Tuesday, October 7, 2008

From Ellen Goodman: Sarah Palin proves you can do it all, so long as you don't need help.

Ellen Goodman: Sarah Palin proves you can do it all, so long as you don't need help

Who would have dreamed that a hockey mom could produce such a bounce?

But now that so many women have skated over to her side, allow me another metaphor. Sarah Palin is the Zamboni of this campaign.

This hockey mom rolled onto the ice, did a couple of turns around the rink and managed to clear off all the nasty old Republican detritus. She gave the Grand Old (Boy) Party a new image, or at least a new surface.

Let us remember that Republicans had long targeted working mothers as the centerpiece of the culture wars. They ran an entire convention on Marilyn Quayle's line that "Most women do not wish to be liberated from their essential natures as women."

Now their heroine is the in-your-face governor who once said: "To any critics who say a woman can't think and work and carry a baby at the same time, I'd just like to escort that Neanderthal back to the cave."

Hey, wasn't that our line? Weren't the Neanderthals who wanted women to stay in their traditional roles these same conservatives? Suddenly, we are watching the parade of the flip-floppers, patriarchs with pedicures.

Who can forget James Dobson, who blamed the decline and fall of morality on "working mothers and permissiveness," and told us that real women "are merely waiting for their husbands to assume leadership." He now says "I believe Sarah Palin is God's answer. "

Who can forget Phyllis Schlafly who said the "flight from home is a flight from yourself, from responsibility, from the nature of woman." She now says that "I think a hardworking, well-organized CEO type can handle it very well."

Who can forget all this? I'll tell you who can forget: Everyone! Sarah the Zamboni has cleared the ice of this pesky historical memory.

Mind you, sexism is still alive and well. Back when a Hillary hater asked McCain "How do we stop the bitch?" John responded "Excellent question!" Now his campaign says it's "offensive and disgraceful" of Obama to use the word "lipstick." How do you spell chutzpah?

Nevertheless the good news for this cockeyed optimist is that Sarah Palin has made it politically incorrect to criticize working mothers.

There is, however, another divide between left and right that has reappeared with the governor's star turn. It's the difference between those who think a woman can have it all as long as she can do it all ... by herself. And those who think that it is neither wimpish nor whiny to push for some help.

The conservative virtue of Sarah Palin's life is that she doesn't need anything from anyone outside the family. She isn't lobbying for, say, maternity leave, equal pay or universal pre-K. Let alone universal health insurance. Or college tuition breaks, especially for that soon-to-be-teen-mom and her soon-to-be husband. Compare this to the actual Wal-Mart mom juggling day care fees and gas bills, fantasizing about a job with benefits and the flexibility to be home when the kids are sick.

So let us applaud the way Sarah Palin has pushed the working mother out of the firing line of the culture wars. But what about those family issues flattened by Sarah Zamboni?

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