Sarah’s Choice: To Accept, or Not to Accept. Should it even be in question?

When I read the news this morning, I was blown away. Bristol Palin is pregnant. First the mumblings as to whether or not Trig is her baby and then BAM! this news. Ms. Palin’s arising family issues and personal struggles are raising more and more interesting questions every day, particularly from a feminist perspective.

What an unfortunate situation for Bristol. Not that she’s pregnant– I sincerely hope that she is elated with this news– but the presumably unwanted media frenzy that will surely be created as a result of said news, attention that wouldn’t have been paid if not for Gov. Palin’s nomination.

When reporters ask how this will affect the campaign, McCain’s people say that it shouldn’t, and to this point, they are right. These things happen, and it truly is a personal matter- a pregnancy is about as personal as personal can get. Bristol’s pregnancy does not somehow undermine her mother’s abilities. They also say, however, that they can’t imagine these questions being asked of a man. In part, yes. There will be ample talk of sexism and personal versus private life and on and on about what is “appropriate” & politically correct to talk about, but when it comes down to it, those questions will still be asked. This is a human drama at play on a national stage; and from what it sounds like, all parties involved knew what they were signing on for, whether it it appropriate to talk about or not.

It’s the story of a family full of people whose lives changed over night. Gov. Palin is not ‘just’ a woman as many first dismissed her. She is a parent. She is a mother. And we are all getting a peek into her family’s life that we couldn’t possibly have anticipated, that maybe we feel even a little guilty for getting. And yet now, in one of the toughest situations her daughter could possibly be facing in her young life, her mother’s actions have put her in the spotlight.

This raises an interesting debate. Not about what we can and can’t ask of Gov. Palin, but about the real life decisions a working woman must face, a mother. Let’s not forget in all this drama that Gov. Palin is just as human as anyone else. Her family is just as much of a family as ours.

That said, what’s she to do? The campaign says that they knew about Bristol’s pregnancy when McCain extended his offer to Palin. If this is true, Gov. Palin knew that accepting the VP nomination would bring attention to not just her accomplishments, but on to her background and family life. While the Palins are of course asking the media to be respectful of the situation, it’s naive to think that attention would not be given to this matter. Although becoming increasingly common, unwed teenage pregnancy is considered to be one of our nation’s “problems”. Gov. Palin had to have had an idea about what her eldest daughter would be up against.

Talk about stuck between a rock and a hard place. She’s asked to accept the nomination, and to be black and white about it, she has essentially 2 options:

1- Advance her career. Spend an increasing amount of time away when her daughter needs her support. Hope that the media shows her family respect and compassion. Potentially bring heartache to her family due to unwanted scrutiny.

2- Decline the position. Sacrifice her ambitions in an attempt to protect her family’s privacy. Always wonder what could have been.

Now, the campaign says that none of this would come up if Ms. Palin were a Mr. Palin and that it therefore isn’t relevent to talk about; but I find it incredibly hard to ignore. I consider myself to be a feminist, and I think it’s great that Gov. Palin is an incredibly successful female. Republican or Democrat. Liberal or conservative. She has a right to be proud of her accomplishments, juggling her work and busy family life. This is all very commendable! And so I ask, is this truly just a gender issue? Or is it that the plight of one working woman and her very real family has us all intrigued?

The Palins have a lot to endure in the coming months, maybe years. Is it fair of Gov. Palin to have accepted the nomination in light of what her family will be facing as a result? For a mother to put her child in a knowingly difficult position? Or is it more unfair of us to even think up such questions? Is this really a matter of her being a woman? Or is waving the sexism card a way of dodging some rather sticky conversations?

The campaign will surely try to make us feel wrong for asking such things. They will continue to argue their irrelevance and state that they support the Palins and believe that Gov. Palin is what our country needs. Ya know what, maybe that’s true. She is, like it or not, sacrificing her family’s privacy for her country (& perhaps for her ego), and we are never to know and told never to ask if any of these are the right reasons. Is this a patriot? Is this selfishness? Or is it simply the media going too far? A debate that is probably far more worth all of our attention than the dilemna of one 17-year-old girl from Alaska.

Well Sen. McCain, the rest of us had no idea that Gov. Palin would already be giving us so much to talk about. If you wanted a compelling personal story, well then I’m more than impressed.

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