Politics, Pageantry, and Palin in the Media: Does the 1st female Republican nominee help or hinder feminist advancement?

This year’s election season has been chock-full of historical moments. Hillary Clinton won more primaries and delegates than any other female presidential candidate in American history. Barack Obama is the first African American to be nominated by a major political party for president. And Sarah Palin, Alaska’s first female governor, is the first female Republican vice-presidential nominee.

I took great pride in all three moments – even in the latter. Within my liberal circle, we reluctantly admitted that McCain’s VP choice was smart in a sense, as it was the only way to upstage the Democratic National Convention. But beyond the politics of it all, it meant that this country was changing. Personally, it meant that my future children would grow up with far different realities than my own.

A little over a month later, Charlie Gibson, Katie Couric, and Tina Faye revealed to me some reasons why I might want to rethink my stance. Perhaps this blog entry is too late. Some may even argue that it’s 27 days too early. But after two questionable interviews, one less than stellar debate performance and countless moments of embarrassment, I think this question has far more meaning now than it did before:

Does a nomination of a woman really signal advancement for feminism if the standards she is held to are barely visible, let alone equal to that of a man?

After the debate, I was shocked to hear liberal pundits giving her praise for a job well done. While she was far more articulate than she had been in her two prior interviews, it was piercingly obvious that she couldn’t speak beyond the generalities. She set her standards low. The media set her standards low and so did her supporters. As if all it takes to be one breathe away from the presidency is properly formulated sentences, beauty pageant answers, eye winks and folksy colloquialisms.

Bottom line, I don’t know if people will take seriously the notion that Palin’s nomination marks advancement for women when her nomination is arguably the embodiment of sexism: "protecting" her from the press, setting her standards low, and expecting women all over the country to overlook it all and vote for her ticket anyway.

No doubt Palin is smart. I don’t even doubt her maverickness. But by golly folks, if I have a daughter who wants to run for one of the highest jobs in the land one day, I want the bar for her to be just as high as it would be for my son.