Asking The Wrong Question About Laundry, Cooking, and The Vice-Presidency

There is something supremely odd and depressing about the discussion of Sarah Palin’s ability to serve as governor or VP and serve as a mother.

Odd and depressing because the question is irrelevant and, sadly, rooted in sexist, but taken-for-granted, assumptions.

Palin’s ability to do both jobs has nothing to do with her gender — and everything to do with her access to help. When people ask “can she do both jobs?” what they’re really asking is “can she be governor or VP AND fix dinner, do the laundry, dress the kids, buy the groceries, etc.” Because, ya know, that’s what women do.

When it’s put that bluntly, the issue becomes, well, a non-issue. I mean, no one wants to admit that they’re assuming that of course women do the household work.

But I understand why people are asking a dumb question: In most families, women who work outside the home are also the ones who are managing the kids, groceries, laundry, etc. And it is difficult. (*1)

In fact, I don’t know how most working women manage. I don’t have kids; my household consists of myself and my husband, and I devote an insane amount of time to the daily routine of laundry, buying groceries, running errands, cooking, etc. (*2) How women with three or four kids and a job cope is beyond me.

But back to Sarah Palin. Of course she can do BOTH jobs. She can be an average working mom. AND governor or vice-president.

But she’s NOT an average American mom. She not DOING both jobs. She doesn’t do laundry or housecleaning. She doesn’t race home from the office to fix dinner (running six errands between home and office.) She’s got a staff who does it for her. (And, apparently, a househusband, too. I gather her husband doesn’t work outside the home anymore. He’s the “wife.”) (*3)

So the whole question of “can she do both jobs?” is a non-starter and a distraction. Give any woman in the world full-time help with housekeeping and childcare, and any woman in the world can be both a mother and a vice-president.

And for those who are interested, no, I don’t plan to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket. I would, however, love to vote for some common sense and rational debate.


*1: Yes, I’m aware she has a five-month-old baby. But again, that’s not an issue for people who have hired help. I have no idea how Palin is feeding the baby, and don’t much care, but it’s obvious that someone other than her is taking care of the baby. When it’s feeding time, that someone makes sure the baby gets fed. Palin herself doesn’t have to mess with the details (and yes, if she’s breast-feeding, she needs maybe some privacy, but that’s not of a problem. All she has to do is step out of the room.)

*2: Lest you think my husband and I live in some man-woman 1950s twilight zone: We don’t. He makes more money than I do — LOTS more. I couldn’t possibly live on what I make as a writer (almost no writers can). His paycheck makes it possible for me to spend all my time writing instead of, say, working as a professor and writing. So I use my labor to compensate for the money that I don’t bring in. Make sense?

*3: Moreover, her family doesn’t live in the governor’s mansion. They live in Wasilla, which is about 500 miles from the state capital. That, I gather, is a point of contention in Alaska: apparently Palin spends most nights in Wasilla, and charges the taxpayers for her travel expenses back and forth. But again, it’s a safe bet she’s not running home for the airport to fix dinner.

2 thoughts on “Asking The Wrong Question About Laundry, Cooking, and The Vice-Presidency

  1. Maureen, you assign no agency to “people” who say things. Who are these people? There was a backlash against the sexism before there was the sexism. I don’t hear anyone in the mainstream press or on the Democratic side making this argument. The intertubes are a vast and convoluted network, but I think it’s useful to find out who is saying what.Democrats have overwhelmingly led the fight for women’s right. In rare cases, the GOP does cross the aisle to help with select legislation, but they have been neutral or antagonistic to most efforts to welcome women into the workplace. If you’re going to make an argument that someone is sexist, you have to call them out. Dems are quite rightly peeved to see that after having made a world in which it was possible for a Republican to be put on a national ticket (a generation after Dems did it), they are the ones being called sexist. So who exactly are the sexists?The second point is that many serious people on both sides of the aisle do wonder what qualifies Sarah Palin to be the VP. Presidential historians have called her the second least experienced Veep pick in US history, and by far the least experienced in the modern era.I chafe at the argument that we shouldn’t discuss her shortcomings as a candidate merely because she’s a woman. That’s sexist. That’s the same old courtly BS that dates back to 1860, a technique long held to keep women in their place.Her status as a mother is, I would hazard a guess, a discussion mainly among people who until a month ago would not have considered themselves feminists. Wonder why.

  2. Perhaps I wasn’t as clear as I intended.I’m criticizing people who are asking an irrelevant question (Can she be a mom and VP?)That question is irrelevant and a distraction to the much more important issue of whether she (or Biden or Obama or McCain) is qualified to serve as president of the US (because let’s face it, the VP has to be qualified to take over that other position.)Moreover, I wasn’t saying that Dems or Republicans specifically are/are not asking the question about job-of-mother v. job-as-VP.I was only pointing out that many Americans are debating this irrelevant issue. It’s a hot topic on various blogs and “women’s” sites, sites that aren’t necessarily connected to politics or either party.The point I was trying to make (and apparently did poorly) is that the question is irrelevant.What IS relevant and what I wish people WOULD discuss are her qualifications to serve as president of the United States.And in that regard, her gender is irrelevant. The only thing that matters are her abilities, judgment, and experience.I might add, in case I wasn’t clear in my original post:I am horrified at the turn this election campaign has taken.I underestimated McCain’s political savvy and malevolence and cynicism. I mean, I wasn’t gonna vote for the guy — now, however, I’m even more terrified that he’ll win.Because let’s face it: Picking Palin was a brilliant move and it did precisely what he wanted it to do: get the attention of people who might not otherwise have cared.If he’d picked, say, Lieberman, I’d be sleeping easier at night because I think the “Oh, I don’t much care” crowd would have stayed home. Now they’re turning out in droves for Palin and they’ll turn out in droves on election day.Never mind that she’s spouting lies. Never mind that she won’t talk to reporters or voters (a fact I find both shocking and depressing. Less than two months to a major election, and one of the candidates won’t speak to reporters?????????)Anyway, McCain’s choice demonstrated evil brilliance and he knows it will pay off.MOreover, Americans have demonstrated in the past half century that they prefer the devil they know to the one they don’t know. And Republicans have mastered the art of the sleazy, lie-based campaign.Between the dumbasses who believe anything they’re told, including the pack of lies being promoted in McCain’s ads, and the people who can’t *quite* make up their minds but will opt for the safety of four more years, I don’t think Obama-Biden have a chance.It’s heart-breaking. And I’d better stop before I rant myself into the next century or something.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s