Monday, September 08, 2008

They don't cry, 'Parent!' Part I.

I've gotten some heat both on and off the blog for the supposedly sexist attitudes that have surfaced here since McCain chose Sarah Palin as his veep. So today I'm going to take the focus off Palin for a momentand shift it to something said about Palin by one Geraldine Ferraro. I heard it Saturday night on FOX, which, by the way, should really change its call letters to DSN: the Defend Sarah Network. Seriously, it's getting downright silly, the amount of coverage FOX devotes to championing Palin and "answering" the skepticism voiced elsewhere.*

For the benefit of people under 30: Though you'd never know it from the way the media have treated the whole Clinton-Palin motif, Sarah Palin isn't the first female vice-presidential candidate to grace a major ticket. That distinction belongs to Ferraro. She was Walter Mondale's debacle-mate in 1984, when the Dems were steamrollered by the Ronald Reagan second-term blitzkrieg. Mondale carried only his home state of Minnesota
and just barely at that. Political historians have debated Ferraro's precise impact on that race ever since; given Reagan's astonishing popularity at the time, it's unlikely that Jesus himself, if he ran as a Democrat, could have carried more than a few states. There is no doubt, however, that Ferraro (and thus the ticket) was damaged by issues surrounding her husband's finances and her own brazen (for then) stance as a pro-choice Catholic.

Anyway, it followed that when McCain tabbed Palin, the media put Ferraro on their usual-suspect list, to be called whenever they need a quote about some new campaign development. FOX looked her up the other day to ask what she made of all the questions about whether a mother with five kids, one of them a special-needs child, should be running for an important national office rather than home taking care of her brood. Ferraro snapped that the controversy was absurd on its face as well as insulting to women. She said that Palin was smart and capable, and Ferraro then added with a sneer
this is verbatim"What's she going to do at home?"

[And here, your host asks you to re-read that line, and let it sink in, before proceeding.]

First of all, wasn't it feminists who once told us that if we had to pay stay-at-home moms fair market value for what they do each day, the salary would exceed $100,000 a year?

More importantly: See the condescension? The contempt, really, for the role of mothers as well as any women who still, in 2008AD, choose that dehumanizing role! After all,
why on earth would a smart, capable woman waste her life in such a mundane activity as taking care of her own children? As it happens, my wife was also watching when Ferraro made the remark, and I swear to you, I thought Kathy was going to leap up off the couch, climb into the TV and administer a swift lethal blow to Ferraro's hi-definition jugular. "The nerve of her," said Kathy later. "And this is supposed to be an advocate for women!"

Call it sexism if you like, but my wife is hardly the only person, or the only woman, who's uncomfortable with what the Sarah Palins are determined to do and be. The other morning I watched as a disoriented Ann Curry led Carol Evans, founder of Working Mother Media, through an awkward analysis of a debate then raging on WMM's discussion boards: seems a substantial number of actual working mothers** were second-guessing Palin's decision to run. More than once Curry felt obliged to interject, with some perplexity, "And these are working moms themselves..." It was as if she couldn't get past the idea that there continue to be women who haven't yet been enlightened or fully liberated. Yes, Ann and Geraldine, even in an era when three out of five women over age 16 seek work outside the home, there are those who never got the memo
who feel that ideally, there is no higher calling, no more important job, than to mother their children. Such women believe that regardless of circumstanceseven if you have to/"have to" work—that doesn't change the probability that you're doing your children a disservice. Maybe the moms can have it all, but they're not so sure about their kids.

I'll close with something else Kathy tells me, based on her half-dozen years in child care. "When the kids fall and hurt themselves," she reports, "they cry for Mommy. Not Daddy. Or 'Parent.' Mommy." By and large, these are suburban children raised in nuclear families where both Mommy and Daddy have always worked full-time. (Here's an intriguing stat I came across in a dense academic tract called The Quiet Revolution that Transformed Women's Employment, Education and Family: Between 1973 and 2000, the percentage of married women ages 20 to 44 who reenter the workforce within one year of having a baby soared from 20 to 62 percent. What a remarkable cultural metamorphosis!) So you can't say it's environmental, i.e., that the kids single out Mommy just because she's more familiar to them. In most cases, Mommy hasn't been around that much more than Daddy, except perhaps in those few weeks of maternity leave, when, just possibly, something magical happens during breast-feeding and other nurturing activities, cementing the bond between mother and child. Whatever the case, the phenomenon appears instinctive: If there's a Mommy in the picture, that's who kids cry for.

Sometimes, says Kathy, towards the end of the day, a child will get hurt or sad at right around the time a Daddy comes to fetch him. In such cases, the child will run to Daddy...and cry, in Daddy's arms, for Mommy.

What a terribly sexist thing for a kid to do!

NEXT TIME: Why this leads us directly back to self-help and its "teachings."

* I'm not the first to say this, but can you even imagine what FOX would do if the tables were turned? If, say, Chelsea were a bit younger and turned up pregnant? I can feel the self-righteous indignation of Sean ("dumbest man on TV") Hannity all the way from here.
** In other interviews Evans has quoted the number as high as 2-to-1 against.


RevRon's Rants said...

We humans are, virtually without exception, sexist, racist, and otherwise prejudiced toward anyone who doesn't resemble us. We can deny it intellectually, and use our intellect to temper and redirect our actions, but the fact of our hard-wiring and historical experience remains, and we take the "politically correct" stance of denying its existence at our peril.

