If she's a feminist, we should be able to ask who cares for Sarah Palin's kids

by Lynn Schofield Clark

I woke up at 4:30 this morning in a tense sweat. It wasn’t due to the usual university professor stresses of a new school year, though, or worries about my kid’s various activities. Today, my concerns weren’t about my own overcommitted life: they were about Sarah Palin’s.

Here’s a woman who, according to the Republican pundits, should be celebrated by working women like me. She’s juggling kids and a demanding job, like me. She’s competent, articulate, and clearly ambitious. She has a wonderful family and beautiful kids. Lots of women I know fit that description. She, pundits would lead us to believe, will understand our life experiences. But actually, I find Sarah Palin rather frightening.

This woman strikes me as more autocratic in her leadership style, more self-centered, and more mean-spirited than many of her male counterparts – and she is using her femininity to get away with being this way.

Sarah Palin seems to relish looking as if she can “do it all” — and in the true (and truly false) American ideology of individualism, she seems to like to look as if she can do it with no help. Make no mistake, though; this is not a feminist position. This is against everything that feminism has noted about how much our SYSTEM makes it difficult to juggle the demands of home and family for both women and men. It’s not that men working and women caring for the household is the natural order of things, as fundamentalists would have us believe; it’s that the system demands such full-fledged attention of its workers that it’s almost impossible for us to have any other arrangement.

That’s why I think asking about who cares for her kids is a valid question, and not an anti-feminist one: feminists acknowledge that SOMEONE needs to do the caregiving. The feminist point is that it doesn’t have to be the mom, or the mom alone. It can be the dad, and the grandma, and others, too. In other words, as Hillary Clinton has said, IT TAKES A VILLAGE. The fact that Sarah Palin refuses to acknowledge the village that makes her own life possible is what makes her anti-feminist, in my view. The fact is, if she had to acknowledge it, she’d be asked uncomfortable questions, such as why doesn’t she extend to others the same benefits of support that she herself enjoys – say, to single mothers, and disadvantaged families? Why shouldn’t women (and men) who have had less good fortune have support when they run into difficulties? Such questions would point to the fact that Sarah Palin’s views and policies are not only anti-feminist, but are deeply self-centered and callous. And those are not attractive qualities in anyone, female or male.

I’m shocked that the same people who mock Michelle Obama can somehow find something redeeming in a woman who discounts the importance of community. How in the world could a woman like Sarah Palin do all she does without a community organized behind her? But I’m especially angry that the Republicans are able to pretend to be so feminist in supporting a woman, and yet they cautiously avoided any images of her husband holding the new baby (it was Cindy McCain who held him during her speech). The worst thing for them would be if Palin came across as emasculating. And yet, isn’t it possible for men to support women without sacrificing their manhood? Isn’t that, too, a feminist position?

This is central to I think what makes Sarah Palin scary. Her very support system is a secret. Who does she listen to? We don’t know. How does she manage her various roles and commitments? We don’t know. There’s a lot we don’t know about this woman. But one thing I know so far: she’s no feminist.

Lynn Clark is an Associate Professor at the University of Denver’s Department of Mass Communications, where she oversees several research teams and teach courses for aspiring journalists, journalism educators, and media researchers in media studies, new media, media history, civic engagement, service learning, qualitative (interview-based) research methods, and the music industry. She’s also Director of the Estlow International Center for Journalism and New Media, where she spends a lot of time writing (as you can see on the Estlow Center Web site ).

11 replies »

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  2. Obviously you missed Lynn’s point:

    That’s why I think asking about who cares for her kids is a valid question, and not an anti-feminist one: feminists acknowledge that SOMEONE needs to do the caregiving. The feminist point is that it doesn’t have to be the mom, or the mom alone. It can be the dad, and the grandma, and others, too. In other words, as Hillary Clinton has said, IT TAKES A VILLAGE.

  3. Brian,

    I didn’t miss her point at all. I was making a point about the sexist treatment that Palin’s getting from the left. I was dismayed that the NOW came out against Palin, hoping that they would be thrilled for a woman to break the glass ceiling. Perhaps the left isn’t interested in promoting minorities and women, just their own agenda.


  4. …the sexist treatment that Palin’s getting from the left.

    Frankly, this is ridiculous. At the very worst she’s being held to the standards that she and her allies on the fundamentalist right have established for women in America. Yes, she IS a woman, but the ideologies that underpin her policy stances are 17th Century Puritan. A man who believed what she does would be rightly castigated as reactionary, or worse, misogynistic.

    Jeff, you’ve always been a guy who was conservative, but interested in the truth first and foremost. In the past couple of weeks you’ve sounded more like the only thing that matters is a GOP win. That is, you sound as though you’ve abandoned the pursuit of truth in favor of rank PR.

