmoil.
These are rank attacks, and opportunistic in that they're coming primarily - though not exclusively - from the left. And this is a double-standard that's not going over well with a good lot of voters.

Here's the response of Sandra Summers, a lecturer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill:

So, if John McCain gets elected, Sarah Palin will have three young children in her charge and a demanding career to boot ("Palin's Family Life Moves to Center Stage," Campaign '08, Sept. 2). Big whoop, so do millions of other unsung American women. I raised two great children, taught, earned a Ph.D. and ran my household with no outside help. I still had time to volunteer at church, go to my kids' games, even watch TV. Unlike the majority of moms, Sarah Palin won't have to bother with shopping, cooking or cleaning because she'll have staff to take care of those chores. In my book, that almost makes her a woman of leisure.
Also, Elizabeth Bobe Barron, from Panama City, Florida, asks this question:

Why didn't anyone ask Mr. Biden to stay home and care for his young, motherless sons rather than take his seat in the U.S. Senate? Apparently, I am going against the trend because I am a pro-choice Hillary supporter who will be voting for John McCain and Sarah Palin in November.
There's some debate as to who'll be harmed more by the gendered backlash, the Democrats or the Republicans?

But as I've noted before,
Sarah Palin's redifining feminism for the current age, and the old-school women's liberationist (and their Democratic allies) are being left in her dust.

See also, "Politics and Parenting: Assessing How Gov. Palin Handles the Balance."