Today's Chicago Woman

Sarah and Bristol Palin Choose Their Choice on In Touch Weekly Cover

For Halloween 2008, I dressed up as Sarah Palin. It was inexpensive, easy, and, thanks to my Minnesota upbringing, I can do a pretty mean Palin impression. But I spent most of the night noting that "I hope by next Halloween, people look back at these pictures and have no idea who I'm supposed to be."

No such luck. First the news that Palin has signed on as a contributor to Fox News. And now, just a couple days later, a cover of In Touch Weekly with daughter Bristol, son Trig, and grandson Tripp with the groan-worthy headline, "We're Glad We Chose Life." 

Here's why I actively dislike Sarah Palin, despite the "but-she's-a-woman-how-can-you-not-support-a-woman" memo that is still making the rounds: because she insists on deifying her own choices and using her resulting happy endings as proof that everyone should (be forced to) choose her choice. Because in making sweeping judgments, she brushes all those little inconvenient details under the rug that give those hot-button social issues - like abortion, or gay marriage - many more shades of gray than she'd ever acknowledge. And because she uses her personal religious beliefs as political arguments in a country which was founded on allowing everyone to determine their own personal religious belief system without penalty or governmental interference.

The thing about "we're glad we chose life" is it implies they had a choice. And good for them. Raising a baby with Down syndrome or alone as a single, teen parent is no small feat, and if that's the path they wanted to pursue, then that's nobody's business but their own. But while they smile and wave their babies and wait for the applause for making that choice, they frame it as if people were beating down their door to make them choose the opposite. ("No, no, pro-choicer! I choose LIFE!") And they don't mention the fact that they'd prefer just to take that choice away from the rest of American women. And they make nary a mention of the fact that both mother and daughter have access to social and economic resources that many other women in similar situations don't.

Sure, Sarah reportedly mentions in the article that Bristol covers her own costs, like paying for diapers, as much as possible. But where's that money coming from? (The reported six-figure sum the duo received for their In Touch cover probably doesn't hurt.) Who's spacious roof is she living under? And if one month she can't make ends meet, would her parents have to choose between paying a bill and helping her out? No. A big reason she was able to "choose life" is because she's financially equipped to make such a decision. 

If America, as Palin wants, took away that ability to choose, then women in this country would be left with the opposite: no options, no help, no choice. And for those who don't have the same resources as the Palins, things could turn out for the worse very quickly. The inherent priveledge of being Bristol Palin cannot be underplayed if she's going to become the new poster child for teen moms.

But I'm not here to argue the politics of pro-choice and pro-life. (Another post, another day.) As it so often has over the last year and a half, it all comes down to Sarah. If I simply had different beliefs, either political or religious, than Sarah Palin, I would still have great respect for her as a woman in a landscape where there are far too few. (Well, when she was in politics. Fox News is actually rather fond of their former beauty queen mouthpieces.) But she actively forces her choices and opinions down the throats of America, judging and decrying all who don't follow in her footsteps. Pitbull with lipstick? I'd say she's hypocrisy in heels.

It wasn't that long ago that Palin was criticizing a certain someone for not doing enough to make sure her family was kept out of the political spotlight. But when you actively use your family as a PR campaign for...whatever your goals are (I think America's still unsure on that), it's you yourself who's opened the floodgates. Because as anyone in the spotlight - whether an A-list Hollywood star or just a humble local blogger - will tell you, putting yourself out there means taking the good with the bad. And you know what they say - if you can't handle the heat, get out of the tabloids.

So, Sarah and Bristol, I'm glad you chose life, because you believe it was the right choice for you. But please stop implying that it means it's the right -- and only -- choice for anyone and everyone else. Unless you're willing to share some of that tabloid money.

But what say you? Am I being too harsh--are Sarah and Bristol just trying to tell their personal story? Or are you as sick as I am of the deification of the Palin clan? (And, sidenote, is that not the most unflattering photo you've ever seen of Sarah Palin? Why is the left side of her body about 4 inches higher than the right side?)  



