09/10/2008 06:32 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Don't Skirt the Issue, Women: Which Side Are You On?

Listen up, waffling white ladies: Is there anything more narcissistic, more self-referential, than switching from Barack Obama to John McCain because Sarah Palin is a gal?

The latest Washington Post-ABC News Survey says that a bunch of white women voters have swapped sides since the Republicans named a woman as their vice-presidential candidate, although nobody called me and my friends, I can tell you that. Anyone who's ever made seventy-nine cents to a dumber guy's dollar appreciates the frisson, the little chill, that accompanies what seems like progress for women, whether we're talking about Hilary Clinton or Sarah Palin. It's nice, after all these years of bruising our noggins on that glass ceiling, to see somebody break through.

But have we lost brain cells from hitting our heads for so long? Are we so obsessed with settling the score that we have lost our critical faculties? In exchange for the bragging rights that would accompany having a woman a heartbeat away from the White House, white women and everyone else can get ready to surrender, oh, for starters, the environment, evolution, and - pay attention here - little things like Roe V. Wade.

Sarah Palin is not a hero because she's a woman, any more than Barack Obama is a hero because he's black. One report about the latest poll said that Democratic women under fifty have made the greatest shift, which dovetails nicely with the Republican observation that this is an election not about issues but about personality. What did we expect? We raise a generation on celebrity magazines and entertainment news - and they grow up to have their collective heads turned by Miss Congeniality.

Sarah Palin is not an avatar of women's equality, and if you want to prove that to yourself, try this little exercise. Imagine she's a guy. Imagine that everything she says is coming out of a guy's mouth. Oops. Looks like one more male politician who wants to take away your right to choose - your rights to choose, really, since reproductive rights is only one set of rights Ms. Palin hopes to ambush. Level the playing field - eliminate the novelty factor - and she doesn't even make the farm team.

[I know. Right now a McCain supporter is writing in to say that Obama would never have gotten to where he is today if he were a white guy. He or she is entitled to that opinion. I'm entitled to mine.]

Women who didn't like Hilary Clinton used to bemoan the fact that she was the first woman candidate for president who seemed to have a real chance to nab the nomination; if only it had been someone else, someone with better qualifications or a different backstory, they would have been more excited to support her. I feel that way about Sarah Palin. We have to make her gender the last thing on earth we care about, and stick with our principles.