Sexism is the manifestation in a social setting of our innate biological instinct and genetic history. We can argue that both sexes can effectively engage in activities, and even work toward implementing such engagement, but even this doesn't negate the fact of one gender's being more inherently qualified for the activity. Kids' crying for mommy is but one example.

When males become capable of breast-feeding and fully sublimate our genetic and historical roles as hunter/gatherers and warriors, and women develop the physical and psychological attributes necessary to fully assume those male roles, there will be true "equality." Unfortunately, such evolutionary "progress" will be impossible until we also achieve a state of mutual androgyny (the psychophysiological equivalent of political correctness). And I don't know about anyone else, but I can't see the inability to identify each other's gender as a good thing.

We can and must strive for equality in *opportunity* for both genders, but mustn't confuse that noble aspiration with the truth of our inherent unique talents and yes, handicaps. Doing so would be to deny reality - hardly the preferred means of effecting our evolutionary progress.

Steve Salerno said...

I think, Ron, that is a very elegant and more pointed way of saying what I said colloquially and rhetorically in my post. I can understand when people argue for "full gender equality." I just think it would be nice if we all approached the subject with greater humility, avoiding the tendency to demonize, and recognizing that there are areas where, in our lust for social justice (or what we perceive as such at any given moment), we may well be trying to override Mother Nature's programming--while also forgetting about penalties that may be exacted by the Law of Unintended Consequences.

RevRon's Rants said...

If we are to fully understand our nature (not to mention, attempt to change it), it would serve us well to observe our lives more dispassionately and objectively, as you note. Perhaps it would help clarify our perspective to observe the behavior of our pets.

We had a little miniature Dachshund that was Connie's dog, through and through. She was intimidated by me, though I had never given her reason to be. She sought Connie out for loving and nurturing. Yet when we (people, dogs, and cats) would gather in the living room, or when lightning and thunder rattled the windows, guess whose lap she would seek out? Mine. I made the joke that she figured if *I* wasn't angry at her, she knew that nothing else would get past me to hurt her. As they say, the truth is oft said in jest. And our little Noelle simply never learned the art of political correctness.

My children were much the same. When hurt, they would cry for their mommy, even though she was not around. Used to hurt my feelings, until I "got it." But when they were frightened, they called for me. I learned (somewhat) to meet their nurturing needs, but never did acquire the full tenderness they saw in their mommy. And they knew from a very tender age that it was dad who would protect them from harm.

Perhaps the kind of dejection I occasionally felt when they cried for mommy is the impetus that drives people to attempt to deny the inherent difference in the sexes. I'm sure there's a thesis topic in there somewhere... probably already been written.

Anonymous said...

Children can be introduced to a new way of looking at the world and even their parents, the same way we teach them not to be racist and to be wary of strangers. It's all in the conditioning. What you say here does not excuse gender bias, certainly not the media's treatment of Sarah Palin.

Wake up Steve. For someone who hates myth making and preaches fresh perspectives on life, you (and Ron) sure seem chained to some of the old ones!

RevRon's Rants said...

Actually, anon, what we are "chained to" - and what you seem obsessed with denying - is the reality of our genetic and physiological natures. Read again; we certainly can and must strive to achieve equality in *opportunity,* but if, in so doing, we attempt to deny our physiological, genetic, and anthropological nature, our efforts are doomed to failure. You can dismiss the actions of children and even puppies as being politically incorrect and unenlightened until you're blue in the face, but all you'll accomplish is to highlight the absurdity of your position.

It would be sad to allow our passionate embrace of a dream to be subverted by our equally passionate denial of reality. A bit of objective observation would show you that there's no reason for conflict here, save perhaps the *desire* for conflict.

RevRon's Rants said...

In hindsight, I realize that my last response was probably too general in its approach. I will attempt to clarify:

"Children can be introduced to a new way of looking at the world and even their parents, the same way we teach them not to be racist and to be wary of strangers. It's all in the conditioning."

What we can do is to teach our children to be more objective in responding to situations, while acknowledging and helping them to understand their more instinctive responses. Their (and our) wariness of strangers is borne of our inherent distrust of anyone beyond our immediate clan, or who doesn't appear to share the idiosyncrasies of that clan. In short, we help them to define what constitutes a "stranger," and to understand the appropriateness of being wary. They (and we as parents) can and must learn that not all "strangers" represent threats to our well-being. However, it is equally essential that we teach them not to assume that all "strangers" are benign in their intent, and that their (the child's *and* the parent's) assessment must be objective, with both inherent genetic/anthropological and ideological perspectives taken into consideration. It is illogical to ignore or dismiss the validity of either.

"What you say here does not excuse gender bias, certainly not the media's treatment of Sarah Palin."

What we are seeing transcends gender bias, at least, at its core. In a household where there are children - especially children who will require extensive additional care - *neither* parent should engage in a profession that will leave them inaccessible to their children for extensive periods of time. And *neither* parent should engage in a career that would likely put them in the position of having to turn aside from their parental responsibilities in order to meet the demands of their position.

Palin's husband works in a position that frequently takes him away from his family for extended periods. The position of Vice-President (and the potential requirement that she assume the Presidency) will place demands upon Sarah that will inevitably force her to put her family responsibilities second. In my opinion, *both* parents' choice of profession runs contrary to the "family values" so loudly touted in the political arena.

