I called my husband hours before the Vice Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin was to speak before the Republican convention. I asked him how many kids she had. Five, he said without missing a beat. How many does McCain have? No clue, he said. Romney? He caught on quick (he's used to these pop-quiz phone calls).
He said, well, wait, Palin's been in the news, blah blah, and I said, save your breath. I had no clue either just how many kids John McCain had, and I had absolutely no excuse: I had written TV news for a decade when four of his kids were still quite young.
I probably wrote about the candidate, oh, a hundred times, ranging from tiny mentions to longer stories. And why didn't I know how many kids he has? Because, of course, he is a man. And no one asks those questions of a man.
If you are wondering, he has a total of seven kids, and the four youngest were born during his early days in the Senate. How did he ever manage to "do it all"?
Consider this my open apology to the Alaska Governor for reacting like a Victorian prig on word of her selection as McCain's running mate. Truly, my first thought was "doesn't she have a baby? And one with Down's Syndrome?" Then I thought, "wait, she has four other kids TOO?"
After that came the next wave of pernicious speculating, after it was revealed that her teenaged daughter is pregnant. "Isn't she going to have to clean up that mess too?"
Now, granted, I do have one mitigating factor for this incredibly sexist line of interrogation for the VP nominee. Palin has aggressively billed herself as a mom, and so thinking of her in that role is inevitable.
But that is no excuse. Questions about who's doing drop-off and pick-up, who is changing the diapers, who is in charge of the kids are ones that never enter my mind with a male politician. I call myself a feminist or something like it, but who am I kidding?
Of course, Palin's not liable to receive a similar apology from Barack Obama for his own rather sexist reference:
I think she's got a compelling story but I assume she wants to be treated the same way that guys want to be treated....
This is going to get very interesting.