too old to get to know yourself.
said, I'm not a feminist; meaning: I don't think in terms of men vs.
women, or "women's rights"; I am not aggrieved, and have never felt
No men have
ever treated me badly because of my gender, though of course I've had
political battles with male politicians and activists, as well as with
the League of Women Voters.
So I was
surprised to find myself angry last week while covering the Sarah Palin
At first I
was just delighted with John McCain's choice, enjoying the discomfort of
her opponents, seeing no reason to look beneath the delight and
enjoyment to find other, less comfortable emotions.
invited to do convention commentary with R.D. Sahl on New England Cable
News while we all waited for Sarah's acceptance speech. My fellow
panelists were former state senator George Bachrach, an
Independent/Democrat professor at Boston University; state Sen. Scott
Brown, R-Wrentham, who had supported Mitt Romney for vice president; and
Jennifer Donahue, the political director of the New Hampshire Institute
of Politics, who has been called "a rising star among political
analysts" by Obama-hugging Chris Matthews.
this was a balanced panel, especially since I, too, as an Independent,
had supported Romney. And though both Sen. Brown and I are now
enthusiastic about Sarah Palin, I think we could have provided fair
analysis, along with Jennifer Donahue — if Bachrach had not opened the
discussion with his opinion that Palin should have had better judgment
than to drag her children into the political arena.
I suggested that if his opinion prevailed, no woman with children could
ever run for high and controversial office. Trapped in the liberal
Democratic equality paradigm, he quickly added that his statement should
also apply to men. No men or women with children should run for
president or vice president?!!?
could respond further, Donahue jumped in, agreeing with me. While she
smiled sweetly, you could sense the steel forming itself into knives.
with both of us and asked Sahl, our host, if he could move over to our
side of the table, away from Bachrach, who was wondering aloud "if Sarah
becomes vice president, who will introduce her to the Joint Chiefs of
Staff?" (Later we saw Henry Kissinger in the convention hall, and I
sarcastically suggested that perhaps he could do it). Finally, NECN
reporter Jim Braude told Bachrach by live feed from the convention that
he hated to pick on him, but...
I think it
was Bachrach's patronizing tone that was making me angry because the
things he was saying were simply laughable. Donahue, however, did not
seem amused either; I had heard her on her cellphone before we went on
the air, reassuring a small daughter that she would be home soon.
Somehow we were bonding, and I felt for the first time the stirrings of
emotional reaction wasn't just about gender, it was also about class.
day I'd had a phone conversation with a Republican man who dismissed
Palin and her working-class husband; and I'd received an e-mail from a
liberal woman who wrote, "I'm getting a bit of a white-trash vibe from
thought, would both of you please say that louder so voters in
Pennsylvania, Virginia and Michigan can hear you?
"white trash" might remind some people of the attacks on the single-mom
activist Erin Brockovich, as played so delightfully by Julia Roberts in
the movie of the same name. I suspect that much of the political
establishment and media elite have a broader image of women that
includes those who didn't attend Ivy League universities, who own guns,
who take their kids to church, and who are married to blue-collar
understand part of the Democratic response. Some traditional Republicans
have argued that married women with small children should stay home and
take care of them; I might have said that myself before I became a
feminist last week. Now we seem to be giving Palin a pass to have minor
children and not only be a governor, but vice president.
still consider her challenges overwhelming if she had decided to run for
president two years ago; but she was drafted for a two-month campaign,
then gets an essentially part-time job with lots of reading homework.
she gets to help make a better country for her kids, and perhaps
influence foreign policy for her military son.
Laugh at my
conversion if you will, but as I watched the Palin baby being handed
around to various family members, I recalled making my in-laws' younger
kids wear a scarf over their mouths to hold their infant nephew. I would
never have brought him to an arena filled with strangers.
back, I wish I hadn't so often given in to the fear and the what-if's.
We see in
Sarah Palin a woman who is unafraid. She lets life happen, and rises to
the occasion every time.
people like this. They aren't better than us, but the best of us, and we
should honor that.