A couple of news stories about Sarah Palin and her family get me thinking a bit about how differently our culture--or at least the media and the people who parrot it--treat men and women in the same job.
Politico reports that the Republican National Committee spent nearly $150,000 on hairdressing, makeup, and "campaign accessories" in September, expenses which did not appear in earlier months. It's all attributed, it seems, the expense of outfitting Sarah Palin and her family with clothing from "Real America": Nieman Marcus ($75,000), Saks ($49,000), Bloomingdale's ($5,100) and Barney's ($789, which doesn't get you very much at Barney's, frankly).
There's also $4900 at a Minneapolis menswear store, presumably getting some suits to make Todd Palin and baby daddy-to-be Levi Johnson more presentable.
The entries also show a few purchases at Pacifier, a top notch baby store, and Steiniauf & Stroller Inc., suggesting $295 was spent to accommodate the littlest Palin to join the campaign trail.Uh, perhaps. Pacifier is well-known as an industry leader in Bugaboo cupholder-stocking, but I think "Steiniauf & Stroller" is actually an inaccurate OCR scan of Steinlauf & Stoller, a sewing supply store in NYC. I can't find the exact RNC disclosure form these expenses are listed in, but it seems pretty clear.
The article points out that the Obama campaign has no comparable wardrobe expenses, and no apparent family outfitting-related expenses. But while it could be interesting to discuss the different standards male and female candidates are held to, the vast extent of the RNC's imagemaking and the wingnut pundits' selective condemnations drown out most of the argument.
Palin's hairstyling bill was $4,700 last month, which works out to around twelve times the $400 stylist's bill the Democratic campaign paid for John Edwards to make a 2004 TV appearance. That $400 haircut has become the rightwing media's talisman for Edwards and his frivolity ever since ["and also with you--and your $400 haircut"]. I last heard Sean Hannity cite it a couple of months ago to prove that Edwards' freshly revealed marital infidelity was obviously morally different than John McCain cheating on and then dumping his first wife for Cindy.
What's more interesting to me, and the reason I'm posting any of this here [besides the cheap buzz I get from factchecking the Stroller/Stoller thing] is the way the clothing expenses resonate with how the Palins treat their professional and personal spheres, work and family, as totally inseparable. And here, I do think there is a significant gender gap.
An AP investigation shows that Sarah Palin regularly expensed her children's travel, both for out-of-state trips and as the kids shuttle between Wasilla and Juneau. So far, they've been reimbursed for $21,000 worth of children's airfare and hotel rooms. Palin amended her past expense reports to state that the kids were always "conducting official state business," a legal requirement for reimbursement.
The only other Alaska governor to have had school-age children while in office was Tony Knowles [1994-2002]. He is quoted saying, "There was no valid reason for the children to be along on state business...I cannot recall any instance during my eight years as governor where it would have been appropriate to claim they performed state business."
Now Knowles lost an election to Palin in 2006; he's a Democrat, and an Obama supporter. But I can't help but think that Palin faces additional scrutiny because she's a working mother. Clearly, no one but the governor would be able to get away with expensing so much family travel. But would a male governor even have tried? Isn't the default setting just to leave the wife and kids at home?
I'm pretty sure Sarah Palin is corrupt, dishonest, dangerous, and disastrously unprepared to be president. And from what little we know--crackhead son forced into the army, daughter knocked up by high school dropout, extensive use of children as political props--the Palins don't seem to be particularly admirable parents. But I can still appreciate her apparent determination to not let her job keep her from her kids.