Talking With Our Daughters About Sarah Palin

Fri, September 19, 2008


I was chatting with a news reporter from another country who lives in our general neighborhood yesterday about the the Sarah Palin phenomenon — why she’s getting so much coverage, can you compare her to Hillary Clinton, (NO!) and whether working moms would support Palin.

We were heading off to pick up children when she casually asked me, “What do you tell your daughter about Sarah Palin?”

As a Democrat who is opposed to pretty much everything Palin stands for, it was actually a question I had been mulling over for a while. PunditGirl was all for Hillary Clinton early in the campaign because in her eight-year-old mind, it was high time a “girl” had a turn to run the White House and be in charge. She didn’t really concern herself with the specifics of Hillary’s plan to get us out of Iraq or her health care policy. As a now-third-grader, girl power was the only thing she was focused on.

But I’ve been struggling with how to talk with her about Sarah Palin. I’m pretty vocal at home, as a general rule, about how I feel about the candidates, but I’ve felt the need to hold back when talking about Sarah Palin in front of PunditGirl.

Because for better or worse, Palin’s place on the GOP ticket is historic, just as Hillary Clinton’s place was, as well. Regardless of the reasons John McCain picked her, Palin is a ‘first’ and will now always have a place in the history books and could be inspiring for many young girls just like my daughter.

I don’t have the same compulsion to parse my words if I’m criticizing John McCain or George Bush — and I was proud to see my views of the current president reflected in PunditGirl’s first day of school collage project, which featured a picture of George Bush with a big red magic marker “X” through his image! Now THAT warms a progressive mother’s heart!

But I think it’s going to be hard for my daughter to understand that someone who is a mother of a daughter about her same age doesn’t feel the way we do. She knows I’m openly supportive of the idea that girls can do whatever they want, and that women and girls need to support each other in achieving our goals in what is still a man’s world. So I’m pretty sure my strong dislike of Palin is going to require some serious and carefully worded explaining.

I want PunditGirl to respect the historic nature of Palin’s candidacy while helping her understand that the ideas of some “girls” would be horrible for the country and especially for women — that not all “girls” share the same vision of what girl-power is.

It seems it’s time for the lesson that not all “girls” or moms are created equal and that sometimes one girl’s vision of empowerment is another’s idea of losing ground for the future.

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24 Responses to “Talking With Our Daughters About Sarah Palin”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I would be more inclined to appreciate the momentum of the first GOP presidential ticket with a woman if she had been chosed because of her accomplishments and not solely because she’s a woman (and pretty). I want my daughter to learn that hard work helps you achieve your goals, whether you’re a man or woman…even though that’s not always the way the real world works!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    oops, “chosen” I really don’t have such bad grammar!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Maybe this will help show that she isn’t quite a ‘first’.

  4. bloggingmom67 Says:

    Interesting question, especially because a lot of the reasons I’m opposed to Sarah Palin would be tough to explain to my kids, ages 8 and 6.

    However, my kids have been rabid Obama supporters since April because they heard somewhere — still don’t know where — that Obama wants to shorten the school week to four days. I’ve told them this is not true, but they don’t believe me.

    Good luck with your daughter.

  5. Feener Says:

    i actually find the entire idea of politics and kids interesting. can they really decided on their own who they feel would be better for their country OR is it just a kid repeating what they have been taught by their parents.

    I have to say that I think it is a bit disappointing that you mention a big red cross through bush, wouldn’t it be more proactive and positive to have just had an obama face and change and a YES. Does she really understand why she is saying NO to Bush. You might not agree with him and hate him, but i think teaching her to be FOR something and NOT against something is better. sorry i had to say something. i just do not like seeing any more hate fueled no matter who it is against.

  6. Backpacking Dad Says:

    Time for a lesson in set containment.

    The set of all women contains “first woman vice president”.

    The set of all possible “first woman vice president” contains Sarah Palin.

    The value of historicity changes with each particular member of the set of all possible “first woman vice president” and is not conferred equally to every member of that set just in virtue of being a member of the set.

    The GOP would like us to ignore particulars in favour of the set as a whole.

  7. Teri Says:

    Back to Palin, huh? Well, you make some interesting points that I’d love to discuss.

    1. “why she’s getting so much coverage, can you compare her to Hillary Clinton, (NO!)” I agree with you totally on this one. Gov. Palin got where she is through hard work and determination, not because of who her husband is.

    2. “PunditGirl’s first day of school collage project, which featured a picture of George Bush with a big red magic marker “X” through his image! Now THAT warms a progressive mother’s heart!” This is progressive? Fostering hate and negativity moves things forward? You call yourself a progressive quite often, but your words do not bear this out.

    3. “She knows I’m openly supportive of the idea that girls can do whatever they want, and that women and girls need to support each other in achieving our goals in what is still a man’s world.” Except when their ideas and ideals don’t match yours.

    4. “one girl’s vision of empowerment is another’s idea of losing ground for the future.” Ah, I see you’ve got the Christine Pelosi view of feminism. Yes, it’s maybe, kind of a step forward for a woman to be on a national ticket, but it’s really not because she’s not like me. Real progressive there.