As I'd said before, as a parent (and especially as a single parent), I would never follow a career path that would place the well-being of my children second. And yes, I have had to make that choice, when my mother's health and my children's needs led me to change careers. I took one hell of a financial hit at the time, but it was the only reasonable choice. I wonder if anyone would perceive the fear of rampant sexism as being a factor in my decision. :-)

Anonymous said...

Ron, this is anon 10:52, where do you get my "obsession" from? This is my first comment in weeks, and I don't think there's anything in the comment itself that suggests that I'm "obsessed" with anything. See, it's easy to get carried away with yourself on some of these issues, isn't it.

RevRon's Rants said...

Anonymous, such is the consequence of choosing to post anonymously. The tone of your comment closely resembled that of an(other?) anonymous poster who has repeatedly chided Steve for his alleged sexism, and whose responses have revealed some obvious internal "issues" that transcend the topics being discussed. Thus, my response re: obsessiveness. If you are not the same "anonymous," I do apologize. However, I do stand by the overall content of my responses.

Steve Salerno said...

Two points here.

1, I got the same impression as Ron initially, and assumed that Anon 10:52 was "our usual Anon" in matters of sexism. Yes, it is wrong to jump to such conclusions, and to attack a new poster with the accumulated weight of all the previous disputes with "that person" still fresh in our minds; however,

2, This is indeed as good an argument as any for why people should take a few moments and create, at the very least, a recurring online alias for the purpose of posting. We already have several participants who do just that, of course. They're the "same person" all the time, but it's not their true identity, thus they're protected from any of the more threatening excesses for which the blogosphere sometimes has drawn (deserved) fire.

And let's face it, folks: When we have a really hot topic where there's a string of a dozen or more Anon posts, interspersed with posts from named contributors, it can get downright unmanageable to determine who's talking to, or responding to, whom!

Sheri said...

Why do you have such a one-dimensional view of women? Women are either mothers or objects of desire. Steve, your posts about working women and the idea that they're fooling themselves into thinking they can have it all are just that — one dimensional.

As a mother, I want to work. I love what I do. That does not make me a bad person or a bad mother. And by wanting/doing both, that does NOT mean I'm making light of the role as mother.

The role of mother and father has changed. You can argue "innate biological instinct and genetic history," but what about the women who love their children but need/want more out of life?

Oh, wait. We already have your answer to that question. Those women are callous, "femi-Nazis." Because they can't be anything else, right? (That's a rhetorical question).

P.S. Steve, as for why people insist your gender biased: If it looks like a duck ... Your smart, you get the idea.

Steven Sashen said...

In a related note, for anyone who believes that we're all the same, men and women, I'd like to introduce them to the fraternal twin children of some friends of ours. One is a boy; the other is a girl.

At 18 months of age, one is quite verbally expressive and uses full sentences to report about internal and external events.

The other could be an extra from the opening scene with all the grunting apes in 2001.

I'll let you guess which is which.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve - Re: 1... If a goose hides in the reeds and goes "quack, quack," is it *wrong* to call it a duck, or just mistaken? :-)

Re: 2... "hey're the "same person" all the time, but it's not their true identity, thus they're protected..."

I reserve the right to be a different person according to different moods :-), but I always post as my true identity. As a result, I've been attacked before (publicly and privately), but never felt the need for the protection of anonymity. Folks who attack online are generally pretty benign in the real world, and use their online persona (or anonymity, as the case may be) as a vehicle for expressing aggression they lack the courage to express face to face. I could say that being a male who has dealt with and survived *real* aggression is a factor in my attitude, but that would probably be deemed sexist! :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Steven, I hear ya. I'm reminded of a story recounted by Christina Hoff Sommers in her thought-provoking book, The War Against Boys. Christina, incidentally, is a woman, as you may be able to tell from the name, Christina. Anyway, though the story she tells is totally anecdotal, with no larger validity claimed, it's interesting nonetheless.

I'm doing this from (long-ago) memory, so I may not be telling it verbatim, but the exact details aren't that important. As I recall, Christina and a friend of hers decided to perform an experiment. She has a young boy, the friend has a girl of similar age. She gave her boy a doll and showed him all the appropriate nurturing behaviors; the friend gave her daughter a train and showed her how boys play with trains. Within a very short period of time, the boy had transformed the doll into a soldier and was using it to shoot other toys in his room; the girl, meanwhile, had wrapped the train in a blanket and made a baby-doll out of it.

Now I'll be honest; when I first read that story, it sounded a little too pat to me. Still, I think we've all seen similar behavior in our own kids when they were very young, and not "socialized" in the gender-identified ways we always blame on "American culture."

RevRon's Rants said...

"what about the women who love their children but need/want more out of life?"

Nothing wrong with that. However, when the needs of the children (say, 5 children, one of whom has special needs) become secondary to the parents' desire for "more out of life," I think an honest assessment of the parents' values is appropriate. I've had a number of jobs in my life, but only 2 children. The jobs are long over with, but my kids will be at the top of my list as long as I live.

The way I see it, placing the pursuit of one's dreams above the responsibilities one has assumed is no different from the New Wage permission to "reinvent" one's self, even at the cost of others' well-being.

Steve Salerno said...

Sheri: What I don't understand is, why do you get upset with me for merely reporting on thoughts and comments voiced by other women? If my wife (who is a woman) and the women on the Working Mother site (who are women) report uneasiness about "having it all"--if not outright hostility to the concept--why attack me?

