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Sarah's Smackdown

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In the aftermath of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's announcement earlier this month that she plans to resign from office, pundits have been scrambling for an explanation.

Sarah Palin

Heather Robinson and Jennifer Ginsberg: Personally, the whole matter has left me feeling a little like I did at the end of seventh grade, after a year spent passively watching bullies ostracize and pick on one of the only black girls in the school: sick, and embarrassed for us all. As women and mothers, we should be particularly ashamed of ourselves. Women who have participated in this smear-fest have reinforced every nasty stereotype of female bitchiness and cattiness at its worst. Whatever your passionate opinions, whatever your disagreements with her views, this woman and her family were savaged in a manner that went beyond any reasonable standard. She is a public figure, but her husband and children are not.

We got ridiculing of Mrs. Palin's appearance, of her decades-old participation in a beauty pageant, and even of her children, which was especially cruel. Self-proclaimed "feminists" made a blood sport of hating and dehumanizing her. Any moms who jumped on the "bashing Sarah bandwagon" need to take pause and ask themselves how they would feel if they were in her shoes. Can you imagine being publicly ostracized for the way you look, for your opinions, or for your parenting choices? Can anyone say junior high school?

Personally, I do not agree with all of Governor Palin's views, such as her absolutist pro-life position. But such vicious hatred on the part of self-described feminists was an embarrassment. Especially from self-proclaimed liberals whose entire platform is based on the premise of decency and kindness. I suppose tolerance is only offered to people whose opinions match theirs exactly!

Then there is the matter of how the media treated Mrs. Palin's family, especially her children. How sad that normal people may no longer wish to run for or hold public office due to this horrific sort of exposure, including abuse of their children.

Again, I am asking all mothers to honestly ask themselves this question: Is this the sort of behavior you wish to model for your children? How much of our own anxiety as women is derived from the feeling that we are being judged by other moms, and we are somehow messing up at the monumental task of motherhood? Whether we breastfeed too long or not long enough, whether our child sleeps through the night or is a nocturnal beast, it seems like we can't get it right from the very start. When we are met with challenges, we feel scared, confused, and uncertain, and what we need in those moments is kindness, not criticism. Mrs. Palin had a particularly difficult set of circumstances and was faced with choices none of us would wish for. I am certain we can all relate to her on some level, whether or not we can admit it.

Am I alone in feeling that ridicule of a disabled infant, and rape threats, represent a new low? How intensely cruel and hypocritical this behavior was, coming from "feminists" and "progressives" who probably don't realize how many conservatives they are helping to create, as anyone with a moral compass is likely to figure that, if that's how liberals argue, maybe I'll consider conservative ideas, thanks. No matter how strongly you disagree with Mrs. Palin, this type of behavior is simply inexcusable.

I shudder to think that the women who participated in these attacks are actually raising children.

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38 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kristen July 22, 2009, 7:11 AM

I agree with this article. I do not personally like Sarah Palin’s politcal views BUT the amount of nastiness that she has endured I would not wish anyone. I think it has been taken too far.

Anonymous July 22, 2009, 7:36 AM

A thoughtful and fair article. I am from New Zealand so have been interested in following American politics from afar. I have been surprised at the way this politician has been treated. I am disgusted with some of your so called leading commentators in papers such as The New YorK Times. However, Sarah Palins strength and grace under fire make me admire her even more.

Clifford July 22, 2009, 7:38 AM

I made the previous post and didn’t mean to be “anonymous!”

Paige July 22, 2009, 8:33 AM

I agree with this article so much. I was sickened by the way the media and liberals attacked Sarah Palin not for her politics but her family, faith and looks. To every liberal that bashed Sarah Palin- where was your openmindedness? Why attack a disabled child you hateful people?

women should rule July 22, 2009, 8:47 AM

I also agree…as a conservative democrat I am saddened by the way other women have allowed the media (which is so liberal you would think they would be behind a women) treat this women. I have said in other posting on this site that I don’t understand why women are so hard on other women. We judge them if they have a drug free birth or epi or if they breast or bottle feed or they spank or not spank and it’s just sad. Aren’t we all just trying to get by and live good lives and raise good children. Does it really matter how I do it or how you do it as long as we do it with hopes for the best results? I may not agree with anything that Sarah Palin stands for but I love the appeal of a “everyday” person in government fighting for the “everyday” person. So please women stop being so judgemental of other women and lets lift them up to live to their full potenial because as we all know women WILL do a better job of running this country!

Connie July 22, 2009, 9:29 AM

Thanks for this post. As a professional, as a woman, as a human being, this is exactly how I feel. I had been considering some work in politics (not on a national level, though), but now, I am concerned about what role I would play.

MarMar July 22, 2009, 9:30 AM

Agreement here as well. I’m politically liberal but the way Palin’s family and appearance has been bashed in the media is unexcusable. I would never vote for the woman, but I would never go putting down her family as well, especially the children. They’re innocents in all of this. I once saw a cartoon showing how the daughters of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama were off-limits to the media; the last frame said “Sarah Palin’s Daughters” and showed two young women with targets painted on their shirts. I feel this was dead-on. Leave the kids alone - and if this is the only reason Palin resigned as governor of Alaska, I truly feel for her, my politics pushed aside for empathy towards a fellow mom.

