It’s been three days since the vice-presidential debate. I purposely didn’t write about it the next day because I wanted a chance to digest it.
Both candidates had personal goals in this debate: Biden needed to show that he could carry on a successful debate without coming across as a sexist bully. Palin needed to show that she’s capable of carrying on a debate, period. Both achieved their goals.
I am in the unenviable position of admiring Sarah Palin for what she’s accomplished while abhorring the thought of her accomplishing even more: becoming the first woman vice president of the United States. There are so many reasons why that makes me uneasy, I don’t have room to go into them here.
But one of the things that I most dislike about Palin (although many people love it) is her folksiness. And the reason I don’t like it is because I believe that she is playing on her womanhood to get away with it. From the time the two candidates walked onto the stage and she asked Biden if she could call him “Joe” to her line about “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” she attempted to get away with behavior that would be considered disrespectful at best and rude at worst if a man had attempted it.
Biden respectfully called Palin “Governor” throughout the debate, even correcting himself at one point when he referred to her as “Sarah Palin.” But Palin used her folksy charm to get away with comments that lowered the tenor of the debate. When Biden called her on not answering the questions, she answered that she was more interested in talking straight to the American people than in answering questions that were put to her by the debate moderator, Biden, and the media. Huh?
I have not heard anyone in the press refer to her act as a version of the “shrinking violet” and the “iron hand in the velvet glove.” They’re probably afraid to do so because they don’t want to sound sexist. But I was raised to believe in good manners, and I respected Biden for displaying his.
To me, being a feminist doesn’t mean that you get to play on your womanly wiles to do whatever the hell you want to. Maybe I’m just uncomfortable with the fact that Palin is playing the game the way her male counterparts do. But that’s just it: she’s not. She’s using her womanhood to get away with behavior that would be criticized if a man displayed it.