Shortly after John McCain announced his pick for vice president, I was on the phone with my dad and he asked what I thought about Sarah Palin. I wasn’t sure; she’s probably too conservative for my taste. “That shouldn’t matter,” he quipped. “It’s all about breaking the glass ceiling, right?”
Excuse me? The idea that my father, a forty-nine-year-old lifelong conservative and Rush Limbaugh fan, suddenly cares about breaking the glass ceiling is a bit disturbing. Do other supporters of the old white man’s party also feel they are part of gender equality in the making? I don’t recall a large Hillary Clinton following among the Viagra crowd.
Today, women working full time make approximately 77 cents for every dollar that men make. While this is an improvement from the 1960s, the goal of equal pay for equal work has yet to be reached, which limits the success of women in all areas of social power based on economic wealth, including politics. To be fair, Palin has at least made a crack in the glass ceiling. She is the first woman and youngest person to be elected governor of Alaska, as well as the second female running mate in U.S. history and the GOP’s first.
In her first public appearance as the vice-presidential nominee, Palin gave a speech commending Clinton and urging women voters to shatter the glass ceiling: “It was rightly noted…that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all,” she said.
McCain’s camp hopes to seize a political advantage and cash in on former Clinton supporters by playing the gender card, but is Palin, a self-proclaimed “hockey mom,” really the right candidate to break the glass ceiling? Making a second career out of motherhood (the Palins have five children) and asking for special treatment from the media hardly seems like the way to go about it.
She has repeatedly voted against explicit sex education in Alaska public schools (meaning she favors the same abstinence-only rubbish taught in some Georgia schools). Her unwed 17-year-old daughter is pregnant; she clearly could have used a tutorial on condom use. Palin eloped with her high school sweetheart at the age of 24. Their first child was born just eight months later. Sound like a shotgun wedding to anyone else?
When Clinton was still in the race, my blood would boil whenever I would hear women say they were voting for her just because she’s a woman. That’s what I don’t get. It is not about gender. It never has been. For me, equality means treating men and women equally. We should hold our presidential candidates to the same standards, whether male or female. When I interview for a job, I expect that my future employer will not discriminate against me. Similarly, I expect that I will not receive special treatment because I am a woman.
Members of conservative media outlets have already asked their colleagues for special treatment of Palin. Last week on The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly berated columnists for being “brutally unfair” in their critique of Palin’s pregnant daughter. O’Reilly is the same commentator who blamed the pregnancy of Jamie Lynn Spears—sixteen at the time—on her parents, stating they “obviously [had] little control over her.”
As for Palin’s accountability, O’Reilly maintains that her daughter’s situation is a personal family matter that Americans should not judge Palin for. If Governor Palin cannot handle the same public scrutiny that her male counterparts have received, then perhaps she is not ready for the vice presidency.
Palin is a staunch pro-lifer, refusing the option of abortion even in cases of incest and rape. She admits to having smoked marijuana yet refuses the re-legalization of it in Alaska, supposedly in fear of the message it would send to her children. Chronically ill Alaskans are suffering pain that may have been alleviated by medicinal marijuana because Palin’s children cannot distinguish between medical and recreational drug use? By now I think we are all aware of her exceptional parenting skills.
I’m all for breaking the glass ceiling, but I don’t want just any woman making history for my gender. In my mind, “hockey mom” is not synonymous with feminist role model. Palin does belong in a house, just not the White House.