Sarah Palin: How Many Women is She?

Thu, September 4, 2008

Moms & Politics

Reformer? Maverick? Defender of motherhood? Independent-minded woman? Former beauty queen? Serious politico? Moose hunter?

As soon as John McCain announced that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin would be his running mate, the liberal vs. conservative online discussion was off to the races! Progressive bloggers are shocked at Palin’s positions on reproductive choice, gun control and religion in schools, just to name a few.

Conservative bloggers have been put off by this reaction, wondering why women should have been expected to celebrate Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency, but not Sarah Palin’s shot at moving into the vice-president’s home at the Naval Observatory in January.

The diverse scuttlebutt in the blogopshere is fascinating.

As I read and think about Sarah Palin, I personally see someone who is WAY too conservative for me (now there’s a surprise, right?). But I have to acknowledge that there are things about her story that are temptingly attractive — she grew up in a small town (like me) where people probably didn’t expect much, either of life or of her, how she went from a PTA mom to governor, how she has been able to figure out the work/life balance thing. When she says things like it’s OK for her kids to eat macaroni and cheese instead of having a Governor’s mansion chef prepare meals every night, I can relate to that kind of life.

I assume there are lots of other women who also find things appealing about Palin. Just as I assume there are many who have concerns about how she’s being discussed and worries about what she’s saying.

People are talking about Palin in a way we don’t talk about men candidates because she is the mother of young children. And how we view her because of that is as diverse as we are.

Elissa’s Illuminations, in wondering about the discussion on Palin’s approach to motherhood, asks:

Why does talking about [putting] children first become reason to call people anti-feminist?

[Palin] is putting herself out there to be looked at, and I will not be afraid to say that moms are invaluable and we need to put our children first. There is nothing anti-feminist about that. And if there is, if I am going to be judged as living in the dark ages because I want to find a way to put my children first, then give me a boar and a club and send me into the cave…just make sure my kids are there too.

Many, including myself, have wondered whether in scrutinizing Palin through the lens of motherhood, we are igniting a new wave of Mommy Wars. Kate at Vice Squad weighs in on that, saying:

For most women, most mothers anyway, Sarah Palin’s situation will seem both alien and familiar. Most of us have never run for high office but we’ve all had to justify our work lives to our families and vice versa. The question in her case is, just what does her family life tell us about how she’d do the job she’s asking us to give her?

For others, in assessing Palin, it’s not about her motherhood, but about her lack of exposure to things other than suburban Anchorage.Mocha Momma says:

[Palin] scoffed at Obama’s community organizing and pushed for her own small town agenda. You know what I heard in that thinly veiled line? Her lack of experience with people of color and the power of community organization. She doesn’t know cities or poverty that way or even what that does for education. She is keeping that dividing line bold and prominent by letting me see what she thinks about that: small town = hard-working white farming families vs. city/community = blacks and latinos and asians and other people she knows nothing about. She so wasn’t talking to me.

So where does that leave us with Sarah Palin? I don’t think we’ll know for a long time, whether she is elected to be the next Vice President or not. But it sure will keep providing us with a lot of good blog fodder.

Cross-posted from BlogHer, where PunditMom is a Contributing Editor for Politics & News.

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16 Responses to “Sarah Palin: How Many Women is She?”

  1. Assertagirl Says:

    It’s such a fascinating race to watch from the outskirts (and frustrating, too). Palin is consistently compared with Obama, but Palin is not running for president…I hope Americans continue to remember that she’ll be the one in charge if McCain’s health goes south.

  2. Shonda Little Says:

    This is a really great post.
    I absolutely agree with the first blog you quoted. I didn’t want to question how she would balance being a mother to small children aloud because it is anti-feminist. However, I know in my own life and my own work that it all stops when my kids are ill. Always. When they are sick, I want to be with them. However, at the end of the day, this isn’t even on the top list of 10 reasons I don’t want Sarah Palin as my vice president. Damn it, I’ve already lived with Dick for 8 years. I deserve a break.

  3. impromptublogger Says:

    ITA – why is putting family first anti-feminist? If you have no choice then there is an issue. If I had a newborn special needs baby that baby would come first.

    If she wins the baby will be raised by other people.

  4. Queen of the Mayhem Says:

    I find her fascinating. I agree that when you sign up to run for public office, you set yourself up to be scrutinized….but it is extreme. I can relate to that feeling of being judged because I work full time. It gets exhausting trying to explain my point to people whose opinions rarely matter to me. (Of course….YOU are not one of those people!) :)

  5. anniegirl1138 Says:

    Palin is easy for me to identify with as a person. We are literally the same age and grew up with the same societal influences.

    Jon Stewart ran a clip of her talking about Clinton back in the spring and noting that women can’t whine about the extra scrutiny they get. Instead this is the point where women need to work harder to prove themselves. And that is SO what I was taught as a girl and young woman. It was not okay to point out inconsistencies in treatment in the workplace or ask for explanation. I was simply expected to work twice as hard as the guy in the next classroom for the same or lesser recognition.

    I hate that.

    It was the early feminist’s answer to the inequality that was so apparent and so willfully ignored.

    Why do I have to “suck it up”? Why are men called upon to explain? Really explain in terms that make sense.

    In the end, Palin doesn’t represent my views or hopes/dreams for our country.

