Columns 2008

It’s simply not fair

Excuse me, but I just have to say this. Darn that Sarah Palin!  And believe me, when that phrase first popped into my head, darn was not necessarily the euphemism that came with it.  I know life is not necessarily fair, but this is ridiculous.  I look more pregnant when I’m constipated than Palin looks two months before delivery.  Where is the fairness in that? I have friends who swear they looked more pregnant seven minutes after conception than she does now.

This woman was doing shoots for Vogue magazine when she was at least four or five months pregnant, and they weren’t pictures of women who look good pregnant. They were pictures of powerful women who just look good period. If she is trying to lose the vote of every woman who has ever run through the grocery store with a hoodie pulled up over her head because she was having a bad hair week, she’s done it.

Then, just when I thought she had finally pushed me to the limit, what with being beautiful and having a seemingly great husband and nice kids and a good job and all that stuff, I read this quote from her in the newspaper story that broke her pregnancy secret. “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.” And I fell for her all over again.

Young women entering the workforce today may not completely understand what this means to those of us who entered the workforce at a very different time and under very different circumstances.  Let me illustrate.

When this story first broke, a professional organization I belong to was in the process of lining up its May luncheon speaker.  Palin had been at the top of the list of people being considered. Needless to say, the idea that she might go into labor while addressing the group gave us some pause to discuss alternatives. And so a flurry of e-mails ensued about whether it was a good idea to invite someone so potentially close to her due date to be our featured speaker.

One of the people engaged in the discussion described how, when she was pregnant with her first child, her employer made her stop working a full month before her due date despite the fact that she was having a healthy pregnancy that was not in any way affecting her job performance. She suggested that perhaps that employer had the ulterior motive of forcing her off the payroll before the paid Christmas and New Year’s holidays happened.  This same woman then went on to write that when her daughter had her first child, she worked up to the day before she delivered and no one really saw anything strange, odd or scary about that.

Today’s young women in the workforce didn’t even blink when they read that Palin went back to work as Wasilla’s mayor the day after her last child was born; it was business as usual. But to those of us of a certain age, it signified a victory. Those young women who today shy away from being called feminists or libbers have the freedom to do so because us old ladies wore those names proudly and refused to be held back due to prejudices and misconceptions about how gender affects workplace performance.

I’ve actually heard men defend the male monopoly on positions of power because of their fear that if a woman was having a baby when a crisis occurred, she wouldn’t be there to do her job. And all I could think was that George Bush was probably more sedated when he had his colonoscopy than most women are while delivering.  And no one worried that because Bush had a colon, he couldn’t be president.  There were lots of other reasons some of us didn’t think he could do the job, but his colon wasn’t one of them.

I will eventually get over the desire to stand up and scream at Sarah Palin, “Are you kidding me here? You’ve seven months pregnant? Where are you carrying this baby?  In your pocket?” Once that impulse has passed, I’ll be left with a quiet feeling of satisfaction that I was of the generation that led to all the Sarah Palins who dot the American landscape today. Happy baby, Governor!  Way to show’em how it’s done!