Because Sarah Palin feels so comfortable trotting her 7-year-old daughter around the political world, it’s only fair to highlight one of the most central women’s issues that she didn’t touch upon in her Henderson appearance Tuesday: motherhood.
It may be perfectly suitable for Piper to accompany her mother on the grueling campaign trail, jetting into small towns and smiling to adoring crowds with a hybrid beauty pageant/campaign wave.
It may be perfectly suitable not to have a second-grader in school for long stretches, especially when the parents are committed to schooling the youngster at home.
And it may be perfectly suitable to keep the Alaskan First Family off limits.
But not when they’re seeking the White House. And not when they’re charging their home state to keep the family intact.
Women continue to be forced to make unfair choices in this country because of the expected gender role of primary caregiver. So criticizing Palin for bringing her kids into the campaign may not be fair. She’s a governor seeking the vice presidency. The kids are along for the ride.
But Palin’s mythical ascension to the heartbeat-away candidacy is also a giant myth for most women trying to balance work and family.
It may not be fair to raise this issue in 2008 with a woman again on a presidential ticket. And no, it isn’t fair that the media doesn’t question Barack Obama for all that Daddy time he has missed. But the reality for working women is that most employers won’t pay tens of thousands of dollars for child care, or to have our children travel with us on official business.
Palin has opened her family to criticism because she has charged the state of Alaska $21,000 for 76 flights in the 18 months she has served as governor.
Forget about flying your kids around on the government dime. It would seem to me that in 2008, a woman seeking any job would likely be shown the door if she so much as asked for a more flexible schedule. Kids are sick? Get a baby sitter. Have to travel? Hope Dad can fill in for you. Need to see the Halloween parade or the school play or the spelling bee? That’s fine, as long as it’s on the weekend or after hours.
The mythology being foisted on women by Palin’s candidacy is that you can have it all — no questions asked.
Here is a woman who essentially has an assistant whose job it is to care for her young daughter. Here is a woman whose job, not to mention popularity rating, permits her to do things no man would ever get away with.
In every imaginable profession, from Wall Street and boardrooms to restaurants and mail rooms — mothers are not expected to bring their daughters or sons to work.
Professionalism only goes so far when you’ve got a pre-schooler in tow. Imagine you’re on a conference call with a woman who suddenly issues a "time out" warning to a child or excuses herself to fetch another juice box.
Palin likes to talk about breaking that final glass ceiling (if I were McCain, I wouldn’t so much as let her fix me a cup of tea) as if it’s just about to happen.
If Palin were serious about respecting women, she wouldn’t trot out there in an impossible, made-for-politics role suggesting neither work nor family suffers.
It’s also a little presumptuous on her part to assume that women will automatically vote for a woman because they have the same biology. "Our opponents think that they have the women’s vote all locked up, which is a little presumptuous, since only our side has a woman on the ticket," Palin said Tuesday.
Using her logic, Colin Powell must have been genetically pre-programmed to support Obama.
And what about all those Democratic voters who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton in the caucuses and primaries? All sexists?
Working mothers do need an advocate in the White House. Working mothers do need policies that inject more fairness into the workplace.
Maybe equal pay laws are unenforceable. Maybe mandatory sick days will be hard on business. But at least Obama has thought about women’s issues for more than the 20 minutes McCain apparently did in placing Palin on the ticket.
There are no specific proposals dealing with women on McCain’s Web site, unless you count the human dignity plank which lists "overturning Roe v. Wade," and "protecting marriage." On Obama’s Web site, there are proposals on 25 women’s issues, from women-owned small businesses to protection from violence.
It sure would be nice to live in the Palin fantasy world, where you don’t have to make choices between work and family. Or where people vote for you just because you’re a woman.
Jealous? To be jealous, you generally have to want what someone else has. What Palin has doesn’t fit my family, doesn’t fit the reality for women and would be a bad fit for America.
Contact Erin Neff at (702) 387-2906, or by e-mail at email@example.com.