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alicia said:

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While I agree that the abortion option should never be taken off the table, I appreciate how people stress the importance of actually considering choosing to have a child, even if the circumstances are less than ideal. ABORTION IS NOT BIRTH CONTROL. Sex is never purely for enjoyment purposes. If there's absolutely no way you can raise a child, financially or emotionally, be responsible and abstain. Others recreational activities exist. Safer ones exist and are easier to come by. We cannot become a country that bleeds selfishness. America was founded on principles of personal freedom and responsibility. Even things such as credit and health care have blown out of proportion. People are so used to living out of their means that when tragedy or hard times hits, they become lost and clinically depressed. Sarah Palin came from meager and humble circumstances. She has also risen up the ladder of opportunity because she wanted change - change to better her family, change to better her state. I do not agree with everything she says and do believe she does possess enough vanity and self righteousness to wrap the country, but she is a self made woman, one I do believe most people are jealous of.
In my meer 26 years of life, two things come to the forefront when i think about what I've learned: 1. People are inately vain 2. People are primally compassionate and generous

It's only when pundits, closeminded bloggers, news anchors, and everyone who passed judgment (everyone) decide they are going to become so inundated by one fact, one side, one facet to a story or trait of a person that they forget that we are all on this earth for one sole purpose. And that purpose I believe is to help our neighbors enjoy today the best they can - simply by telling our own stories.

msindependent said:


Ms. Gaddo,

You are not too hard on Palin, but some of your comments are the exact opposite of what Palin has said in some of her interviews. First, you say "she insists on deifying her own choices and using her resulting happy endings as proof that everyone should (be forced to) choose her choice." You later reiterated that point by saying, "And they don't mention the fact that they'd prefer just to take that choice away from the rest of American women." I remember one Palin interview where she specifically said that if she were the president she would not go in and change the right to choose. However, you are right that she preaches choosing life, but she has also said that she understands why woman choose an abortion because she thought about it herself.

The other point that you have misunderstood about Palin is that "she actively forces her choices and opinions down the throats of America, judging and decrying all who don't follow in her footsteps." Palin continuously says that she wants to stay out of the lives of Americans and wants less government. If you feel this way about Palin, wouldn't you feel this way about Obama? If anyone is pushing an agenda down American's throats it would be him, especially in the case of healthcare.

Cassandra Gaddo said:


@alicia: Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I think we both agree on one point: that abortion should never be taken off the table entirely. But you do raise a couple interesting points that deserve further exploration. One, nobody on either side has ever advocated for abortion to be a stand-in for birth control. In fact, the pro-choice side has always advocated for ways to PREVENT unwanted pregnancies, whether access to comprehensive sex education v. abstinence only education; access to contraceptives across economic barriers; for health care coverage on birth control; for an honest dialogue about sex to both girls AND boys, etc. Second, I think having an open mind leads to the conclusion that there are people in situations (economic, social, familial, health, religious, etc) that you could never identify with or imagine, and understanding that there are people who need access to safe, legal abortions who are not using it as "birth control." These people deserve access to what is a legitimate, legal medical procedure without having judgment passed over them. And third, it's been estimated that it costs nearly $300,000 to raise a child born today to age 18. If we only allow those who can afford that expense to have sex, we've just turn sex into a commodity, a luxury, only available to those on the upper end of the income bracket. What about married couples of meager means? What about couples where one partner is financially stable and the other is not? What about people who have chosen work (ie., in a non-profit, in education) that will never put them above a very modest wage? Is that a road that we, as a free country, really want to go down?

@msindependent I appreciate you raising these points. The reason I call Palin "hypocrisy in heels" are for just these reasons--of course she says that if president she wouldn't change the right to choose. She can't. Only the Supreme Court can. But she gets to sound all open-minded when really there's no chance she'd ever consider a candidate for SCOTUS who wasn't staunchly in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade. And of course she says she wants to stay out of the lives of Americans. It's what she's based her whole persona on. But her rhetoric doesn't match the reality of her actions. And that's not just my opinion--there's a significant portion of the Republican party whom, in an effort to save their party, would very much like the Palins of the world to sit down and shut up so that Conservatives can return to the ideals they preach--of small government, of standing with the small business owner--instead of focusing on issues that demand government regulate the most intimate details of American's personal lives. Those Republicans realize that the actions of Conservatives have not, for a very long time, had anything to do with the ideal of "small government," and Palin has become an icon of that contradiction.

