In an ever-changing society, one of the things we humans can depend on is that children don’t change. They come in to this world the same way they did one hundred years ago — with the exact same set of needs. Having a parent, particularly a mommy, at home to care for them is one of them.
But don’t tell Sarah Palin that. According to her, those who believe moms should stay home with their kids are “Neanderthals” who need to “get with it” and “evolve.”
Until now, I’ve been largely silent about Sarah Palin.
I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt because conservatives are in desperate need of a spokesperson. Sure, Palin’s unpolished and not what I would call an intellect – but neither was President Reagan. Indeed, there are other important qualities for public office besides intellect — as Barack Obama is proving in spades.
But as the author of two books on the subject of feminism, I cannot remain silent in light of Palin’s foolish comment on Fox. In response to why she thinks she was attacked so viciously during the 2008 campaign, Palin had this to say:
There are still the Neanderthals out there who pick on the petty, little, superficial, meaningless things – like looks, like whether you can or can’t work outside of the home if you have small children – all those type of things where I would so hope that at some point those Neanderthals will evolve into something a bit more with it, a bit more modern, and a bit more understanding that, yeah, women can accomplish much.
Clearly Palin assumes she was vilified by the media in part because of some archaic view that women belong at home, barefoot and pregnant — and that if they come out in public, they’re walloped by American Neanderthals.
Sarah Palin has been attacked in the media for one simple reason: she is conservative and the media is not. That Palin happens to be female does up the ante, I admit — women are notorious for attacking other women. But the fact remains that if Palin were a Democrat, and if she were pro-choice, she would have been hailed in the media as the best thing since sliced bread.
For whatever reason, Sarah Palin doesn’t get this. So instead she joins ranks with feminists who claim America is filled with Neanderthals who don’t want to see women succeed.
In fact, Americans have no issue with women being successful outside the home. But the conflict between work and family is a real one, and absentee parenting has large scale consequences for children and society.
That Palin considers working outside the home when you have small children a “petty little” matter shows an astounding lack of appreciation for the significance of motherhood and makes me wonder whether or not Levi Johnston was telling the truth when he talked about the reality of life at home with the Palins. It is true, after all, that Sarah Palin’s lifestyle does not jibe with her politics. She promotes traditional values, but there is nothing traditional about her life. It does feel a bit disingenuous.
Indeed, it’s highly unusual to find conservative women with young children in the limelight because they’re usually too busy raising their kids. Left-wing women can get away with it because they don’t tout the merits of American traditions.
But those who believe it is bad for society for mothers to be absent from the home when they have small children are not Neanderthals who haven’t “evolved.” They are conscientious Americans who gravitate toward this belief because of the strong emotional pull they feel themselves as parents — and because, as Carolyn Graglia wrote in Domestic Tranquility, “they know their presence in their children’s lives is the single best guarantee of their well-being.”
Americans are well aware that women can and do “accomplish much.” But there’s a time and a place for everything. When moms have babies and toddlers at home, they should change their priorities — and I say that not because I’m a throwback to a bygone era but because, despite all our progress, children’s needs haven’t changed one bit. And when these needs do not get met, we all pay the price.
I’d hardly call that a “petty little superficial” matter.
Suzanne Venker is co-author of the forthcoming book The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know – and Men Can’t Say (WND Books). Her website is www.suzannevenker.com.