And while we're on the subject, in that same FOX segment, it was agreed by all--even the (one or two) Democrats on the panel--that Palin's personal life as a wife and mother should be "off the table" for criticism. Why, though? Are you telling me--and please be fair and open-minded about this, Sheri, as I'm asking you specifically--are you telling me that women like my wife, and the many other women who still feel the way she does about motherhood, are no longer entitled to a voice? Are you telling me that a woman like my wife is not even permitted to think that Sarah Palin is a bad mother, and perhaps an unfeeling, selfish person, and therefore doesn't deserve to serve in such a high capacity? You're telling me that there's no longer any room for such sentiments in America? Just because you and the women in the media and the pundits on FOX say so?

And what about the fact that Palin takes this big stand on Christianity and abstinence--and she has a daughter who turns up pregnant? That's not relevant? Does it not speak to her credibility, or at least to the credibility of her position on the subject as a matter of public policy? If not, why not?

Chad Hogg said...

I have nothing to add to the discussion of gender roles and parenting, but will respond to that last question posed to Sheri. I am not a Palin supporter, but I do not think her daughter's pregnancy damages her credibility.

To think so would imply that Palin condones her daughter's behavior, or that a good mother can or would choose to control their near-adult children to such a degree that this would not be possible.

It does, I suppose, point out that Palin could not even convince her daughter to follow her values, and that might call into question her ability to advocate for her positions on a national stage. I would think that anyone who has been the parent of a teenager, however, knows perfectly well that all you can do is give advice, be an example of the type of behavior you wish to impart in your children, and love them in spite of their inevitable missteps. I know this without having even been a parent ever.

Now the more interesting argument is that if Palin had not taken an abstinence-only approach to sex education (I presume she has done so), then this pregnancy could have been prevented and her daughter could have a (presumably) better life. I think this may be what you mean by "the credibility of her position on the subject as a matter of public policy". That is, it is a striking object lesson in the failure of the policies that she supports.

Anonymous said...

I am a woman I don't believe I can have it all at the same time. I think everything I pursue without my all loses. I would not want to have children that I could not raise, or a career that keeps me away from them. I would not be able to do both fully. I work and have children, but I have a job that allows me to work from home and to be out just enough to keep my sanity. In my experience, a lot of women do not want children and do it for a host of reasons. They think it is in their DNA to reproduce and do without the contemplation needed. How many people really think about having children?

I am an older mother. I did not have my first child until I was 36. I thought long and hard about how my life would change and what type of mother I wanted to be. I wanted to be a mother who enjoyed the full experience of being one.

I read Cathie Black's Basic Black and wondered why she even bothered! She freely admits she did not participate in raising her children, which begs the question: Why do it at all?

Yekaterina said...

>>> And what about the fact that Palin takes this big stand on Christianity and abstinence--and she has a daughter who turns up pregnant? That's not relevant?<<<

One, If Palin preaches abstinence and her daughter turns up pregnant, as long as she herself has lived her life accordingly I don't see what the problem is. We cannot make our children's choices for them.

I do find the fact that she preaches abstinence quite relevant though. Any parent who preaches abstinence to their daughters is just asking for it in my opinion.

Steve Salerno said...

Playing off what Yekat says here, let me really irritate Sheri (and many others, possibly including Yekat herself) by posing this question: If a voter believes that a woman like Palin is sacrificing the well-being of her children just so that she can have personal glory, isn't that voter entitled to factor that into his or her choice of a candidate? Suppose a voter concludes that if Palin had been a better, more available mother, she might have avoided what happened with Bristol. (It's possible...isn't it?) Since she caused harm to her children in the name of pursuing a career, isn't it fair for us to deny her that career as a penalty?

Again...I'm just throwing the question out there. But I should add that I know of at least three or four women, personally, who think that way. You know who one of them is.

RevRon's Rants said...

"Any parent who preaches abstinence to their daughters is just asking for it in my opinion."

Exactly. And if we elect a candidate for the second highest office in the land who feels compelled to *impose* abstinence-only education for everybody else's children, we're *all* asking for it.

We've all worn the blue dress for the last 8 years. Will we merely trade it in for a blue *maternity* dress? :-(

Mark said...

I've just discovered your blog and this is my first time posting, Steve. What can I say, I am too struck by your sexist attitude. And no, quoting women bashing other women does not absolve you of your responsibility (lol). It is a nifty rhetoric trick ("my wife/girlfriend says...," "my wife/GF hates feminists/working mothers more than I do..."), but it's tiresome and dishonest, let's face it. There are plenty of women who hate other women and are proud of it, but quoting them, and only them, reveals your prejudice.

I am a father of two who shares child-rearing with my wife. We both work since we need both incomes. I understand how tough and crazy-making caring for young children is. You can wax poetic about the joys of motherhood, but this does not change the fact that caring for young kids day in and out can drive a person into exhaustion and depression, and it can be, in fact, dehumanizing. Your rosy view of motherhood (oops, sorry, Kathy's view, pardon me) tells me that you were not a very involved father when your kids were young. That's the way things were when you were younger. But the roles between men and women have changed, and I, for one, am glad both for the opportunity to be a hands-on father and for my wife's opportunity to retain her sanity and life outside the home, among adults.

BTW, our kids cry both "mommy" and "daddy" when in need.

RevRon's Rants said...

"There are plenty of women who hate other women and are proud of it, but quoting them, and only them, reveals your prejudice."

As does making an assumption about Steve's wife's attitudes without knowing anything about her. I've been participating on this blog for some time now, and while there has been the occasional misogynist contributor, I've never gotten that attitude from Steve. As to his wife, after reading Steve's descriptions of their many interactions, I'd guess that she'd be more prone toward hating men than women! :-)

"caring for young kids day in and out can drive a person into exhaustion and depression, and it can be, in fact, dehumanizing."