    Since you seem convinced that the Obama/Biden ticket is so much better for women, you might be interested to know that in Obama’s Senate office, the 28 male staffers earned an average of $54,397 per year, while his 30 female employees earned $45,152, on average. If you do the math, that’s 83 cents on the dollar. Taking a look at McCain’s office, his 17 male staffers earned an average of $53,936, while his 25 female staffers earned an average $55,878. So in McCain’s office, his female employees make $1.04per every dollar. Wow, pretty progressive, I’m sure you’d agree. BTW, all of this data can be found at

    Looking forward to your thoughts on this. Thanks!

  8. PunditMom Says:

    PunditGirl knows exactly why she does’t want Bush — he started a war we didn’t need to start and he lied about it to the American people. Somtimes politics CAN be easy enough for an eight-year-old to understand.

  9. Cerulean Bill Says:

    Her historic place is as the first woman on the ticket for the Republicans. Geraldine Ferraro broke that barrier on the Democratic side more than two decades ago.

  10. Teri Says:

    No one has questioned PGs ability to decide who she likes or dislikes. I do question PMs ability to call herself progressive while fostering extreme negativity. My theory about you “progressives” is that you are transferring your hatred of Bush onto Palin because you can’t be happy if you don’t hate someone with a passion. And maybe you don’t hate Palin yet, but you sure do resent the hell out of her.

    I also question PMs ability to answer people who question her on her views. Let’s give our emotions a rest and get back to the issues. How do you feel about the pay disparity mentioned earlier?

  11. OmegaMom Says:

    Frankly, I think it’s an excellent opportunity to show that we’ve achieved some big steps: We now have the chance to vote *against* a woman vice president. In other words, we’ve reached a point where the issues overwhelm the gender–which is the whole point of feminism, female empowerment, the women’s movement, yadda yadda yadda.

    At least that’s the way I’m looking at it.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    I remember being in the 3rd grade – watching the Dem & Rep National Conventions with my mom, brother & sister. We were encouraged as children to pay attention, form our own opinions, ask questions, and be vocal. I was 8…and I got it.

    I agree that we need to be supportive of women – which also includes holding each other accountable. Sometimes it gets sticky. But, I don't think this is that hard to explain. Sarah Palin is interviewing for a job. She's not the most qualified – doesn't have the most experience – isn't the most highly educated. And even if she were…the man she's running with doesn't have the same goals, objectives, or ideals that I think someone should have to be president. So…it's not about her gender – it's about her abilities.

    As far as what is and is not progressive… Any time you tell a child the truth about the world, you ARE progressive – even if that truth is something that a lot of grown-ups choose to ignore.

  13. sandy shoes Says:

    My girls are 6 and 4… old enough to know that Voting Is Important and that we will soon be voting for the next President of our country… too young for policy discussions. So I’ll be pulling this advice out of thin air, but here’s what I think:

    You can explain that even though Gov. Palin is a woman and should know better, she still believes that it is right for our country to be fighting a war against a country that did us no harm; she doesn’t believe what scientists say about our climate and our world, because she wants to believe something else; she believes it would be OK to take books out of libraries so nobody can read them; she believes [insert bizarre, would-be-funny-if-it-weren't-so-scary belief here].

    You can say that sometimes women are wrong about things too, and that even though we really want a woman to have a turn being in charge, it would only be good for the country if she isn’t crazier than a shithouse rat.

    Wait, maybe leave out that last part.

    I’m beginning to see your point…

  14. Teri Says:

    Omegamom, you make a very good point. This is a history-making election, with a woman and black on the ballot. It really is a step forward for our country, and it is exciting as well. I now have the opportunity to not vote for a black man for the presidency, and that’s progress. How happy would MLK, Jr. be that we have the opportunity to judge a man, not based on the color of his skin, but on the merit of his beliefs, which just so happen not to be my own.

    And I also appreciate Anonymous’ words: “Any time you tell a child the truth about the world, you ARE progressive – even if that truth is something that a lot of grown-ups choose to ignore.” Spot on, Anon! Let’s be truthful about the fact that Sarah Palin running for VP is progressive, is a step forward for women. Let’s do away with the vitriol, and let’s get down to hashing out the issues.

    Thanks for providing this “forum,” PunditMom. Thanks to you, I realize that conservative women are the new progressives. And I believe sandy shoes just proved my point.

  15. anniegirl1138 Says:

    I can respect what Palin has achieved without agreeing with her politics or religion, and I am pretty sure that if I were teaching this year, I would be able to convey both my admiration for the historic Palin as well as my differences with her stances.

    And that’s just it, we can’t let the ceil crackers among us pass without legitimate comment and debate simply because they are first. That happens all to often amongst we “minority” groups. We stand silent out of fear that our real criticisms will be distorted by the ruling class and twisted around against the “firsts” and ourselves. But I don’t think we do ourselves any favors when we don’t speak up and speak the truth.

