I'm not one to spend a lot of time agonizing about the gender politics of being a woman in a position of authority. Sure, I'm aware that certain things I do will come across to some people as "bitchy" when a man doing or saying the same things would come across as assertive. Oh well. If people want to think I'm a bitch, fine. I'm not bothered by it, and I tend to think that you can't be too troubled by it if you want to be effective. After all, if women (or men) don't know how to handle occasional stupidity, they're not going to get much done in the world.
(Speaking of which, I was baffled earlier this year by all the hand-wringing over those Hillary Clinton nutcrackers. If there were an Ask a Manager nutcracker, I would buy a bunch up and give them as gifts.)
But I will tell you this: The selection of Sarah Palin, the reaction to Sarah Palin, and Sarah Palin herself are humiliating to professional women, especially those of us who thought we could move beyond gender in the workplace.
I am sorry, because I know you don't come here to read about politics (and I already indulged myself earlier in the year when I wrote about Barack Obama seeming like a good manager, whereas Hillary Clinton ... didn't). But I can think of little that has made me feel condescended to on the basis of my gender like this has.
Apparently, large swaths of the country find it acceptable, even charming, to wink and flirt in the equivalent of a job interview for a position of life-and-death importance. And most politicians and commentators, it turns out, think we're supposed to treat female candidates with some degree of delicacy (such as all the advice to Biden not to take Palin on directly in the debate). And large segments of the public are apparently willing to accept that male candidates for office will be attacked on every discoverable point of vulnerability, as well as plenty that don't actually exist, but it's okay to cry sexism when it happens to a woman.
No matter what your politics, how is this not a humiliation to every woman who thought she could get beyond gender?
I want to be hit as hard as my opponent would hit a man. I want to be judged on something more relevant than feminine charm (assuming I'm not on a date). I want to see if I can win it on my merits, and if I can't, I don't want the job just because you think you'd like to hire a woman.
I thought that had become the social contract, to a large extent. But we've now seen in a pretty devastating way that it's not.