I raised my kids for the most part as a single parent, and can attest to the fact that the endeavor can be exhausting and occasionally heartbreaking. But depressing? Dehumanizing? Sorry... those just don't ring true with my own experiences, or with my take on parental responsibility. Your mileage may vary, however.

Steve Salerno said...

Mark, thanks for dropping by, and for posting. I will cut you some slack because you say you're a newbie here...and I I intend no condescension in saying that. I'm just being literal.

First of all, you shouldn't anchor your thoughts in an argument-by-inference unless you know the circumstances of the person you're critiquing. As it happens, I was quite involved in the parenting of my wife's first two kids (from her prior marriage), and I was a stay-at-home dad for my third child (who is my only bio-child), since I was working from home (as a writer) for most of that period. My wife and I did pretty much everything as a two-parent team. Our results were unspectacular, but that's probably because we weren't especially skilled parents, which is a whole different issue from just "being there." That's a topic for another day.

My reaction against feminism (or some of its tenets) is exactly that: a reactionary kind of thing. If you choose to read SHAMblog to a greater depth, you will quickly see, since you are obviously a perceptive individual, that one of my goals here is to look behind the Givens and to dismantle ideas that seem to have become Politically Correct or Conventional Wisdom without just cause. You cannot say, today, "a woman's place is in the home." In fact, there are settings where there will be legal repercussions for voicing that idea--most workplaces, for example. (A few years ago, in the University of Wisconsin system, you could not make that statement without risking suspension for "hate speech." I think things have changed now, but debate on certain PC topics remains severely constrained.)

And yet to take that position--that you can't oppose a woman's (even a mother's) right to have full workplace equality with a man--disenfranchises whole categories of people, men and women alike (including--and I find this funny--a good part of Palin's base in the Christian fundamentalist community). That is why I raise these provocative issues. It is not "right" or "wrong" to think that women belong at home, raising their kids. It is a matter of opinion. And yet we don't treat it that way in society; only one side of the debate is really allowed to speak out nowadays.

Anonymous said...

What I find so funny about this debate about children is how having children is a choice. With all the birth control, except for Bristol Palin, and options why have children? Is it really our "biological" right to have kids? I don't think people really grasp that concept. There are a lot of people who should not be parents. I give the Big O credit for that, she opted out of the reproductive game. There was a poll a couple of years ago where parents stated if they could do it again, they would choose NOT to have children. Just makes me think.

Cosmic Connie said...

I'm really enjoying this debate, though I'm sorry we're even having to have it in regard to a Vice Presidential candidate. It's such a distraction from the real issues, and I'm sure that is exactly what McCain et al. intended.

We can debate the issues of parenting, nature v. nurture, etc. all we want, but I think we can all agree on one thing: if McCain/Palin do get elected, and there's any evidence that Sarah Palin is indeed compromising the well-being of her family, the Repubs will spin it to make her look like a hero. You know, she's heeding a higher call; she's sacrificing to serve her country, etc. They WON'T frame it as Sarah sacrificing her family for her own personal glory.

In all fairness I must add that the Dems will be looking for evidence that Sarah's family is suffering, and they'll pounce on it every chance they get.

Meanwhile, the world will continue to go to hell in a handbasket.

What's really distressing to me right now is that the Palin strategy seems to be working as a distraction on several levels. I'm thinking that quite a few women who were Hillary supporters -- and are generally liberal, pro-choice, etc. -- have turned their energies to defending Palin against "sexist" attacks. In the old days when I was more into feminism for its own sake and was seeing a sexist in every corner, I might have done the same. But now I'm able to look beyond the fact that Sarah Palin is a woman, and see that she embraces some ideas I find truly repugnant.

As for the whole out-of-wedlock pregnancy issue (and I'm sure this has been pointed out but perhaps bears repeating), it could be said that Bristol is following her mom's example after all, given the evidence that Sarah herself got pregnant with her first child BEFORE she got married. Family tradition and all that...Of course, this is not something that the hypochristians like to dwell on.

Elizabeth said...

"This Election is Not a Soap Opera or a Football Game: It is About the Future of Our Country"

Steve Salerno said...

But Eliz and Connie (and the others who've touched on the point) are 100% correct: While we're debating the nuance of what it means to be a mother, there are rather more serious issues flying under the radar.

Well, we shall see what happens once Gov. Palin kicks off her interview tour, which I believe begins with Charlie Gibson late this week. And I hope Gibson has recovered from his dreadful performance as moderator at that Democratic debate, otherwise we're likely to hear a series of trenchant, probing questions designed to draw Palin out about her true feelings on Cindy McCain's sense of style...

Elizabeth said...

What's going on right now is Karl Rove's wet dream (excuse my blunt expression). The choice of Palin, the GOP Madonna (no, not the "singing" one) has ignited a massive culture war fueled by sexism and ideological hatreds, a war that can only benefit the conservatives, given that we have little time left till November. The strong reaction to Palin is exactly what was expected (and desired) by the GOP operatives. They know well that a young and attractive gun-toting, hunting, deeply religious and pro-life mother of five is pretty much an archetype of the Republican power. (For those with photoshop skills, consider making a Palin's portrait as a Madonna with child, both with halos made of stars and stripes, with a rifle propped to her side, and oil rigs, dead animals, and bridges to nowhere in the background. Holy Sarah, Mother of The Republic. So tacky, yet so on target.)

