Palin's Answer to Sexism: "I Don't Know." Enough said. Or is it?
By Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner
Gov. Palin's recent answers to questions about sexism reveal that her experiences have been very different from that of the average American mother. If only the fight for equal rights was truly over for all of us!
ABC's Charlie Gibson asked, "Is it sexist for people to ask: How can somebody manage a family of seven and the vice presidency?" Her answer started with: "I don't know."
Well, yes, that question is sexist. Did anyone ask Sen. John Edwards four years ago if he could handle his family of five while being vice president? Enough said.
But the rest of Governor Palin's answer was even more disappointing. She said, in part:
"I'm a product of Title IX, also, where we had equality in schools that was just being ushered in with sports and with equal opportunity for education, all of my life. I'm part of that generation, where that question is kind of irrelevant, because it's accepted."
Is it possible that Governor Palin is unaware that profound bias confronts millions of working mothers in our nation? We'd all like to be part of a generation for which sexism is "irrelevant" and women are "accepted," particularly when so many of America's 83 million mothers face maternal profiling, also known as hiring discrimination based on maternal status. At MomsRising, we hear every day from women who hit a gender-based Maternal Wall, which is rampant sexism in action.
Here's what the Maternal Wall looks like: On average, mothers make 73 cents to a man's dollar, while single moms make only about 60 cents to a man's dollar. In fact, a recent Cornell University study concluded that, with equal resumes and job experiences, mothers were 79% less likely to be hired than non-mothers.
Mothers face discrimination every day and, while it was a huge advance, Title IX hasn't broken down the Maternal Wall. For many of us, it's an issue that's far from irrelevant.
Perhaps Governor Palin's answer stems from the fact that she's a government official, in a job with a pre-set salary high enough to support a family and afford high quality childcare. It takes nothing away from her accomplishments to ask her to recognize that salaries at her level, which bring the health coverage, flexibility and other benefits she enjoys, are out of reach for most families.
Her experience is far from the norm. For example, nearly half of all private-sector workers, and 79% of low wage American workers, don't have a single paid sick day for themselves or their children.
How government employees can set their own benefits much higher than most of the rest of us, vote against the same policies for all, and still sleep at night is beyond me. I can only hope that they simply don't know how much farther ahead they are in terms of pay and benefits in their current positions.
These issue impact all of us, male, female, Democrat, Republican, parents, and non-parents.
It's great that Governor Palin has gotten the supports she needs. The rest of us need them too. It's time to leave the moose burgers, hockey, and sexist questions behind -- and get back to hearing about what the candidates will do to aid America's working parents.
We need to know what Governor Palin would do to change the fact that nearly a quarter of families with young children live in poverty, and that a baby is born every 41 seconds without healthcare.
Governor Palin clearly isn't everywoman, but every woman, and every man, deserves to have their family economic security taken seriously.
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner is a co-founder and Executive Director of MomsRising.org. She is co-author (with Joan Blades) of The Motherhood Manifesto, which makes the case that it's time for a broad change in America's support for mothers and families. The Motherhood Manifesto identifies and challenges the obstacles facing working mothers today, and proposes concrete solutions. In 2007, The Motherhood Manifesto book won the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize. Rowe-Finkbeiner is also author of The F-Word: Feminism in Jeopardy, which was awarded first place by the Independent Book Publishers Association in the category of Women's Issues.
MomsRising.org is an organization working to build a truly family-friendly nation. Started in May, 2006, MomsRising uses the power of online organizing in coordination with grassroots activities and media outreach to educate the public about problems facing American families and to propose common sense solutions. MomsRising.org provides citizens with an opportunity to amplify their voices and to take their concerns to leaders who are in positions to implement real changes.
Find us and join us at MomsRising.org.