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Ann J. Atkinson Headshot

Sarah Palin: Ultimate Prom Date

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When Walter Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro to be his vice presidential running mate in July 1984, I was less than a month away from giving birth to my first child, who turned out to be a lovely girl--who is now 24 years old and setting her sights on world domination, but I digress. My heart swelled with pride thinking that my baby, a little girl, could truly grow up to be president now that Ferraro had paved the way.

And yet, something about Ferraro's selection has troubled me for the past 24 years, but I couldn't put my finger on it. After John McCain picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate, it suddenly dawned on me: these two women were the ultimate prom dates.

They were both plucked from obscurity by powerful men looking to make a political point. They did not achieve their selection by running any campaign for it. They did not display any ambition (at least publicly) of wanting the job. They both, arguably, were much less qualified than the other possibilities on "the short list." The simple fact is that their selections were primarily based on their gender.

Like the alpha male high school football player looking for a total babe to ask to the prom, the presidential candidates were looking for the perfect piece of photo-op eye candy to cement their reputations as progressive (in Mondale's case), or as a "maverick" (in John McCain's case).

As a feminist, I am bothered that these women were selected not for their qualifications, expertise in foreign policy, or ability to be commander-in-chief--they were selected because they were missing a Y chromosome.

Hillary Clinton, God bless her, may have arrived on the public scene as the wife of a powerful man, but she ran for president as her own woman, and got 18 million votes in her own right. Certainly her gender helped her get some of those votes, but her seriousness as a candidate was a given. Hillary was no token, thank you very much. She worked her butt off trying to become president.

But Palin and Ferraro? They just sat by the phone and waited to hear from the Big Man in the Party. And when that call came, they started living the dream.

This is not how a potential president should be selected. Tokenism belittles women and creates a potentially dangerous situation for the country by potentially placing an unqualified person a heartbeat away from the presidency.

The presidency is not prom night. It is the most serious job in the world, and a candidate who does not understand that has no business in the Oval Office.