But while we are all gasping and groaning and dissecting her mothering skills (which we never do with male politicians, btw) and other personal details, we waste our time which should be spent pounding in the real issues: war, no or dismal healthcare, dismal education, massive debt, housing crisis, staggering unemployment and stagnant wages, increasing economic inequalities, shrinking middle class, civil rights abuses, etc. etc. This is what this election is about, not gossipy or hagiographical tales (e.g. POW) from the candidates' biographies.

Though the latter is exactly what Republicans want us to focus on, if only because they have nothing of real substance to offer.

Steve Salerno said...

Again, Eliz, I agree that the GOP certainly has gotten its money's worth out of far. It's their own special Wag the Dog. But I also think this was a very risky move for them, with a lot of potential elements that could backfire or blow up in their faces.

She may be Rove's wet dream right now, but depending on what happens--and in election terms, two months is a long time--she could easily leave him feeling impotent.

RevRon's Rants said...

So it's not acceptable to discuss the disparity between the woman's professed values and her actual implementation of those values? Inasmuch as the values she represents comprise a significant portion of her alleged appeal, I hardly think that challenges to the way she acts on those values constitutes gossipy irrelevance.

Bottom line is that if she carries off her charade unchallenged, the very problems you describe will quite likely worsen. And I have the feeling that failing to address these topics for fear of being labeled sexist is probably closer to Rove's fantasy scenario.

To be honest, I'm not too worried. I suspect that when face to face with Biden in a debate, she will revert to the same platitudes we've already seen, and the public will see how truly unqualified she is. And if the public accepts her anyway, well, we probably deserve what we get in November.

Anonymous said...

"But I also think this was a very risky move for them, with a lot of potential elements that could backfire or blow up in their faces."

I think Palin is going to blow-up in the GOP's faces. There is only so much cheesecake anyone can take. Over the past weekend, the government took control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (I called that a while back)and the unemployment rate is at record numbers. To reuse an old quote, "it's the economy stupid."

Elizabeth said...

she could easily leave him feeling impotent

Which is my sincere wish. (And should it happen, it will not be a moment too soon.)

Speaking of sincere wishes, I want to be vice-president too!

I'm good-looking enough, articulate enough, and have been a mother longer than Palin (though we are the same age). My kids have problems too, though being boys they don't get pregnant -- besides, I've drilled (Alaskan pun fully intended) into them lessons on protection. Yes, I am pro-choice, I admit -- but I also wear lipstick! And I have so much executive experience running my household that it is all coming out of my ears. I cook for my family, too, and did not even have to fire our personal chef as the opportunity never presented itself (nor did a chef).

I can be feisty and energetic -- I've never shot an animal, but was tempted several times to slap those obnoxious PTA moms who get in your face with their "I'm holier than you -- why don't you try to be more like me?" attitude. I'm proud to report that I was able to restrain myself in time, which shows my good judgment and self-control. I know something about foreign affairs (not that I'm bragging here, but I've had a passport much, much longer than Palin) and I know four languages, more or less. Two of them more.

I manage to be shrill and sarcastic when needed -- and even when not, as you well know. I certainly can read well, perhaps even from a teleprompter, and could write my own speeches if necessary. And I'm about to learn how to sell things on eBay (or so threatens my husband).

You can see, I hope, that I'm more than qualified for the position of vice-president. And as to the rest of the stuff -- you know, like being president 'n all -- I can learn that on the job. I'm a quick study. (This Obama dude has never been a real prez either; his obscure Harvard Law Review is for nerds only and does not count. And don't even get me started on "community organizing." Psheesh...)

Cosmic Connie said...

Ron wrote:
"So it's not acceptable to discuss the disparity between the woman's professed values and her actual implementation of those values? Inasmuch as the values she represents comprise a significant portion of her alleged appeal, I hardly think that challenges to the way she acts on those values constitutes gossipy irrelevance."

True, Ron, but what I meant, and what I am guessing Elizabeth and Steve meant too, is that it's too bad we're having to engage in conversation at all about these issues right now, simply BECAUSE there are so many other important issues. And it seems that McCain/GOP deliberately put Palin in the limelight not just to win points for McCain but to provide a distraction for everyone else.

That said, these "domestic" issues *are* important to most Americans in their day to day lives -- more important, really, than a stain on a blue dress a few years back. Perhaps if her detractors do a good enough job painting Palin as a hypocrite (which I think she is in many ways), it will finally wake the GOP up to the fact that this is, after all, the twenty-first century, and certain archaic policies aren't working any more, if they ever did.

Or am I dreaming? Will the GOP continue to glaze over the hypochristian aspects and keep spinning Palin as a feisty heroine, a spokesperson for the everyday woman (and man)?

Meanwhile, speaking of gossip, the Australian tabloid show "A Current Affair" is watching this race with interest. Here's their Palin video teaser for September 8:


Juggling careers

September 8, 2008: Sarah Palin could soon be one of the world's most powerful women, making international decisions one moment, changing nappies [diapers] and helping with homework the next."

See, it's all entertainment to them. If only that were really the case...

But it's interesting what an idealized "she really CAN do it all by herself" notion the Aussies, at least the ACA crew, seem to have of Palin.

RevRon's Rants said...

Perhaps if the public finally sees - and admits - what a political sham Sarah's nomination represents, we'll actually have the opportunity to see some of the pertinent issues addressed. However, since her nomination is not about capability, qualification, or issues, I think it appropriate to point out what it *is,* and move along quickly.