    Palin is inexperienced but she is holding her own pretty well in a very rough game and frankly even if she is “small-town” she still did it on her own – no small feat.

    I disagree with Palin’s vision for our country. I am not going to let her gender or mine own keep me from speaking out against her. She is first but she is not right or the best for what the country needs right now. That is not a slam nor does it belittle her place in history.

    Oh, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with PunditGirl crossing off Bush. His own party has pretty much done that this year. And we learn in increments and according to our age level. As she gets older she will understand the reason as well as she does the sentiment.

  16. winecat Says:

    Hi PunditMom I received this email from a friend today . I think it’s brilliant idea and want to spread the word.
    Subject: Fwd: a brilliant idea for $10

    Instead of (in addition to?) us all sending around more emails about how horrible she is, let’s all make a donation to Planned Parenthood.In Sarah Palin’s name.

    And here’s the good part: when you make a donation to PP in her

    name, they’ll send her a card telling her that the donation has

    been made in her honor. Here’s the link to the Planned

    Parenthood website:

    You’ll need to fill in the address to let PP know where to send

    the “in Sarah Palin’s honor” card. I suggest you use the address

    for the McCain campaign headquarters, which is:

    McCain for President

    1235 S. Clark Street

    1st Floor

    Arlington , VA 22202

    PS make sure you use that link above or choose the pulldown of

    Donate–Honorary or Memorial Donations, not the regular “Donate


  17. sandy shoes Says:

    Far be it from me to prove teri’s point (convervatives are the new progressives? Okey-dokey.). I apologize. I should’ve gone with “wingnut” ;).

    In all seriousness, if pointing out that I find many of Palin’s positions range from fundamentally ignorant to merely wrong to outright wacky = vitriol, then so be it. Would it help if I also said in other ways, I admire her? But don’t be claiming the high road on the snark factor, at least not with a straight face.

    Frankly, the possibility of Palin in the White House scares me, as it does a lot of people. And since the whole idea of a Veep is to be someone people can be comfortable with maybe taking over the big job, her candidacy is causing many voters to freak out a bit.

    …which is A Good Thing. I am delighted to have the opportunity to vote against a woman whose beliefs are not my own.

  18. KARIN Says:

    Oh, easy. Sarah Palin was chosen because of her looks. If that isn’t sexist, I don’t know what is. She’s a trophy running mate- John McCain has a thing about trophy mates.

    If I do my job right, my 6-year-old daughter will never prostitute herself for political (or financial) gain like Sarah Palin.
    In fact,Palin’s selection has been a fabulous teaching tool for me. My daughter and I have discussed sexism, book banning, shooting wolves from helicopters, teen pregnancy, high school drop out boyfriends, creationism, dionosaurs….it’s been great. She already knows far more than a 6 year old should have to know about politics and George Bush, since her daddy just came home from Iraq yesterday. (She’d probably come up with the red cross idea on her own.) But I doubt we’d have discussed the other subjects. So thanks, Sarah Palin for allowing the Republican party to use you and provide an example of what I hope my daughter never becomes.

  19. JollyRoger Says:

    Sarah Palin is a “popular” kid who never grew up. We’ve all encountered them in our lives; I refer to them as “permateens.” She’s gotten by her whole life on her ability to continue to play the role of the popular kid-but everything she’s touched as an executive has been a disaster. Wasilla is a strip mall between two cesspools, the wheels are just about ready to come off Alaska, and I don’t even like to contemplate what would become of us if she were President. Chimpy’s era would probably be remembered with fondness.

    I also have two daughters, and I want them to KNOW SOMETHING. Sarahpoleon is still the “mean girl” cheerleader from high school, most certainly NOT a role model for my daughters, or yours.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    We do discuss politics in our house quite a bit. We explain why we don’t think President Bush has made good decisions about the war, about how less fortunate people are to be treated, etc. With regard to Palin we discuss how it is historic that she is on the ticket but that Mommy and Daddy do not believe she is qualified to be vice-president or president (and why), just as we did not believe that President Bush was qualified to be president and look where we are now.

  21. pajamadeen Says:

    Not having a daughter, it hadn’t dawned on me that explaining Sarah Palin to a young girl would, indeed, prove to be quite a challenge! Hmmmm….

    Hopefully, PunditGirl will just turn to you one day after listening to Palin and say “Mommy, that’s not what we believe, is it?”

    Is anyone else having this Palin experience? If I so much as see a picture of her, much less listen to her, my jaw becomes tight and I begin to develop a slight tension headache. Several of my female friends report the same symptoms. Too bad there’s not a name for this affliction.

  22. Sarah Says:

    I swear I had my first EVER panic attack the day McCain announced her as his running mate. Chest pains, heart racing, sweating…

    I love the point about her being a “permateen”. Perhaps voters need a reminder that she’s not running for prom queen – a position she’s actually qualified for.

  23. Randy Cook Says:

    You know punditmon, I really feel sorry for you and your daughter.

    Progressive? Chairman Mao was a progressive too.

    You should thank W for making this country safe enough for you to have misguided views.

  24. sarah Says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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