Amadeo July 22, 2009, 10:02 AM

Thank you for this piece - for being sane voices amidst all the undeserved media treatment of Palin and her family.

Jen July 22, 2009, 11:06 AM

I have a hard time feeling sorry for Palin. I think she knew what she was doing and did it for attention. After all, we’re still talking about her. When Sarah Palin chose to traipse her kids out in front of the world, SHE turned them into public figures for the attention. Bristol Palin got $300,000 for selling her son’s baby pictures. How many unwed, teen moms do you know that got paid for having a baby?

Victoria July 22, 2009, 11:25 AM

Thank you for writing this. I continue to be stunned that so many women who call themselves “feminists” have either been silent, or have contributed to the blatant sexism that has been directed towards Sarah and her family. The media continues to generate “hate” for her. This country doesn’t need more hate.

Tom July 22, 2009, 12:04 PM

“When Sarah Palin chose to traipse her kids out in front of the world, SHE turned them into public figures for the attention”

You mean like every other politician, EVER? How is it any different from Obama bringing his daughters out on the campaign trail? I don’t see people screaming bloody murder over that, no accusations of “exploiting” them.

A little consistency would be nice, mmmkay?

women should rule July 22, 2009, 12:09 PM

As far as putting her children out there, hasn’t Sasha and Mayia been “out there” yet no one would even think about talking negatively about them. Usually when a person runs for any politically office, their family is right there beside them ( we would question them if they weren’t) so please don’t blame Sarah for being her children into it because they all do. Children should ALWAY be off limits.

Barbara July 22, 2009, 1:41 PM

You think Palin has it tough? Hillary endured far worse, for many more years, and rose above it. Her daughter, who was a model of good behavior, was savaged not only by right-wing media but also by lawmakers such as McCain, who definitely should have known better. But feminists have spoken up about the treatment of Palin’s children. For one, NOW has roundly condemned Letterman’s comments about her daughters. I agree that politicians’ underage children should be off limits.

Maria July 22, 2009, 2:09 PM

This was beautifully written!

Jen July 22, 2009, 2:26 PM

Tom: It isn’t any different from any other politician. The only difference is that people are whining about it when Sarah Palin is concerned. When any politician opts to plaster their kids all over the place they know someone (comedians etc.) are going to get their kicks. Palin isn’t the first one to suffer from this so why are we acting like she is?

Erik B. July 22, 2009, 2:43 PM

Great points. Your unique article on Palin looks to have been picked up by a good number of sites throughout the web and the blogosphere.

One of the most interesting places to have quoted from and analyzed your piece is on Patricia E. Bauer’s site entitled “News and Commentary on Disability Issues.”

Here, Bauer asks:

When Gov. Sarah Palin announced her intention to resign, among the reasons she cited was her family’s concern that her 14-month-old son Trig, who has Down Syndrome, had been “mocked and ridiculed by some pretty mean spirited adults.”

Was this an accurate account of what took place? Commentators offer their opinions.

She then quotes from your article and compares it with the positions taken by journalists Sally Quinn (Washington Post), John Fund (Wall Street Journal), Katherine Mangu-Ward (Los Angeles Times), Ben Voth (American Thinker), and Jim Geraghty (National Review).

Great analysis. Congrats. There is far more to the Palin issue than many of the regular pundits have realized or want to admit.

Lucy July 22, 2009, 2:45 PM

Heather and Jennifer…thank you! Seriously, I completely agree with your feelings. Our country is a great one, how fortunate are we that we may speak openly and have freedom to form our own opinions. However, before you abuse that right and smear someone’s life and family with words full of anger and hatred, take a look at your own life and see how the entire world would judge you and your children…doesn’t feel so good right? People, if you really want Change in this country “Do onto others as you would want done to you” Now that is a Change in America I can get behind!

Gail Cooke July 22, 2009, 2:49 PM

Hmm…they say bitchy like it’s a bad thing….

ted July 22, 2009, 5:48 PM

Is everyone here suffering from complete political amnesia. Sarah Palin described herself as a “hockey mom”—she based most of her political appeal on that persona and on “family values”—she clearly was not running on her knowledge of the issues. Obama did not define himself as a “basketball dad”.

She also took on the role, not unusual for VP candidates, as attack dog—saying that some people were not “real Americans”, that Obama was palling around with terrorists. If you set your family up as a critical part of your political identity and then play hard ball politics, what do you expect?

the truth July 22, 2009, 6:16 PM

okay Ted, Obama WAS hanging out with terrorist…ever heard of William Ayers and he belong to a church for 20 loooong years with a radical, racist preacher. Just because our media outlets are so liberal and just “in love” with Obama, they chose not to report the truth about him doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. I can’t wait for the day when the media will finally see him for what he is and start to tell the truth. Then again, with him being the first black/white president they probably won’t because most people seem afraid that if they speak the truth they will be consider racist.

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