The “Double Standard” Complaint of Sarah Palin

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I’m a big fan of Sarah Palin. I like her, and respect what’s she’s accomplished, personally, politically and for the people of Alaska. I don’t live in Alaska, but wouldn’t mind her replacing the governor of my own state.

In an interview, portions of which I saw on yesterday’s news, Governor Palin commented about the unfairness of how the media went after her appearance in ways they never would have done to her male counterparts. She’s right. They did. It’s also true that they would have been less discriminatory in their questions and comments had she been a Washington insider and/or less attractive – closer, in other words, to the standard for women in politics which most mainstream media find acceptable.

I think she’s right, and that the behavior of the media is wrong, but there’s a related counter-point which always goes unsaid, until now. (You can thank me later.)

Many women have been brought up and conditioned to think they look better wearing makeup, high heels, an interesting “do,” and more elaborate professional clothing. And to be honest, I was raised to believe that, too. Men, on the other hand, don’t do that, don’t think that way for the most part. Some do, of course, but most of us don’t. Whether or not women look better coloring their faces, standing on their toes or spending significant time and money preparing their hair which might be put to more productive use isn’t the point. If you’re a woman and you want to do those things because you believe it’s good for your self-image, career, whatever, that’s entirely up to you. But if that is what you choose to do, be aware that it gives many men, and probably more than a few women, the sense that you believe those accoutrements are an important element of how you define yourself – when, in fact, that may not be why you want to be hired or elected.

Although it’s been a while, I’ve been around women who would go braless to make a statement which was popular at the time, but not dream of giving up their lipstick and eyeliner. However interesting the look, I remember asking myself then, and now, what was the point they were trying to make?

If you’re a woman and you’re going to wear makeup, etc., which your male counterparts do not, it’s your right, but don’t be surprised if you’re viewed and treated differently because you do. There’s a double standard, all right, and it’s wrong, but most women continue to do little or nothing to discourage it.

We just elected a black man President because most of us don’t care about the color of his skin – or what he, himself, described, as “Alfred E. Newman ears.” I don’t think he wears makeup, at least not in the ordinary course of business. I’m pretty sure that’s his own hair which he spends little or no time preparing, and the heels on his ordinary shoes are minimal. A similar day may come soon, I hope, for women when most of us have stopped considering their appearance as relevant, and focus instead upon their abilities and experience. It’s something they have to believe, too, and probably first, before the rest of us get the point. Personally, I can’t wait.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, it wasn’t that the Republicans spent all that money on Governor Palin’s wardrobe that bothered me so much, as it was that they thought she needed to look better, and that she was, at least tacitly, conceding the point by not opposing it. In retrospect, do his managers think that, if only they had spent more money on Senator McCain’s clothes, he might have won?

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2 responses to “The “Double Standard” Complaint of Sarah Palin

  1. The reason for Gov. Palin’s disproportionate attention was two-fold. One, she was a relative unknown on the national scene who immediately became the “star” of the Republican Party. Two, she is a dimwit. Her intellectual breadth is appallingly narrow and makes George W. Bush look a centrist scholar. In some of your earlier posts you had described your ideal politician as a CEO. If you had your own small business and poured through the resumes would the girl who went to six colleges get an interview? And if you did interview her, would her gross incompetence about the widgets you produce, the marketing of widgets, and the history of widgets turn you off? Her appeal is physical. She is attractive. And aside from the handful of folks who stand to the right of W. Bush and share her extremist views on abortion, the environment, etc., her new army of male supporters (I guess you included) have been seduced by our newest incarnation of a Greek Siren.

  2. Hi. This response may seem stern, but it’s not. Too bad you can’t see the smile on my face. You are, after all, one of my favorite Wordies.

    As you may know, I travel a lot on business during which I come into contact with people of remarkable diversity. What I have learned is that it is often easy to underestimate the capabilities of people who are less polished, less sophisticated, less cultured, less formally educated — even less knowledgeable on many topics, but whose determination, integrity, generic intelligence, common sense and fairness have made them extraordinarily effective at what they do. It has been both a humbling and, at the same time, reasuring experience.

    For the record, I, myself, am way over-educated and yet know next to nothing about anything. If you care at all, don’t ever let Katie Couric interview me.

    What counts is what people accomplish. For all their education, experience and the opportunity to work full time on our nation’s problems — and to be well paid in the process — our Congess seldom does anything well or right. Are they dimwits, too, or just ineffective?

    Barack Obama hasn’t been President-Elect for a week yet, and already he’s deferring the promises he made to get himself elected for more pressing issues, because, what?, he is just now realizing we’re in a recession and there’s a budget to balance, not to mention Iraq and Afghanistan? Com’on. As obviously intelligent, as erudite, as studied as he is, what in the world makes you think he’s going to make a better President, or be any more effective than the politicians who preceded him?

    It’s not that we need to lower our standards so that a Sarah Palin is electable — in fact, she really isn’t the point at all — it’s that we need to redefine those standards to focus on those qualities that will make for the most effective on-the-job performance. And that may be why so few Ph.D.s in Economics or even Business run our nation’s major corporations.

    Always a pleasure, blue jay. -wf

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