Much has been made of how the recent election is important - in part - because for the first time many people can see that "somebody like me" is in charge. Hat tip to Ann Bares for sharing this quote from Peggy Noonan's article in the weekend WSJ:
"It is a matter of profound importance that everyone in a nation know that with whatever facts they start their life, there is a clear and open route to rise. It is a less great country in which routes, and heights, are closed off or limited by things that, if you some day get to heaven, you will look back on and realize were silly, stupid; class, color, condition. That country will be greatest that offers its citizens the most possibilities in which to find happiness. There is power to be had in the full unleashing of human capital. So: a great night for America. I’ve yet to meet up with a conservative, a Republican or a McCain voter not aware of and moved by this aspect of the election’s outcome."
I am genuinely happy for everyone who finally feels that "somebody like me" can make it. It IS profoundly important for this country that this event has occurred. I'm just waiting for my turn to feel that way.
You see, that's partly why I was eager to look for the positives in Sarah Palin. I saw her as somebody like me. She is clearly a bright woman. She has a lot of potential and talent that is just screaming to be developed and expressed. But Sarah grew up in the wrong place, participating in the wrong extracurricular activities, and went to the wrong schools. Her work-family existence wasn't a clear cut path. Instead it was a hodge podge of taking time off for kids, spending a lot of time volunteering, going for it with career opportunities when they did come along, and always trying to grow and use her talents. She had a habit of talking too much and was open and unashamed about her faith. Frankly, it's a lot like how my life has come together. And lo and behold it seemed like that ad hoc approach just might add up to something big.
But the media and other detractors were quick to point out that she lived "on the wrong side of the tracks" so to speak, her education was deficient, and her family life simply not good enough. In short, she was from the wrong social class. Yes folks, feminists proclaim to be concerned with issues of "race, class, and gender" but the dirty little secret of the recent political go-round was that class matters in a BIG way, and if you are from the wrong social class, you'd best mind your place or you will be skewered and mocked for daring to dream big.
I found the attacks on her accent to be particularly telling. Were Sarah Palin from India, the Middle East, or Harlem, it would have been UNTHINKABLE to mention her accent. But because she was from Alaska and spoke with the flat twang that those of us with rural backgrounds understand instead of those condescending errs and ummms that distinguish "elite" speech, her manner of talk was fair game. If you don't like her politics, fine. But to highlight her accent? Could you be any more transparent in your disdain of those of us raised working class?
But there were plenty of other mothers who were prominent figures in this election. Surely I identified with them, right? Not true. Hillary Clinton is a working mother, but she had an elite education and a clear career trajectory from early on. Nope - not a bit like me. Michelle Obama is also a working mother. But profile after profile pointed out that although she grew up with limited financial resources she came from a loving home with parents who encouraged and supported her in setting and going for big goals. I'm happy for Ms. Obama, but that experience in no way mirrors my childhood. Rielle Hunter? After all, she talked openly about her spirituality! Ahhh, let's not go there...
Further evidence that social class matters for ambitious women more than ever these days? Check out 85 Broads- they proclaim themselves to be the "smartest women in the smartest companies worldwide" Big diss to oh so many of us who were born and raised "cracker" through no choice of our own. Despite the fact that I am working on my 2nd graduate degree, I do not qualify for membership because none of the schools I attended is an elite school.
Yet, despite the overwhelming odds I still believe it when Peggy Noonan says that for anyone in this country, "With whatever facts they start their life, there is a clear and open route to rise."
I have to believe it, or else go back to bed and stay there.