I wasn’t planning to do another column about women and politics again, I really wasn’t. I think I’ve made it pretty clear how I feel about Hillary Clinton, and about Sarah Palin, and I’m well aware of the fact that there’s no need to beat a dead horse. But somehow, in this election year, no matter how many times it gets shot, the damn horse will just not die. And so, I feel somewhat obligated to write about last week’s vice presidential debate, although what I want to write about is not who won, or who managed to connect most with the American people. No, what I want to write about is the fact that even after all we’ve been through this year, gender politics still remains, and its women, more than anyone else, who seem to be perpetuating it.
I don’t know how many of you were watching Brian Williams after the debate was over, but one of the first people he asked to comment on the debate was none other than Geraldine Ferraro. And the first thing that Geraldine Ferraro said was that, as a Democrat, she was pulling for Joe Biden. But as a woman, she was really hoping that Sarah Palin wouldn’t screw up. Huh? I’m a Democrat, and I’m a woman, and I can tell you that from the bottom of my heart, I was hoping against hope that Sarah Palin would make a complete and total fool of herself. And so I wondered, what is up with Geraldine Ferraro? Why the sisterly love for someone who is so diametrically opposed to everything she stands for? I mean, does she think that men have such a low opinion of women’s abilities, that they would take Sarah Palin’s debate performance as a representation of what women are capable of as a whole? Maybe I’m naïve, but I have a higher opinion of men than that.
And what about Joe Biden? The poor guy was totally screwed. If he went after her, it was said, he’d look like a bully; but if he was too nice, he’d look like he was being chivalrous, or, as some others might put it, he’d look like he was letting her win because she’s a girl. He took the high road, which was probably the right choice, but personally, I wish he would have gone after her harder. I wish he would have informed her, after the fifth time, that it’s nuclear, not nucular. But hey, who wants to be accused of beating up on a poor little old hockey mom, right?
The thing that gets me is that the country – or at least, the media and the pundits – seem to have all but forgotten that Barack Obama is black. Which is a good thing. An amazing thing. You didn’t hear any African American commentators saying, after the first debate, hey, as a black person, I was just hoping he wouldn’t screw up. Of course you didn’t. Because while Barack Obama undeniably represents the hopes and dreams of many, if not all, African Americans, we also understand that Barack Obama, in his run for the presidency, is not attempting to represent all African Americans. I know for a fact that there are lots of African Americans in the Republican party who will be voting for John McCain come November, and guess what? That’s okay. Because believe it or not, America has become post-racial – at least, it has in politics. So why, then, can’t we be post-gender? Why can’t we talk about Sarah Palin for who she is, and what her views are, and not keep coming back to the fact that she’s a woman? Why does it matter? Why do women like Geraldine Ferraro feel so compelled to root for her, even if they simultaneously disagree with her?
Sarah Palin surely represents a lot of women out there. She’s wouldn’t be as popular as she is if she didn’t. But the future of womanhood does not rest with the outcome of this election. When Sarah Palin messes up on national television, I don’t cringe, wondering what the damage will be to women everywhere. I smile, wondering what the damage will be to the Republicans. To do anything else is to remain in the mindset of the past, where gender and race were politics in and of themselves. So come on, Geraldine Ferraro, and join the rest of us in the twenty-first century, where it’s okay to root against a woman if you don’t agree with her. Nobody’s going to think worse of you if you do. In fact, the hope is that nobody will even think about it at all.