  6. Working Mom Blog Says:

    We need to put the fact that she is female and a mother aside. Just look at the issues. She is a gun totting, religious nut, who opposes stem cell research, will deny benefits to homosexuals, worst of all she will teach cretionism in schools… talk about patriotic… she wanted Alaska to be Independent!! Are people really dumb enough to vote for her just beacuse she is FEMALE? And how is it that she can have it both ways? Right wing Republican Family Values gal… but leaves her baby at home after 3 days? What if a democrat did that? She’d get pummeled!
    hmmm I feel my own post brewing :)

  7. Tracee Says:

    I think she’s a bad-ass and I dig that, personally. She’s got the biggest balls in the Republican party. She’s compelling as any politician I’ve ever seen.

    It can’t be a bad thing that BOTH parties are including women – because they finally realized they HAVE to to win.

    Sarah Palin wouldn’t be where she is without Hillary Clinton and Democratic women – whether she understands that or not.

    Democratic women raised the “fair market value” of Republican women.

    I hope we never see another Presidential Election with 4 men on the ticket.

    It’s better to be included because you’re a woman, than excluded because you’re a woman.

  8. PunditMom Says:

    Tracee, I hate to admit it, but I kind of like the bad-ass attitude, as well. I hate her politics, but there’s something refreshing about a woman candidate who’s not afraid to show some outrage and a little sarcastic humor. Men do it all the time (remember, “Hillary, you’re likeable enough”)?

  9. Harry Knopp Says:

    Palin’s accomplishments as governor are being completely overshadowed by this non-sensical “controversy” about her being a working mother. This country is full of working mothers, so what makes her any different?

    I find the woman fascinating. While you can argue about her experience, the fact is she’s been an extremely effective governor. That’s why her most recent approval poll rating was 85%.

    You can learn a lot about her by using the special section of links on It has links to the Anchorage newspaper and TV stations as well as a link to her biography.

  10. KathyF Says:

    When a woman in the national spotlight goes back to work three days after giving birth, what does that do for the rest of us, who fought hard for family leave?

    I was in pain a week after giving birth; I could hardly stand upright. What if my employer had insisted I come back to work, since he’d heard of women like Palin who dragged themselves into the governor’s office three days after delivering a special needs baby?

    It also raises questions about her hubris–she has a lieutenant governor who is supposed to fill in for her when she’s incapable. Was she reluctant to relinquish power for more than a couple of days?

    While she has every right to live her life as she wishes, I wish her choices weren’t making it more difficult for other women to make their choices.

  11. Tresor De Beaute Says:

    I think having Palin on the ticket is absolutely great!! Despite many of her beliefs that rub liberals the wrong way, as a woman and a mom, she sure does understand what we have to go through to prove ourselves whether professionally or socially. I would love to have a President or VP that would advocate for women in all their structure: women as professionals, women as moms (whether single or married) and women just as women. Who better than a woman to understand that a female colleague may need to leave work early to attend a sick child?

  12. Mary Says:

    As someone who lived under Jesse Ventura’s in MN, I see this as nothing more than entertainment, not serious leadership.

    Have you checked your retirement funds lately? Wall Street is crumbling. Consumers are buying less because, A) no money B) to be “greener”… Housing is on it’s ear… The Big 3 in Detroit are now the tiny-formally-known-as… and every other house in Michigan is up for sale…

    Sarah was chosen because she’s sitting on the biggest natural gas deposits. If a man were the governor of Alaska, he would have been tapped. If they were serious about capturing Hillary’s group, they would have picked any woman who more closely matches Hillary’s positions instead of the polar’s opposite.

  13. OhNoNotAgain Says:

    Ms. Palin made very specific reference to Senator Clinton and her “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling”.

    It remains to be seen if those 18 million supporters can be fooled by a deeply cynical attempt to exploit the deep desire for equity that is, finally! coming to America. We believe that the choices are stark indeed: McCain’s tired and recycled Bush policies of fear and sleight of hand, versus a firmly progressive Senator Obama whose policies will restore leadership to an America sorely lacking that leadership.

  14. Tracy Says:

    McCain was the only Republican I could have voted for before choosing Palin. I thought he was independent, but he’s shown he too must kowtow to Rove’s religious right. McCain has always made his feelings of contempt known for that wing of the party dominating it for the past 25 years. Well, I will say, he’s given them a good poke in the eye now, and they have to embrace somebody they couldn’t stand. With all the very competent moderate Republican women to choose from, he found instead an evangelical Christian with a pregnant teenager, and my oh my, is the usually intolerant right wing press ever backpedaling their usual heaps of scorn.

    I come from the same background as Palin – white, rural, western state, Republican, religious conservative — and parents forced to marry because of an unwed pregnancy. Years of misery for all followed. So, Palin appeases the hypocritical religious base by making it sound okay that her sexually active teen daughter will marry the father.

    Here’s what I don’t get — family values on all sides would naturally expect that a woman with a pregnant daughter, especially underage, would want to be spending time preparing for the baby, counseling her daughter, and keeping her out of the limelight, especially since the woman’s got a newborn of her own in need of attention. Women can have it all, but there are seasons to our lives. When you choose to have kids, career takes a backseat for awhile because kids require so much time – “quality time” doesn’t exist for kids. Letting naked ambition contribute more to this family’s current level of dysfuntion is turning off a lot of women.

  15. Cristina J Says:

    If you are ever on TV again sparring with a right-winger (Rachel Campos?) Just remind the audience that these same people who are defending and supporting McCain/Palin supported and defended Bush/Cheney four years ago, and look where that has taking this country.

  16. Donna Says:

    I find it interesting that Palin has stated that her daughter Bristol “chose” to have her baby and is planning to marry the father. Wonder why her daughter gets to choose, yet Palin vehemently supports making that choice one that is government controlled. With several Supreme Court Justices nearing retirement, a reversal of Roe v. Wade is a real possibility in the near future. It scares the hell out of me.

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