Let me be clear: I do not like Sarah Palin. I don't agree with the positions she attempts to articulate. I believe she's a hypocrite (e.g., against premaritial sex and birth control as she paraded her pregnant, unmarried teenage daughter all around the country). I believe she was so far in over her head as John McCain's running mate that she had no idea she was in over her head. I believe she was condescending and disrespectful on the campaign trail. Mostly, I believe that she wasn't even close to being ready for the glare of national politics.
But for all the reasons I don't like her, she has also been a trailblazing woman. She's a member of an elite club of 31 women who have ever served as Governor. Can you believe that? In the almost 250 year history of the United States, only 31 women have ever been the CEO of their state. Although the list of female vice presidential candidates is longer, only two women have ever received the vice presidential nomination of a major party - Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin.
As everyone knows by now, she resigned last week as Governor of Alaska. Rumors had been swirling for weeks that she would not run again in 2010 because she wanted to focus on running for president in 2012. Okay. Maybe she'd use the time between November 2008 and early/mid 2011 when she might declare her candidacy to bone up on the issues and crystalize her positions on them, develop a platform that was more than soundbites and had actual substance, have a solid track record of performance, practice her public speaking skills, grow some thicker skin, and learn how not to make mountains out of mole hills.
And then she quit, which took me by surprise as it took many people around the country, including some of her closest advisors if the media reports are to be believed. According to her word salad resignation speech, one of the reasons for quitting the job she was elected to do for four years, could essentially be boiled down to "people picked on me." So what.
Any woman who has ever accomplished anything in life has been picked on. Does Sarah Palin think that Suffragettes were greated with open arms? They weren't. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was rumored to have been a lesbian. So what if she was. Rosa Parks was arrested and lost her job for not giving up a seat on a bus. Ask any of the handful of women running Fortune 500 companies if the red carpet was rolled out for them or if they had to worked harder and overcome more obstacles than their male counterparts. Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor has endured horrific comments including a statement by G. Gordon Liddy (of Watergate fame) hoping she doesn't have her period during her confirmation hearings (for the record, she's well past the age of menopause, so there's not much chance of that happening). And, of course, the woman Sarah Palin liked to compare herself to during the campaign, Hillary Clinton, has had a lifetime of people picking on her and her family. In fact, it was Sarah Palin who essentially said Hillary Clinton just needed to suck it up and get over that she had a tough road to hoe.
But it's not just women who publicly broke glass ceilings, but ordinary women who achieved any success in their lives who have faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We each have our own stories of when people tried to beat us down, but we kept going. Partly, we kept going for ourselves. But I'm sure that each woman who ever faced any sort of harassment or discrimination in her life and fought through it, did it not only for herself, but at some level, also for the daughters and granddaughters she had or may have and the millions of women who would come after her.
By quitting her job as the CEO of Alaska, and including Sarah Palin there are currently only 7 female Governors, Sarah Palin just added one more obstacle for any woman wanting to hold a position of significance. Who among us hasn't heard the words, "oh, don't mind her. She's just emotional because she's got her period" when we were appropriately outraged. It's not enough that we know that people wonder if we'll leave when we start to have babies or if we have thick enough skin, but now there is rock solid evidence that when the going get tough women leave. I mean, if Sarah Baracuda can't handle the stress, how can the rest of us?
Sarah likes to speak about how she took the difficult road and quit because she could have more impact outside of the state house. She claimed that hunkering down and getting to work in the face of great challenges was the easy way out. I can't imagine that Hillary Clinton ever thought the obstacles and humiliation she faced were "easy." Or that Rosa Parks thought being arrested and fired was "easy." Whether or not she knows it, Sarah Palin is a role model. And she just told countless girls across the country that when the going gets tough, the tough walk away.