When I was all of fourteen I received my first gift of jewelry from a male admirer–a bracelet that looked like an expansion watchband from a man’s watch. It was ugly. It was masculine. It was totally unfashionable and inappropriate. All of my friends were getting friendship rings from Woolworth’s and I wanted a friendship ring too. So I told him I wasn’t ready to go steady–as if I knew what that was–and gave the thing back. Yes, he had poor taste in jewelry, and for me that was a deal-breaker, but he wasn’t any worse than all the other 14-year-old boys, and in some ways he was much more interesting. We connected again in our senior year, then lost touch after graduation. Until the twenty year reunion. I arrived in my Mazda hatchback, and he arrived in his Mazda light truck. Maybe I should have taken that bracelet after all.
Now we have a presumptive nominee of the Republican party, John McCain, who is offering us a female vice presidential candidate as his running mate. Everyone is busy digging up the usual bad news that accompanies a candidate newly in the public eye, but is she really any less qualified than say, Dan Quayle or Spiro T. Agnew?
While no one really believes that women will vote for a presidential candidate based strictly on identity politics, nominating a woman is obviously meant to appeal to the woman vote. How sweet. He notices us, even if this Sarah Palin candidate is supposed to be a religion dominionist, whatever that is, and anti-abortion (but is that just for herself or does she want it enshrined in law for those who don’t share her religion?) and oh, dear there’s the polar bear thing. I like polar bears. And she’s in bed with oil. Drill, drill, drill. Still, McCain is courting us. He’s trying. In his own special, bumbling way. Sarah Palin is that slightly inappropriate gift that shows McCain believes we are important. Should we just smile, say “thank you” and accept the homage? Or will Palin’s flaws be a deal-breaker?
What about the other brand? The word in the Democratic party circles from the nominee is that women voters are supposed to “get over it” (even if only half the voters chose Hillary) and that women are supposed to fall in with zombified lockstep just because Hillary has now endorsed the Democratic nominee. It’s not just a matter of the Democratic candidate not courting female voters. There is more than a suggestion that the recent campaign against Hillary Clinton was knowingly, cynically, and intentionally sexist.
There aren’t any good choices in this election, at least for women voters.
Whetever else happens, there’s one thing we can always count on. Get ready for more negative campaigning.