Bemoaning the shenanigans of both parties, the absence of integrity in government, and the commercialization of legislative activity is healthy, but only as a prerequisite to removing the guilty parties from the equation. In Palin's case, all we have to look at is the "image" as compared to the actions, but it'll do in a pinch.

Steve Salerno said...

I just keep coming back to the cynicism behind Palin's selection, what it says about the political process, and--I'm kind of surprised that none of the pundits has homed in on this--how Palin's presence on the ticket refutes the whole idea of Change and reminds us that it is very much "business as usual." Even if someone argues that she is marginally qualified to be president (which I'm not prepared to do, at this point), there is no way on God's green earth that anyone can argue that she was the single best v.p. candidate among the entire GOP. (Can you? Anyone? Be real here. Sarah Palin was the best the GOP had to offer, out of all of its politicians everywhere?) She was a purely political choice, made for purely political reasons, to address purely political shortcomings in the hope of propping up the chances of a party that wants to win an election being approached in purely political terms.

Elizabeth said...

What's the difference between Palin and Muslim fundamentalists? Lipstick

A theocrat is a theocrat, whether Muslim or Christian.

By Juan Cole

Elizabeth said...

I'm kind of surprised that none of the pundits has homed in on this--how Palin's presence on the ticket refutes the whole idea of Change and reminds us that it is very much "business as usual."

Hm. I'm thinking you're listening to the wrong pundits, Steve. ;) There are many seasoned political commentators who point out the very same thing. But you may not necessarily find them in MSM because, as we well know, MSM are famous for their bias (yeah, that "librul" bias, of course -- what else).

Elizabeth said...

She was a purely political choice, made for purely political reasons, to address purely political shortcomings in the hope of propping up the chances of a party that wants to win an election being approached in purely political terms.

IOW, identity politics at its worst (or best, if you will). And, if I'm not mistaken, it was Repubs who coined the term, no? So why are they so shy now to use it and tell it like it is? (No need to answer this one.)

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz, you're right, I tend to get my news (or what passes for news) from the MSM. And I'll be honest, in spite of all the problems with MSM, I do think their vetting process is superior (and their agenda generally less naked) than what one finds on such sites as, say, The Progressive Populist, Truthout, or even Huffington Post. I'm still naive enough to believe that on the networks, and with the conspicuous exceptions of FOX and MSNBC, the "tilt" is unintentional, as a rule. I also think that listening to MSM gives me a better feel for, well, what the mainstream is thinking, and that's helpful if you're running a blog that deals in the Givens, the direction in which cultural gales may be blowing, and such. But I admit, it sometimes leaves me behind the curve on certain types of stories.

Elizabeth said...

in spite of all the problems with MSM, I do think their vetting process is superior (and their agenda generally less naked)

I would disagree with this, Steve. It obviously depends on your POV. To me, their agenda is glaring, most of the time. And it is far from "librul." MSM are owned and ran by wealthy corporations and individuals. Whose interests do you think they represent? (Hint: It ain't the poor and huddled masses.)

And those who control the media, control the political process.

This control, btw, does not need to be in-your-face crude manipulation -- and it usually isn't. It's far more subtle, often accomplished by gentle omissions (such as not airing interviews with pundits who are critical of Palin, for example). It is far -- far -- from fair and balanced.

Elizabeth said...

A quick example: I just ran across a story (from AP) titled:

"Obama tries to steal Nebraska electoral vote from McCain"

Now, what's wrong with this title? Do you think it is unbiased? I don't. The choice of words itself, seemingly innocent, carries the message here.

Steve Salerno said...

I was talking less in terms of analysis than in factual news reporting, Eliz. What I meant about the vetting was that--again, in general--the odds are far lower that NBC is going to bring you a story that's the political equivalent of an Elvis sighting. There are fact-checkers and line producers, and there are story meetings that involve reasonably intelligent people who, if nothing else, are well-versed in the tenets of proper reportorial procedure. Whereas on some of the second-line media, they tend to "run" with stories that...well, that argue that 9-11 was an inside job, e.g. Now, I guess it's possible that at some point in the future, someone may come up with evidence proving that 9-11 was an inside job. But to report it as straight news? Now? And provide "evidence" along the lines of a lot of what I've seen? Also, second-line media are far more likely to do funky things with stats--on purpose--in order to build their cases. Yeah, that happens at NBC too, but it's usually an artifact of someone's unintentional sympathies.

Steve Salerno said...

Elizabeth, you can't be seriously arguing that the media, by and large, tilt right...can you?

Elizabeth said...

Alright, Steve, I set out to compose a more reasoned and wordy response, but, as usual, found somebody else doing it much better. One Joseph Romm, in this case, here:

While he is not doing a general analysis of the right-wing MSM bias, he shows, effectively and using current examples from the election, how this bias works. It's better than what I was to say anyway.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, the media tilts in only one direction: ratings. If the current national mood is off-the-charts to the right, folks like Hannity will be given voice whenever they want it. If the mood swings left, so does the tilt of the coverage.

Elizabeth is correct in her assessment of the political leanings of MSM ownership. But these folks are businesspeople first, and political beings second. They will structure their coverage for the best possible ratings, limited only by an awareness of how far they can lean without hurting their collective bottom line.

Steve Salerno said...

