Sarah Palin and Family Values

I am a feminist. I am an egalitarian. But a woman nursing a Downs Syndrome baby and parenting an unmarried pregnant teenager needs to tend to her primary calling as a mother and not run around the country raising money and giving speeches.

            Nobody in the country is more eager for a woman to take the oath of national office in January than I am. I have taught my own daughter, now 28, that there are no limits and no boundaries to her vocational aspirations. She is a better person for living in such an environment.

            Nobody is the church is more ready for women to take their place in the Christian pulpits than I am. For ten years I have nurtured female college students toward their personal goals of ordination as Baptist ministers.

            But the plain truth is this: being a mother is a more important vocation than being vice president. Circumstances not of her own choosing have created an urgent need for Mrs. Palin to put into practice the family values her party has so vociferously defended for the last twenty five years.  

            Sarah Palin can postpone her political ambitions while she gives primary attention to an infant who needs her constant care and a teenage daughter who needs her faithful counsel.

            Palin’s political network has touted her adherence to these values: she talks the talk—on life and abortion—and she walks the walk. By such language they refer to her decision to carry to term a Downs Syndrome baby and her daughter’s decision to carry to term an unmarried, unplanned pregnancy.  

            But Palin’s decision to re-interpret “maternity leave” is where I draw the line. Normally, that phrase is used for women who take time off from work to give birth and raise a child. Such leaves are common at the college where I have taught for the last eleven years. All places of business should have such policies.

            But Palin has decided to take a leave from parenting in order to work in politics. This will provide a new paradigm for the concept of maternity leave; it will give a fresh twist to what has been called Family Values.

            But her preference for politics over parenting is but one challenge to the traditional notions of Family Values. At the top of her ticket is a man with a personal testimony of promiscuity when he was young enough to do so, a man now living in seven houses purchased by the proceeds of his wife’s multi-million dollar beer-brewing business.

            My, how the allure of power tempts us to reinterpret our most cherished convictions!



Thursday: Ramadan and the Baptists


4 comments so far

  1. John A Williams on


    These thoughts come to mind as I read your post. My wife Patricia’s youngest daughter also made the decision to bring to term a Downs child. This child demands constant care along with her older sister (6 years old). This young mother and her spouse are wonderful parents and give these two children all of what we would define as family.

    Both of these parents have very challenging vocation and in fact must travel globally on a regular basis to fulfill the responsibilities of their work.

    I have not read enough at this point to make a decision as to whether Sarah Palin is fulfilling her responsibilities as a parent to her children, but I have first-hand experience in my family that it can be done.

  2. Camille on

    Perhaps you are a feminist and egalitarian when it suits you! Much of what you write about seems to be straight from the talking points of democrats and a national media that is obsessed with anointing the next president. Feminists from the 1960’s on have assured us that “We can have it all” but realistically, it never could happen that way. But to see the reaction of the press and the democrats when the Republicans nominate a woman is patently hypocritical. It is Palin’s choice to make not mine, the press’ or other political parties. I am just as cynical about her as I am of Obama. Neither has experience and they both aren’t qualified for the highest offices of the nation. At least she challenged the entrenched, corrupt Republican good old boys in Alaska and survived the battle to become Governor. (She has governed for 1 year and 8 months which beats Obama who announced after 180 days in the Senate that he was running for the presidency. What audacity! (to borrow a word) By the way, what has he done? He voted in favor of late term abortions yet says in his acceptance speech that “We can’t do anything about abortions but we can reduce the number of abortions.” He’s never done anything to address reductions in abortions. He talks a great talk! Palin can be the perfect mom and her daughter still get pregnant, still have a downs’ syndrome child and still have many other family problems. It probably won’t make any difference.

  3. Amy Byrd on

    Egalitarian: asserting, resulting from, or characterized by belief in the equality of all people, esp. in political, economic, or social life.

    Feminist: (Adhering to) the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.

    A true egalitarian and feminist would never put a disclaimer in the first sentence of their self-proclamation. Your use of the word “but” causes the reader to be conflicted by the realization that there are parameters to your confession…boundaries that are built by political partisanship.

    You appear to be whole-heartedly on the side of “equality”. Your work seems to emphasize the equality of women within the church. That is a great place to start. However, the limitations you have put on women in other platforms of leadership…special needs child…nursing mother…pregnant teenager…scream that your working definition of equality has lists of exceptions to the rule. In this age of “gender wars”, this…list…seems to be growing. One can only be a vice presidential or presidential candidate if that is on their gender list. Yet it is perplexing to me that politics creates caveats on these age-old lists. As Mrs. Clinton was cracking the glass ceiling, was her parenting called into question? When President Kennedy was acting as Commander in Chief of our great United States, was his adulterous lifestyle considered a detriment to his leadership? Could it have been a character flaw that might raise its’ ugly head in loyalty issues outside of his marriage? If we are going to use “lists” then let us use them uncompromisingly.

    Based on Title VII, I find the “plain truth” to be this…discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions becomes unlawful sex discrimination. The “plain truth” is further described by the following quote from Georgetown University’s Law Center website…Workplace Flexibility 2010.

    “Title VII prohibits employment decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals on the basis of their protected status… Courts have found, for example, that the following conduct violates Title VII: having one policy for hiring men with preschool aged children, and another for hiring women with preschool aged children; failing to promote an employee on the assumption that her childcare duties would keep her from being a reliable manager;”

    If in fact Sarah Palin is “re-interpreting maternity leave”, should not you as an advocate for the elevation of the rights of women be applauding her innovative, forward-thinking, ceiling crashing efforts? Or is their a caveat to your list that says women with children who are not perfect should stay out of politics? Do you really believe that a woman can balance work and an imperfect family as long as it does not cross the bridge into the world of politics?

    I too am a mother of beautiful, imperfect children. I have daughters and a son that have been taught to find their God-given gifts and talents…apply a heart of passion…seek the strength of The Almighty…and break whatever ceiling…glass or otherwise…that presents itself as a hurdle. The mixed message of…men and women are equal…but not really…is a challenge in itself. My hope is that my children will be catalysts of change and have a part in convincing those that “talk the talk” but do not “walk the walk” of equality to pause and reconsider the “plain truth”.

    We as believers…followers of the teachings of Jesus…should follow His example and define equality in any venue as freedom from the lists of the powerful. Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32) We must strive to seek the real Truth…the plain Truth…and there we will find real, plain and powerful equality.

  4. Jinny Vicroy on

    What if this was a family decision? She and her husband decided that she would work and he would stay home with the kids? I personally don’t know how she went back to work so quickly but hey, I wasn’t govenor either when I was pregnant. These 2 events her pregnancy and subsequent childbirth (one event) and her daughter’s pregnancy occurred during her term of office. Neither were planned. Sounds like she was responsible to both her family and her job. Families make lots of decisions that make sense to them and not to others. What may appear to you to be based on power truly may not be so.

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