I would like to take you on a journey of the imagination…
Imagine that Sarah Palin is not a woman, but a man. We’ll call him Mr. Palin. Mr. Palin has been mayor of a small town in Alaska, and governor of that state for less than two years, a state whose entire population is less than that of most US major metropolitan areas and in this position. In this position, Mr. Palin is being investigated for questionable conduct. Imagine that he obtained his passport within the last couple of years, and that he considers foreign policy experience living next door to another country. Take it further and imagine he believes the earth was created in a few thousand years, that dinosaurs roamed the earth with humans, and that creationism should be taught in public schools. Suppose also that this man believes women should not have the right to choose, and that rape victims should pay for their own rape kits. Imagine Mr. Palin hunted moose from a helicopter and sought removal of environmental protections for polar bears. Imagine he has no knowledge of financial markets, the cold war, weapons systems, or Middle Eastern history. Imagine all of this and more.
If this were true, and Sarah Palin were a man, would he have even been on the longest list of potential US vice-presidential candidates for any political party? It would be unthinkable.
Why are the standards for this woman running for vice-president so much lower than they would be for a man? Shouldn’t the standards be the same? To determine whether someone did not get a job because of something other than merit, simply slip whatever that person is not into the position in your mind and ask yourself whether the same standards would apply. If there are disparities in the standards required between two people seeking the same position, it is quite likely that discrimination is occurring in some form, even if it is allowing someone to be worse at something in an effort to pretend there is no -ism taking place.
Here, we have a woman running for vice-president who is grossly underqualified. Those who support her claim that her position as a vice-presidential candidate is evidence of women shattering the glass ceiling. Actually, the opposite is true. Allowing her to take a position for which she is not qualified and giving her extra points for being a woman is the ultimate in sexism: it is using gender as a qualifier rather than merit. Beyond the obvious arguments against her abilities, her position as a vice-presidential candidate assumes on some level that a qualified woman could not perform the job. Sarah Palin’s place on the Republican ticket does not shatter the glass ceiling, it lowers it.