Asking The Wrong Question About Laundry, Cooking, and The Vice-Presidency

There is something supremely odd and depressing about the discussion of Sarah Palin's ability to serve as governor or VP and serve as a mother.

Odd and depressing because the question is irrelevant and, sadly, rooted in sexist, but taken-for-granted, assumptions.

Palin's ability to do both jobs has nothing to do with her gender -- and everything to do with her access to help. When people ask "can she do both jobs?" what they're really asking is "can she be governor or VP AND fix dinner, do the laundry, dress the kids, buy the groceries, etc." Because, ya know, that's what women do.

When it's put that bluntly, the issue becomes, well, a non-issue. I mean, no one wants to admit that they're assuming that of course women do the household work.

But I understand why people are asking a dumb question: In most families, women who work outside the home are also the ones who are managing the kids, groceries, laundry, etc. And it is difficult. (*1)

In fact, I don't know how most working women manage. I don't have kids; my household consists of myself and my husband, and I devote an insane amount of time to the daily routine of laundry, buying groceries, running errands, cooking, etc. (*2) How women with three or four kids and a job cope is beyond me.

But back to Sarah Palin. Of course she can do BOTH jobs. She can be an average working mom. AND governor or vice-president.

But she's NOT an average American mom. She not DOING both jobs. She doesn't do laundry or housecleaning. She doesn't race home from the office to fix dinner (running six errands between home and office.) She's got a staff who does it for her. (And, apparently, a househusband, too. I gather her husband doesn't work outside the home anymore. He's the "wife.") (*3)

So the whole question of "can she do both jobs?" is a non-starter and a distraction. Give any woman in the world full-time help with housekeeping and childcare, and any woman in the world can be both a mother and a vice-president.

And for those who are interested, no, I don't plan to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket. I would, however, love to vote for some common sense and rational debate.


*1: Yes, I'm aware she has a five-month-old baby. But again, that's not an issue for people who have hired help. I have no idea how Palin is feeding the baby, and don't much care, but it's obvious that someone other than her is taking care of the baby. When it's feeding time, that someone makes sure the baby gets fed. Palin herself doesn't have to mess with the details (and yes, if she's breast-feeding, she needs maybe some privacy, but that's not of a problem. All she has to do is step out of the room.)

*2: Lest you think my husband and I live in some man-woman 1950s twilight zone: We don't. He makes more money than I do -- LOTS more. I couldn't possibly live on what I make as a writer (almost no writers can). His paycheck makes it possible for me to spend all my time writing instead of, say, working as a professor and writing. So I use my labor to compensate for the money that I don't bring in. Make sense?

*3: Moreover, her family doesn't live in the governor's mansion. They live in Wasilla, which is about 500 miles from the state capital. That, I gather, is a point of contention in Alaska: apparently Palin spends most nights in Wasilla, and charges the taxpayers for her travel expenses back and forth. But again, it's a safe bet she's not running home for the airport to fix dinner.