Have You Come A Long Way, Baby? The Double Standard Continues

A few weeks ago, no one expected Rick Santorum to come in second in the Iowa Presidential Caucus. Therefore the speech he gave that night was less a concession speech and more a victory speech. And that is as it should be. Santorum pulled off quite an upset. I’ve been prepared to hate Santorum for quite some time given the only thing I really knew about him was his record of homophobia. Yet I must admit that the Santorum that I saw last Tuesday night was a down-to-Earth, sincere guy. I’m even almost willing to forgive him his attitudes about homosexuality because I don’t think they come from hate. I think they come from sincere Christian-based beliefs. The reference he made to his grandfather who made a life for the Santorum family in America, fleeing from Mussolini’s Italy was quite moving.

Later in his speech, Rick mentioned his youngest daughter who suffers from Edwards Syndrome, a severe genetic disorder. His daughter has already defied the odds relative to expected life span. Most children with Edwards Syndrome die within the first year of life.  As I thought more about this, my mind flashed back to 2008.

In 2008, the Sarah Palin haters leveled valid and totally invalid claims against her. One of the invalid claims was how could a woman with a special needs child (in Sarah’s case, a child with Downs Syndrome) be on the campaign trail or even want the demanding job of President when she had that child to take care of? The charge, of course, was ridiculous on its face. As long as parents make arrangements for the proper care of their children, it’s nobody’s business if they choose to pursue a career, no matter how demanding. Still, this was a major bullet in the arsenal of the anti-Sarah faction.

So, in 2012 I wonder to myself where is all the outrage about Rick Santorum pursuing the Presidency when he has a special needs child at home who needs attention? The knee jerk answer is that his wife, Karen, is currently a full-time homemaker taking care of their daughter. Isn’t it interesting that no one asked why Todd Palin couldn’t stay home to tend to his disabled child? The responsibility was immediately assumed to be Sarah’s.

For all the gains the women’s movement has made, the old attitudes still linger. Even with many families having two income earners, the woman is still assumed to bear the main responsibility of child rearing, especially for young children. Where Rick Santorum doesn’t get a second look for running an all-consuming campaign, Sarah Palin got smacked for supposedly abandoning her maternal duties.

You may have come a long way baby, but you’ve got a long way to go.


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