GUEST COLUMN BY AMANDA SCHLAGER
PUBLISHED: SUN, SEPT. 7, 2008, THE STATE NEWSPAPER
As a moderate voter trying to weigh both sides before voting in November’s elections, I was shocked at the unexpected pull of Sarah Palin’s speech Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention. I felt myself torn as her speech drew to a close.
The leftist in me reveled in her talk of energy independence while the rightist in me enjoyed her emphases on limiting government spending and the importance of family. And regardless of her political leanings, from a young feminist’s perspective, she was ideal.
Whereas many women could not identify with Hillary Clinton because of a certain coldness or inability to relate, Palin reached out and touched viewers with her impassioned speech yet tough demeanor. When she joked that the only difference between hockey moms and bulldogs is lipstick, I laughed and connected with her in a way I never could with Hillary.
To me, the reason for her allure is simple: Sarah Palin is the kind of woman we hoped would be the first female president. As a twenty-something professional, I am a member of a generation that staunchly believes in the idea that we can have it all — family and career — and that we can do it with both toughness and warmth. What better example of that than a vice presidential candidate who stood on stage with her husband and five young children?
When people ask, “How can she be vice president and have time to raise those kids?” my generation is outraged. No one would dare ask a man that question. (The question was inapplicable to Hillary.) With the rising number of women in professional schools and the rising trend of traditional gender role reversal (i.e., “house husbands”), I can only speculate that my generation’s response to that must be: “Does she not have a husband to help at home? And isn’t that what an au pair is for?”
Putting viewpoints aside, isn’t Sarah Palin what feminism has been fighting for in the past 100 years — the right to have it all, on equal footing?
As feminists, should we give the Republicans another chance because they’re now the party that might put a woman into office as the first female president — one we all could actually like? Or do we sigh in regret as leftists and feminists, enjoying Palin’s speech and all that she represents for womanhood, yet not being able to forget the track record of her party nor its horrific lack of non-gender diversity? (There were so few people of color at the Republican convention, spotting one was like playing “Where’s Waldo?”) Do we forego the real possibility of a female president because it’s not worth four more years of Republican lip service and empty talk of change?
I’m not sure what the answer will be in November, but in the meantime, to Mrs. Palin: Thank you. You’re proof to the world that women truly can have it all, family and career, without sacrificing the warmth that makes us women.
To the Republican Party, good show. But putting a woman on stage did not camouflage the fact that your convention was appallingly non-diverse or that Palin was likely chosen more for her conservative views and gender than her accomplishments.
And to Sen. Barack Obama, while Gov. Palin’s jabs were anticipated, her presence, conviction and delivery made even this swing voter stop and think. So batter up, because the bases are now loaded, and you had better be swinging with more than inspiring speeches to hit it out of the park come November.
Ms. Schlager is an attorney in Columbia. She previously worked as a litigator in Washington.