Friday, September 12, 2008

Pigs, Pit Bulls, and Palin

We don’t wear no mini skirts,
We just wear our soccer shirts.
We don’t play with Barbie dolls,
We just play with Soccer balls.

And so begins my eight-year-old daughter’s soccer team chant. It’s a little different from the “Firecracker, Firecracker, Boom, Boom, Boom” hip-shaking cheer I was doing at her age and that’s just fine with me. Another difference between my daughter and me is the fact that I never heard the term “sexism” as a child. However, two days ago she asked me what it was and I did my best to explain it to her. She, of course, heard this term on the news this week. I had actually expected the question to come from my eleven-year-old son since he is now at the age where even the slightest inference of sex makes his ears perk up. Alas, it was my daughter and I felt prepared and qualified enough to discuss the topic with her. After all, I’m college educated and a professional working woman. What I felt utterly unprepared for was explaining to her exactly how sexism applies to Sarah Palin. She hasn’t asked about Sarah Palin yet, so I left that part of the discussion for another day. The conversation did get me thinking and whenever that happens, writing usually follows.

So, lots of accusations about Sarah Palin being the victim of sexism have been tossed out for us, the American voters, to chew on this week. I’ve paused more than once to really think about this. I admit, I’ve had more than a little difficulty wrapping my mind around what exactly it is that is going on here. After careful and thoughtful analysis, I’ve determined that the reason I’m having a hard time with this is that I don’t have a word in my vocabulary that describes what I’m observing. It’s definitely not sexism. The American Heritage Dictionary defines sexism as “The belief that one sex (usually the male) is naturally superior to the other and should dominate most important areas of political, economic, and social life.” Nope, she’s definitely not suffering from sexism. Actually, it seems to me that she is suffering (Read: benefiting) from a perverted twisting of sexism that I don’t have a name for.

Here are my observations and questions related to this:

1) Is it actually sexism to choose a woman for a job just because she’s a woman? If the answer to this is yes, then I have to conclude that Tim Pawlenty is actually the one who has been the victim of sexism and not Sarah Palin. Palin it seems has been the beneficiary rather than the victim.

2) When Palin went on national television and described herself as a hockey mom and then further went on to say the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick, is that sexism? I mean certainly no one would ever say the only difference between a hockey dad and a pit bull is lipstick.

3) Is using the phrase “lipstick on a pig” sexism? If the answer is yes, is it the “pig” part or the “lipstick” part that is sexism? If it is the “pig” part, I’m going to have to stop using the phrase “happy as a pig in the sunshine.” If it is the “lipstick” part, Palin needs to stop telling her pit bull joke. Oh wait, maybe it is the combination of pigs and lipstick that makes this remark sexist? If the answer to that is yes, what on God’s green earth does any of that have to do with the economy, health care, the war, or taxes?

Here’s the point. Sarah Palin can’t have it both ways. She can’t put on the “Mantle of Motherhood” in her national political debut and then expect no one to ask questions about how she mothers and governs at the same time. She can’t be the “Pit bull” of the Republican Party and expect no criticism to come back her way. She can’t disclose the name, rank, unit, and deployment date of her son, as admirable as that may be, and expect no one to ask about her pregnant daughter. She can’t just say she’s qualified to be Vice President. She must open herself up to the media like McCain, Obama, and Biden have done. And come to think about it, like Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama have also done. And if the media asks her tough questions, here’s a news flash: they are doing their jobs, not attacking her because she is a woman or a conservative. Sarah, if you can’t run with the big dogs, you need to get back on the porch with the Barbies, I mean, puppies. Surely the pit bull hockey mom, rifle shooting, moose-stew eating Sarah Palin isn’t going to turn out to be whiner. After all, as she should know by now, there is no place for whining in hockey, motherhood, or politics.

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