“Mrs. Palin’s marriage actually makes her a terrific role model. One of the best choices a woman can make if she wants a career and a family is to pick a partner who will be able to take on equal or primary responsibility for child-rearing.” Cathy Young
Re.: Thanks to Jay Manifold’s argument below and link to Young. Heinlein’s women seemed to me (and I wasn’t a fan and read them long, long ago) a bit how a man imagined a strong woman to be. He is no Michelangelo but both capture energy. David’s beauty is power & grace, the swirling power of God awesome. Of course, his women, too, are muscular. But, then, I’ll take Manifold (and Heinlein’s) model – I’d like to be someone who pulls her weight. Most women would.
The attraction of Democratic largesse for a woman who wants the government as mate is countered by self-reliance (and family-reliance) when a woman takes a fallible & loving, flesh & blood partner. Governor Palin values her husband, which is not submissive but mature. Franklin’s belief that “God helps them that helps themselves” is seldom more true than in marriage. This understanding eliminates the synthetic and sentimental drama of the Lifetime channel, “women’s issue” politics, and daily bitching sessions that resemble spinning car wheels deep in mud. But that understanding, that engagement – not consciousness raising – liberates.
Americans value individualism & exploration; our traditional plots often open-ended, conclude with exile or death. Victorians, however, preferred the comedic – marriage, acceptance in a community. But it isn’t sentimental: some marriages worked, some entrapped.
I encouraged my daughters (not always successfully) to read Jane Austen as they started puberty. Her major theme is defining what is (and isn’t) a good spouse. Spinster that she was, she understood that such choices are likely to determine the form of our lives. And she held her heroines responsible. The Marxists may complain that her best husbands are the wealthiest, but I doubted her texts led to materialism or gold digging. After all, Elizabeth first turns down a “safe” if boring match; then she declines Darcy’s rather insulting and oblique proposal despite his wealth. She is reconciled not to his money but to his character. Nor is it sex I want my daughters to fear; rather, the kind of man with whom life is difficult, unpleasant, and soul-destroying. Such men exist – and women sometimes marry them. The strident feminists are not that good at choosing men: perhaps if you assume they are all asses, it is hard to differentiate levels of “assness.”
I’ve never been impressed with women surprised their husbands are jerks. Perhaps I’m a sociopath without appropriate sympathy. The meterologists tell you staying in Galveston risks “certain death”: you assume hyperbole, but does that mean you want to risk even, say, 10% certainty? If your guy hits you or yells at you or is just remarkably stupid, probably neither his temperament nor IQ will improve magically by uttering marriage vows. You deserve better. And so do your children. Of course, youth is not a rational period – and hormones play havoc with common sense. Few of my friends (many divorced) made choices as idiotic as mine (I’m lucky those idiots were not in a hurry to marry me). They were my stupid choices. I want to save my children from stupidity, not responsibility.
Many identify with Palin, not because we are stupid as Judith Warner argues, but because her example counters a feminism from which we are alienated. We want to be independent rather than dependent; to embrace life rather than fear it; to be productive rather than naval gazing. We also see value in a child-centered family; while it may not take a village to raise a child, it is much easier both in terms of work load and in terms of modeling behavior for a couple to do so.
Partnering accepts our differences as well as shared goals. Ignoring those eventually limits us. A century ago, Henry Adams noted Americans considered their greatest achievement sexlessness. But, of course, that was a false truth – no less false than similar political ones. Palin, beauty queen and mother of five, embraces that part of herself. Acknowledging our bodies frees us from the hopeless tangle of pretense. (That critical Democrats quickly speak of her in sexual terms illustrates a rather cheapened idea of the biological.)
Her relationship with her husband takes a tough but flexible form: he supports her political ambitions, she supports his accomplishments; they work as partners in the fishery business and as parents at home. In the Palins I am reminded of the old familial partnerships, couples running farms, couples running small businesses today – the parts connecting in an organic whole. My friend reminds me of the Adams – productive in their partnership: her farm productive as is his pen, constantly concerned with raising their children as well. Those old forms changed as our lives became urban, mechanical, formal. Public was sharply distinguished from private, the professional from the domestic. But our world has changed yet again; now, we may find much in the old models that helps us define new ones. But such partnerships can use little of the political definitions women of my generation so busily applied to the domestic. Some of our ideas just seem strange, looking back on the seventies and eighties. Perhaps, however, that reassessment was necessary. But now, times have changed again; it is time for new traditions and new understanding.
Governor Palin reminds me of where we came from and how returning to that model – or at least much about it – may help us find a useful synthesis. Young mothers (like my daughter) work around their children’s naps, blending the productivity of the computer with old forms of parental bonding. My niece published newsletters as her chlidren slept, took school pictures as they matured. T. S. Eliot’s “Little Giddings” often comes to mind: “And the end of all our exploring / Will be to return to where we started / And know the place for the first time.”