The Palin Punditry


Publish Date:
September 15, 2008
Publication Title:
National Law Journal
Op-Ed or Opinion Piece Pages 23
  • Deborah L. Rhode, The Palin Punditry, National Law Journal, September 15, 2008, p. 23.


Professor Deborah Rhode wrote an opinion piece for the National Law Journal about debates over the “woman issue” in the context of Governor Sarah Palin’s vice presidential candidacy:

There has been so much not to like about the treatment of women during this political campaign that you might think the recent round of Sarah Palin punditry should come as no surprise. But the selection of the Republicans’ first female candidate for vice president has reignited debates over the “woman issue” at leadership levels, debates that are applicable to professional as well as political contexts.

One controversy involves a variation on the question that often surfaces in disputes over affirmative action and gender preferences. Is this a case of undeserved tokenism? To many former Clinton supporters and pro-choice Republicans, the notion that “any vagina will do” to galvanize women’s support seems insulting, misguided or both. Others appear equally incensed that someone with as little national or foreign policy experience should make it on to the ticket because of sex. And a third group, typified by former Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina, seem intent on interpreting any challenge to Palin’s qualifications as itself evidence of sexism.

Everyone should get a grip. The selection of political nominees has always been at least partly about demographics and surely a bump for gender is no less offensive than other forms of balance that parties have traditionally sought. If the question to beneficiaries of affirmative action is: “How does it feel to get a position because you are a woman?,” the answer should be: “Much better than not getting it because I am a woman.” But special treatment should extend only so far. No woman’s qualifications should get a pass because of chromosomes. “Sexism” is a fair description of a placard telling Hillary Clinton to “Iron my socks.” It is not sexist to ask whether being governor of a state close to Russia counts as foreign policy experience.