By Amy Campbell Smith
The announcement on a lazy, late summer Friday afternoon, of John McCain's running mate for the presidential election could have been a real snooze. But McCain made a bold and calculated choice. He introduced the governor of Alaska as his choice for vice-president. And the whole wide U.S. of A. went wild.
Of the many things that have struck me about this in the last few days, the one that is most surprising is the new mommy war that has emerged. The "mommy war" I am familiar with is the one between stay home moms and working moms. This is the battleground of day-care vs. mommy-care and of often vicious and judgmental assumptions about other mother's priorities. I am a working mom and I avoid the work / home debate. My belief is that we should be supporting each other as women who are struggling to raise our kids well and live the best life we can.
Enter Sarah Palin and the New Mommy War. She is running for VP and (gasp!) she has five children. As I've watched the torrent of criticism unleashed upon her and her family, I've been appalled at the new alignment of allies in the war against the working mother. Feminists and liberals suddenly sound like conservative evangelicals, fairly seething over the fact that this woman's place is raising her children and it's somehow irresponsible for her to run for VP. Working mothers are outraged that she's considering a national political campaign and possibly assuming the second highest office in the land with a pack-n-play in tow.
Women are questioning her judgment because of her decision to run. Women are saying she's a bad mother. Women are implying that her children won't be properly cared for and nurtured if she is busy being vice-president. Her husband should be thoroughly insulted. Do we think he's capable of exactly nothing?
I would have expected some numbers of men and right-wing wackos to try this, and I would have thought they'd be smacked down pretty quick on this particular objection to Palin. But it's coming from us too. From women who proudly proclaim themselves liberated and who now look like hypocrites. Even if you are on the other side of the aisle and Palin is not your candidate, her having a large, busy family can't possibly be a real objection.
How can we, as women of any political stripe, participate in this blatant double standard? Would we ask a male candidate for VP how he'll manage to spend enough time with his kids? Would we question his judgment because he's running for high office when he has a special needs child? We would naturally assume that his wife will be by his side to take care of the family. Do we think Palin's husband won't be?
We need to take a hard look at why this treatment of Sarah Palin by other working moms is taking place. Disagree on real issues and cast your vote elsewhere, but let's not be self-defeating here. I'm not about to tell my daughter that a serious, high level career is irresponsible after children.
We still want to look our daughters in the eye and say, "You can be anything you want to be."