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Dr. Judith Rich Headshot

Sarah Palin: The Patriarchy In A Skirt

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For those of you who've ever accidentally stumbled into a "gift from the Gods," just had some totally unexpected windfall drop from the sky into your lap, ever bought a lottery ticket and actually won, ever met the man of your dreams even though you weren't looking for him, you know how Sarah Palin must be feeling about now.

Mind you, I am not sympathetic to her candidacy. In my wildest dreams, I cannot imagine her a heartbeat away from the presidency. For that matter, I can't imagine John McCain anywhere near the White House, not even as a tourist. But, as one who is trained to look beneath the obvious for the deeper meaning of things, I'm wondering what part of our collective unlived lives Sarah Palin represents. Is she shadow or light? Does she represent our collective unexpressed dreams and aspirations or does she reflect our submerged meanness, harshness, greed and ambition?

The obvious answer is: it depends who you ask. Some women will see in her their dreams of being able to do it all, have it all, and not only play with the "big boys", but triumph over them. The "ordinary hockey mom" with arms that can juggle 10,000 balls at once and manage to keep them all going. Or so it may seem at first glance. Then, as we get a closer look, we see the cracks in her story, and the shadow emerges.

But I'm mostly interested in what this big buzz about her says about us. As a feminist who wrote her doctoral dissertation on "The Future of Feminism," I concluded that our future as empowered women lay, not in defeating the patriarchy, but in transforming it. Maybe that's what's happening now. Maybe this is what transforming the patriarchal system, which has dominated human civilization for thousands of years, looks like. Maybe first, we need to infiltrate the kingdom and begin the transformation from inside.

But I fear we have a false prophet approaching the gates. Palin looks to me like the patriarchy in a skirt, a Helen of Troy. However, her skirts are not hiding the army that will deliver us from male dominance as much as to perpetuate it. She gets to do the dirty work of spouting vitriol while McCain gets to smile and make fake gestures about bi-partisanship. She's the court jester; calculated to distract us from noticing that the emperor himself, has no clothes. Palin hasn't triumphed over the good old boys. She's joined them. And now, she's being used to serve them by helping to create the illusion they actually care about what women care about. But be not fooled. This sorcerer's apprentice is no Hillary Clinton.

Here's Sarah, "Miss Congeniality," the "pit bull in lipstick" jumping in line ahead of Hillary, the "Queen of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits". In both women we see our collective shadow, but wearing different costumes. Hillary was undone by a lifetime of compromising her authentic idealism in order to play by the big boy's rules. If Sarah is Helen of Troy, Hillary is Joan of Arc. What got burned at the stake in Hillary is the truth of who she is; a true champion for human being that thought being tough was the only way to succeed. We knew she had mastery of the issues. What we wanted from Hillary was a glimpse of her heart. How sad for all of us she thought she had to wrap it in barbed wire. Hillary didn't get that she could be lovable, just as she is, even with her less than trim ankles and calves. We just wanted to see who she really is behind the costume.

So which of these two women represents the future of all women? Will we cast our votes for the starstruck "Geeze, I can't believe this is really happening to me?" part of ourselves? Will we vote for the part of ourselves that yearns for a short cut to nirvana or our fifteen minutes of fame? Will we vote for "I'm getting to my goal no matter what the cost is to my life and my family or who I have to step on to get there" voice in us?

As women, we will not achieve our dreams of true equality by playing the patriarchal game. We must teach the dominant paradigm a new way to play. It's interesting to note that the most feminine energy in this election is carried by a man; Barack Obama. I mean this in the highest sense of the word. Barack carries the energy of the Sacred Feminine. His is the voice of unity and co-operation, of wisdom and compassion, of traveling the high road. God, in Her infinite wisdom, is playing an interesting trick on us. (I refer to the Diety as She, just to shake up our culturally conditioned ideas that automatically assign the male gender pronoun). The "Change We Can Believe In" mantra of Obama's is really about the undoing of the old patriarchal system and the unfolding of a new paradigm, based on mutual respect and partnership. This is the true expression of the principles of the Sacred Feminine. How stunning to watch the way She works.

Sarah, come home to Mama!