The Palin debate

Sarah Palin has drawn a lot of attention since being chosen as Republican John McCain’s vice presidential candidate. But are her critics making attacks because she’s a woman, or because she doesn’t cut it? Two staffers debate.


Palin’s critics base arguments on stereotypes

By Damara Rodriguez, Columnist

In the past week, the media have uncovered an interesting notion of women in our society — the expected role of a woman in politics is someone who balances her image to make everyone happy.

Because of this, it is obvious that criticisms of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin are blatantly sexist.

Palin has been widely criticized by editorial columnists and TV journalists for going on the campaign trail while having a family that includes five children at home. The media have mentioned everything from the mismanagement of her daughter’s sexual education — her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant out of wedlock — to her flight during the labor of her newborn son as reasons why she should not be on the campaign trail.

These criticisms seem to suggest that women must choose between a family and a career.

But why should Palin face flak for this while her male counterparts remain unaffected by such issues? John Edwards,  former Democratic presidential candidate, was not as widely criticized for his presidential aspirations even though his wife was undergoing chemotherapy for advanced breast cancer.

It appears sexism is still prevalent in our society. It is unfair that women are encouraged to go to college and obtain careers in which they are considered equal to males, only to have the rug pulled out from under them the moment they become a parent — especially when parenthood has only a minuscule effect on men’s careers.

If women pick parenthood, they are expected to look like a character from Desperate Housewives. If they pick their career, they are pressured into a pantsuit.

People have accused Palin of neglecting and even sometimes exploiting her children for her own political gain. That’s a ridiculous statement when it is clear that she, like millions of other American women, balances the demands of motherhood and career in a way that young women of all political affiliations — even those who have yet to experience this balancing act — should admire.

Even some of the University’s professors teach that women are forced to make choices between the two lifestyles and argue that women will have to sacrifice one to have the other. Thankfully, Palin is high-profile proof that this is not the case.

The media have criticized her for being too pretty and have used practically every “lipstick” cliche possible. Cable news networks have said she is only the face of the party, obviously implying that she is too pretty to be a politician. She has been compared to Tina Fey and a “sexy librarian.”

Palin has proved to the world that a woman does not need a short haircut or a pantsuit to rise up the career ladder and that a woman can be attractive as well as respected. She has finally broken the glass ceiling for women by not changing for the media or the men who influence them. Regardless of whether she becomes vice president, Palin will have proved that women can rise up just as they are — high heels on and baby in tow.

“She’s already shown that she can shoot the pig, put lipstick on it, bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan,” said Maureen Dowd, columnist for  the New York Times. I agree with Palin on the majority of issues concerning this election, and I think she is a role model to all aspiring female professionals.

She has set new standards on so many levels and cleared the way for the women who will come after her.

She will inspire women to reach for more than they could have ever dreamed possible.

Damara Rodriguez is a senior majoring in mass communications.


Palin lacks experience and judgment

By Daniel Dunn, Columnist

I imagine Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s vice president selection staff meeting went something like this:

Campaign Manager: Look, guys, we’ve been outfundraised, we’re down in the polls, and apparently McCain is boring everyone with his speeches. We need to do something big, something different and maybe even something ridiculous.
Paid Staffer: I’ve got it! Sarah Palin.
CM: Sarah who?
PS: Palin. She’s the governor of Alaska. She’s hip and energetic. And get this — she’s a woman!
CM: So, what’s the catch?
PS: Well, I guess she lacks experience. Won’t that make all of our attacks on Barack Obama’s experience seem a little bit silly?
CM: Who cares about that? We’ll just call her a maverick and reformer. It doesn’t matter how true it is as long as we keep saying it. Quick, let’s get a press release out and write Palin a speech praising Hillary Clinton. Oh, and be sure to include the phrase “glass ceiling.”

Thus began America’s Palin problem.

It’s hard to blame the McCain campaign for continuing the same nauseating brand of contemporary American politics. We’re used to it. Recent vice presidential picks have been selected based on their ability to rally a particular segment of the population rather than their ability to establish sound public policies. A vice presidential campaign’s primary function is to get the respective presidential candidate elected.

The effectiveness of the vice president, or lack thereof, is of no particular concern during the political stage of the election process. Regardless of how obvious this may be, the campaign must still try to maintain the illusion that its candidate is the best choice for constructing and enabling sound policy. I can think of no example more apt than Palin.

Palin has been heralded as a reformer, maverick and beauty queen. Lipstick comments aside, I find none of these traits fitting. She was thrown into the national scene fresh-faced and full of vigor. Her record is politically malleable and easy to spin. This is excellent for the McCain campaign, but when it comes to substantive matters regarding the state of our country our hearts should be filled with trepidation, not praise.

Palin’s career as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska is more frightening than one might expect. She took office in 1996 and quickly asked for resignations from five city officials after inquiring about their intentions and support of her as mayor, reported the Daily Sitka Sentinel of Sitka, Alaska. Mary Ellen Emmons, Wasilla’s librarian, was asked by Palin if she was OK with book censorship, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Emmons told Palin she was vehemently against censorship and within a few months Emmons received a letter notifying her she was going to be fired.

Palin required all of the city’s main officials to get approval before making any comments to the press. This rather tyrannical lack of transparency was referred to as a “gag order” by Vicki Naegele, then managing editor of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, Wasilla’s newspaper.

If this isn’t startling enough, Wasilla was charging victims of sexual assault with fees associated with forensic tests under Palin’s tenure. It wasn’t until 2000, four years into Palin’s term as mayor, that the state intervened and deemed it unlawful to require victims to pay for testing, according to the Associated Press.

Palin will likely fail miserably as a vice president.

Many complaints against Palin are deflected by gender-based distractions. There has been a persistent false dichotomy with criticisms of Palin. Both the McCain campaign and the news media have misaligned dissenting opinion with sexism.

People aren’t criticizing Palin because she’s a woman.

Abortion, foreign policy and gun control are issues that have nothing to do with gender.

It’s about time the McCain campaign recognizes this.

Daniel Dunn is a junior majoring in philosophy.