I watched the debate in a room full of rowdy, noisy folks last night in Tucson, Arizona. Comments flew across the room, most directed at Sarah Palin:
'Stop dodging the question."
'Every time she smirks while discussing such serious issues, it makes me cringe."
"For God's sake, say nuclear correctly!"
Everyone was in agreement: Joe Biden spoke forcefully and with substance, Palin looked weak and over-rehearsed, returning again and again to stock phrases off of her cue cards and when that failed, just skipping questions that she didn't like.
But what really got me, and most of the women in the room, was the wink. In the middle of answering a question, Palin winked into the camera. She actually winked again, when aknowledging her father in the audience, but it was that first wink that got to us, the women in the room, because we've seen this before. Any professional woman will tell you she's seen this before. This is the kind of woman who uses her prettiness to get what she wants, in this case a job she's not qualified for. And nothing, nothing pisses women off more than that kind of woman.
Just imagine what would have happened if Hillary Clinton had winked during a debate. The pundits and press would have gone absolutely bonkers. "She's using her sex as a weapon." "Nobody could possibly take her seriously." "She just sunk the campaign." And Sarah Palin's own Joe Sixpack fan club would have said the same; no, they would have said much, much worse. Yet I searched for true signs of indignation last night and today, words that show that people get it, that they characterizes that wink for what it was - demeaning and embarassing - and I don't see any.
There's a double standard all right. If you're a woman who's not very smart or qualified you can go a long way by playing the prettiness card. If you're a woman who's both smart and very qualified but not a beauty queen, don't even pull the card out of your deck.
Sarah Palin winked at the country last night, and I'm sure she was saying to herself and to the country, "it's always worked in the past." Debate watchers in Tucson, Arizona fervently hope it doesn't work this time.
Follow Marlene H. Phillips on Twitter: www.twitter.com/msmp