John McCain chose the supremely under-qualified Sarah Palin as his running mate partly because she is a woman. If you have a problem with that, you’re a sexist. She talks incessantly about being a mother of five and uses her newborn, Trig, who has Down syndrome, as a campaign prop. If you wonder how she’ll handle all those kids and the Veep job too, you’re a super-sexist. "When do they ever ask a man that question?" charges that fiery feminist Rudy Giuliani. Indeed, Palin, who went back to work when Trig was three days old, gets nothing but praise from Phyllis Schlafly, James Dobson and the folks at National Review, who usually blame all the ills of modern America on those neurotic, harried, selfish, frustrated, child-neglecting, husband-castrating working mothers. Even stranger, her five-months-pregnant 17-year-old, Bristol, gets nothing but compassion and respect from Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and others who have spent their careers slut-shaming teens for having sex–and blaming their parents for letting it happen.
If there were an Olympics for hypocrisy, the Republican Party would have more gold medals than Michael Phelps. And Palin would be wearing quite a few of them. It takes chutzpah for a mother to thrust her pregnant teen into the world’s harshest spotlight and then demand the world respect the girl’s privacy. But then it takes chutzpah to support criminalizing abortion and then praise Bristol’s "decision" to have the baby. The right to decide, and privacy, after all, are two of the things Palin wants to deny every other woman, and every other family, in America. Palin’s even said she would "choose life" if her daughter was pregnant from rape. Can’t you just hear Bristol groaning, "Mo-om…!"
The Republicans bashed Barack Obama as a "celebrity," but now they’ve got a star of their own, so naturally the rules have changed. Nothing would suit them better than for the media to spend the next two months spellbound by the wacky carnival on ice that is the Palin family: Todd, aka the First Dude, the kids, Levi the hunky bad-boy dad-to-be–well, maybe not him so much after his expletive-adorned MySpace page briefly came to light ("I’m a fuckin’ redneck"; "I don’t want kids"–whoops). The snowmobiles, the moose burgers, the guns, the hair, the glasses that are flying off America’s shelves (starting at $375 a pair, and she has seven). Fretting over the work/family issue alone should take up enough column inches to employ all the female journalists in America from now to next Mother’s Day. And don’t forget that op-ed staple, What Does This Mean for Feminism?
Well, I’m not playing. I don’t care about Sarah Palin’s family. I don’t care if she’s a good mother. I don’t care if she’s happily married, or who shops and who vacuums, or who takes care of the kids while both parents are at work. I don’t want her recipe for caribou hot dogs, either. Life chez Sarah and Todd might make an adorable sitcom (Leave It to Jesus?) or a scathing tell-all a decade or so down the road (Governor Dearest?). Either way, so what? This is an election, not The View. As for feminism’s meaning, what can you say after you’ve said that her career shows that even right-wing fundamentalist women have taken in feminism’s message of empowerment and that’s good, but that Palin’s example suggests women can do it all without support from society and that’s bad?