Joe Biden did more for the equality of the sexes with his honest display of paternal emotion during the vice presidential debate than Sarah Palin's presence on the executive ticket has or will ever do.
Biden visibly teared up when he rebutted the idea that "just because I am a man" he didn't understand what it was like to wonder whether or not a child would "make it" in recovering from a life-threatening medical situation. At the time, he was likely recalling the tragic automobile accident that killed his wife and daughter and severely injured his two sons. It was an authentic, moving and powerful moment. It was, in fact, the strongest expression of real paternal love we have seen from a public official in recent memory and maybe ever.
By bringing that reality to a national political stage, Biden demonstrated that -- for all of us, not just feminists -- the personal is political, that women alone do not have the sole responsibility for caring about the future of our children and that the concern of fathers is a largely untapped pool of political energy. In his acceptance speech, Barack Obama paved the way for this when he talked about fighting for equal pay for equal work because he wants "my daughters to have the same opportunities as your sons" -- and said this while looking with protective ferocity straight into the camera. He has continued this message on the campaign trail with great impact.
Political equality for women will not come from the minimization or idealization of motherhood -- but rather from recognizing fatherhood as a significant factor in our culture and politics.
Thank you, Joe, for bringing us to the next level and keeping it real.
Follow Leah McElrath on Twitter: www.twitter.com/leahmcelrath