Guys, as you well know by now, I am an Obama man in this political season...but I don't think there can be any question that the overall, ambient bias of the MSM is left-wing. To argue differently is akin to arguing that academia has a conservative bent. I could cite examples chapter and verse, but I'm better served by simply recommending Bernie Goldberg's books, which document the prevailing bias in media (at least in print and broadcast) to a painful degree. In fact, the liberal tilt in TV is directly responsible for the rise of Rush Limbaugh and the rest of right-wing radio, FOX, and the numerous conservative blogs, which were (a) reactions to the tilt in TV, and (b) an attempt to make financial hay out of the many Americans who felt that their views simply weren't being represented on network TV.

Incidentally, I don't think you can use the current political season as much of a litmus test, because there are so many confusing elements in play. The entry of Palin into the mix definitely causes some synaptic turmoil among media types who normally root for women--especially working women--but now are confronted with a woman, this woman, who is part of the GOP ticket, a bible thumper, and anti-abortion. Still, you have to admit, the media have not been kind to Palin, in general.

Elizabeth said...

Still, you have to admit, the media have not been kind to Palin, in general.

No, but so what? Have they been kind to, say, Hillary?

The woman is a VP candidate. How is she going to handle the Putins of this world, if she's complaining about excessive and unfair questioning from "South Bend Morning Star"? And, btw, she made fun of Hillary, calling her a whiner, for allegedly complaining about unfair press coverage (which, incidentally, is something Hillary did not do in this election). C'mon, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. This is no longer PTA.

See this for some related comic relief:

As to the "left-wing bias" of the media, I hope to write more on the subject when I have time, but I'm sorta crunched now. Let's just say that a perception of the bias is in the eyes of the beholder.

Elizabeth said...

I don't think there can be any question that the overall, ambient bias of the MSM is left-wing. To argue differently is akin to arguing that academia has a conservative bent. I could cite examples chapter and verse, but I'm better served by simply recommending Bernie Goldberg's books

First, I'd say that you cannot compare MSM to the academia -- different roles, different standards, different payroll (in general).

Second, if you only pay attention to right-wing pundits, of course you'll get a one-sided perspective, with appropriate examples to support it. Bernie Goldberg is hardly an objective observer, IMO.

Third, Steve, a couple of posts above you complained of MSM being quiet on the identity politics involved in the choice of Palin. WBut what is it if not an in-your-face example of the bias (tilting right)? Step away from MSM and you will find plenty of thoughtful, critical analysis on the topic. If you think this is not a bias that stops MSM from covering the Palin story with their eyes opened, then what's your explanation? No, seriously?

BTW, if MSM were doing their job, we would not be in Iraq now. But what can one expect from people who consider "Meet The Press" to be the standard of "tough" political journalism?

And finally, check this for a different perspective

I can send you more, but it's not necessary, I think.

Steve Salerno said...

With all due respect, the media debate (and even the mere media coverage) in this country is from the center left. There is no debate on MSM that represents the true polar right. We see a thousand stories about downtrodden people who have fallen through the cracks, and how we can't just leave them behind...but when was the last story you saw on how we should just eliminate safety nets, period? You see a million stories about high-achieving women who are challenging the glass ceiling--but no stories about how women have no business in the workplace and should be forced to go home and take care of their kids. Yes, you see stories about the importance of maintaining a strong national defense (notice: defense)...but no stories about how--inasmuch as we are the world's last remaining superpower--maybe we should just go out and nuke the countries that pose a risk to us.

That is the true (Barry Goldwater) right, and those viewpoints have no voice in MSM.

Steve Salerno said...

(They barely have a voice in the Republican party anymore)

Steve Salerno said...

Incidentally, Goldberg was a lifelong Democrat and a trusted member of the CBS establishment who went to FOX after he was essentially blackballed at the Big 3 for going public with his feelings about left-wing bias.

Elizabeth said...

With all due respect, the media debate (and even the mere media coverage) in this country is from the center left.

With all due respect, we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. I hope. For now at least.

I'll be curious to hear your thoughts, when you have time, about the Moyers' speech I linked in my last post.

But can you answer my question, Steve? The one about why MSM is not calling the Palin's candidacy what it is -- crass identity politics? I'm really interested in your opinion.

Anonymous said...

"no stories about how--inasmuch as we are the world's last remaining superpower--maybe we should just go out and nuke the countries that pose a risk to us."

Are you talking about a conservative bias or stupidity here? Going out to nuke countries that pose a risk to us is no right or left wing, it's moronic.

Steve Salerno said...

But see, Anon, you are proving my point, in a way. In my father's era, there was substantial public sentiment--including discussions at the highest levels of Harry Truman's* administration--for simply launching against the Soviets before they had nukes, too. (This was in the years right after Hiroshima.) Argument for a so-called first-strike option continued into the Johnson administration, when it evolved into the doctrine known as MAD--mutual-assured-destruction ("we won't launch first, but if you kill us, we'll have enough nuclear resources left to kill you, too"). But the existence and "appeal" of a first-strike doctrine continues to be an open secret among NATO members in Europe, who worry about Russian aggression as well as biological threats from the closest Muslim nations. And of course, Israel has been quite public in claiming the right to simply "take out" any Arab neighbor that appears to be on the verge of taking Israel out. I don't think anyone doubts Israel's resolve to actually take that step, if necessary (in its view).

If such notions seem "moronic" here in the U.S., it is partly because they've been marginalized by a media that, through the years, have embraced and re-sold the more liberal position on global unrest: diplomacy, conciliation and limited "defensive" action.

* who was a Democrat.