    If I were still a Republican – and remember that I was for a lot of years – this Palin thing would have me ready to burn my all my elephant underwear in public. Why you aren’t completely appalled is beyond me, because I KNOW you’re smart enough to see this pick as the cynical ploy that it is.

    Seriously, how many solidly Republican women could have come up with that are better for the VP slot than Palin? 20, 30? 50? 100?

  5. “I was making a point about the sexist treatment that Palin’s getting from the left.”

    This is one of those jokes that’s Rush says right? You are obviously just quoting Hannity or Ingraham here.

  6. It boggles the mind that someone with a retarded child isn’t more concerned with the underserved. By the time she starts looking around for a place to house him when he’s older, she may change her tune.

  7. I am so glad that the UK is moving beyond trawling through the homelife of individual politicians. France, traditionally, has had stronger privacy rules than ourselves and it is beginning to come in here.

    The organisations that politicians belong to (religious or otherwise) are, for me, legitimate fodder for news journalism types because I want to know whether politicians believe in little green men, fairy dust or a set of rules that would cause someone to potentially ruin their life by keeping an unwanted fertilized egg. ‘Pro-life’ is not as positive as it sounds when you get into it.

    Here we accept conservative gay politicians, a conservative leader with a special needs child (and we ask no questions about who cares for said child) and when socialist women hold down powerful government positions we do not wring our hands asking who is minding the kids. In a sophisticated society we already are aware of “it takes a village” – there is no need to constantly remind everyone about this – and when a woman or gay pushes through and wins out it is accepted ~ a sign of the progress of these times.

    There are women (and I am NOT one of those women) who will find much to admire in S Palin. Equally, there are many men who will judge her as feminine (why I do not know).

    One comment I heard yesterday on a British Radio 4 political radio show was that she – S Palin – was not in the mould of the pant-suited, butch hair cut types and not afraid to embrace the traditional feminine ‘look’. That comment was said by a male but he claimed that his wife made the comment (he could have been lying). He went on to state that a woman in power does not have to be the type feminists want, in fact, many women positively do not want feminist types in power.

    He annoyed the hell out of me and some of his fellow guests but it is a fact that not all women are going to march like men or career women…and some would relish a she that looked and sounded like them. Teenage hair and all.

  8. Dr Slammy,

    So, In other words, It’s acceptable to treat one from the right differently than you would one of your own side…..OK, I sort of get it.

    You said, “. A man who believed what she does would be rightly castigated as reactionary, or worse, misogynistic.” Isn’t this exactly the sexism we’re trying to escape?

    I can’t think of any women the Republicans could have picked that would be better than Palin. She’s solidified the base, and that’s all we need.


    I don’t need any talking points. Give me some credit…..Rush, Hannity, Ingraham,…….please. Don’t make the mistake thinking that the Republican party is run by those guys.

    As for the truth, yes I am concerned with the truth and that’s why I am very concerned about this election. I don’t have enough time or space in this post to document all of Obama’s or Biden’s lies, but they are in the league with Clinton. I’ll post a list of Obama’s lies over on my blog when I get around to it. Among other things,Obama wants to raise my taxes, increase socialism, government, and regulation. I don’t agree with that, and that’s my business.

    Making Palin isn’t a cynical ploy anymore than when Kennedy chose Johnson, Clinton chose Gore, or Mondale chose Ferraro. It’s just politics, and I don’t understand why all of the sudden the left has problems with picking a running mate that will help the ticket, cause y’all do that all the time. If Obama really wanted change, there’s many more good choices than Biden who’s been a senator since he had his baby teeth, and has issues.

    I remember last election cycle when they beat up Cheney for his draft deferments. I notice that there is no mention of service in this election. I guess the main stream media has determined that service to this country doesn’t count anymore. For the record, Biden got 5 deferments(the same amount as Cheney) and his were for athsma. Interesting how a high school foot ball player and summer lifeguard could have athsma. He mentions no athsma in his book either.

    This election is all about smearing the right, and pulling every trick out of the Alinsky/Clinton/Chicago thug politics playbook. (Don’t beat me up about the Chicago thug politic comment…..Clinton coined that term). And Obama is going to need his 57 states to win. Believe me, the right is energized, and McCain/Palin represent the values of most Americans. Maybe not in your world, but in the rest of the country….sure.

    Check out question 3D on this Battleground Poll internal. Remember, the battleground poll is bipartisan and very accurate.

    Click to access 08.BG.fre.815.pdf

    With 60% of this country being conservative, don’t underestimate our power at the ballot box.

    I think that in the interests of civility, I will refrain from commenting on this election cycle over at S&R, as Invective does nobody any good.. I’ll still comment on your other great articles as long as they’re not political. I enjoy this site, but the fact remains that nobody is going to change anyone’s mind. I’ll sit this one out.