Sarah Palin and Playing the Sexism Card (Because You Asked!)

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Every now and then, people actually ask my opinion before I've had a chance to give it to them for free, so I thought I’d respond to some questions I've received regarding John McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin.

As soon as the McCain campaign started running ads that were sympathetic to Hillary Clinton, I thought to myself, “He’s going to pick a woman.” Sure enough, the day after Obama’s big speech in Denver, it was announced that McCain had tapped first-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

My first response was that McCain was pandering. Obviously, he picked Palin simply because she was a woman. With absolutely zero foreign policy experience and very little executive experience, she was quite obviously not chosen for her qualifications, but for political reasons – perhaps to attract disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters.

However, when I learned about her VERY conservative positions, (most of which Clinton supporters will hate), and when I saw how much she energized the base, I gave McCain credit for picking a candidate who would ease the doubts of the social conservatives. Still pandering, but to a different group of people. In fact, when Palin tried to praise Clinton at a Republican rally, the crowd booed.

But then came the accusations of sexism. In the face of increased scrutiny by the media, McCain/Palin spokespeople are crying “sexism” every opportunity they get. One had the audacity to accuse James Carville (who tirelessly supported Hillary Clinton until the end of the primaries) of being sexist after he joked about the size of the tiny town Palin governed. And then today, another McCain spokeswoman charged that, by raising questions about Palin’s record, “the Obama campaign is clearly being sexist, just like we saw in the primaries against Hillary Clinton.”

Now, I agree that the questions bouncing around about Palin’s capabilities as a mother reflect a certain amount of sexism. But when the media or the Obama campaign raises legitimate questions about her experience or her record, they are entitled to do so! No one thinks that every time McCain challenges Obama on his lack of experience that McCain is being racist.

In April, when Palin was asked about Hillary Clinton’s complaints of sexism, Palin responded, “Oh, she’s just whining.”

Funny what a difference a few months can make.

As a woman, I feel a little patronized by this whole thing. I'm not going to vote for someone simply because she shares my anatomy. When a lady on TV got all riled up and insisted that “the only reason the media is challenging [Palin’s] experience is because she is a woman!” I couldn’t help but wonder, but would John McCain have picked a first-term Alaska governor with no foreign policy experience if he were a man?

Sometimes sexism goes both ways.

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