Alexis said:

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How dare Sarah Palin send such a horrific message to young women in America!

It's always funny how "choice" is great unless it's the "choice" for life.

If you actually LISTENED to answer Palin gave instead of being so blindly partisan (as is evident by your past writings and dressing as her for Halloween and wishing she would 'go away) you would know that while Sarah does not agree with Abortion she would never govern to outlaw it.

We have had Conservative Presidents, judges, senate, supreme court etc. and guess what, abortion is still legal and always will be. The fear women like yourself spread is sickening, and I'm a die hard Liberal who is sick of this. Works both ways, Republicans liberals will never be able to take your guns.

I'm glad women like Palin and her daughter exist to be a voice for any woman who chooses to be pro-life. And I'm glad women like yourself exist as well to show how badly partisan this country has gotten.

Kudos to Palin for standing up for something despite the logic lacking attacks from individuals like yourself.

Cassandra Gaddo said:


@Alexis Thanks for sharing your perspective here. I have to say I'm enjoying reading over the very divergent views's interesting how one person can come to represent such different things to different people. I regards to your above points, "It's always funny how "choice" is great unless it's the "choice" for life," I was stating exactly the opposite. Choice is great, whatever that choice may be! I certainly don't condemn or disrespect the Palins for making the decisions they did in regards to their private lives. What I object to is holding them up as an ideal for all who find themselves in that situation, as I've explained above in the comments. (And if Palin is not actually politically pro-life, then all of those social conservatives whom she was brought onto the McCain campaign to woo on those very issues sure were hoodwinked.) And while abortion is still legal, the pro-life side is and will certainly make every action to chip away at that right until it's negligible. I don't even have to go to extreme examples like the death of George Tiller--just look at what's happening with the health care bill. It's not fear-mongering if it's happening in very real ways before our eyes. In regards to being "blindly partisan," there have been, are, and probably will be many Republicans and Republican leaders for whom I have a great respect. It's not Palin's political party I object to. It's the way she plays the game.

Alexis said:

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@Cassandra. I appreciate the response.

You say you "...object to is holding them up as an ideal for all who find themselves in that situation." I am about as Pro-choice as they come. But for one second, put yourself into the shoes of a woman who is Pro-Life. They believe it is morally wrong to abort, and murder in many of their eyes, so how can they NOT hold that ideal for all who find themselves in that situation. They in their eyes are speaking up for the quietest of voices, the unborn. A view you can disagree with by all means, but a view that deserves more respect than your article gives it.

Now, I disagree with them, BUT Palins message is a powerful and moving one and I am very happy to see a magazine place her choice of being pro-life in a good light. The more opinions and the less abortions in the country the better IMO. A womans choice in this country is going no where, you know it, I know it, we all know it.

Yes she 'hoodwinked' a few who thought she would govern pro-life. But Reagan was pro -life, both Bushes, etc. I think you construe those who are Pro-life in thinking that they want someone who will Govern to end abortion. Which is not the case.

I won't touch the George Tiller point as it is about as radical and off point as they come, and personally, shameful you brought the discussion to that level.

I guess to me what has been driving me away from being such a hardcore Liberal woman these last few years is the disrespect I see many Pro-Choice women giving Pro-Life women. While it works both ways, as we have all seen, it seems to me the trend in America and in your article is that women being Pro-Life is a giant joke to you (Halloween costume) and it's not. It's a valid opinion and should be treated as such.

I think her message for young women is as meaningful, impact full, and as important as being Pro-choice. Although I find it hard to believe Palin can do anything right in your eyes, and thats what I want to see out of the media more than anything.

The blind partisanship of this countries media is a whole other topic, but far more destructive then Mrs. Palin being on the cover of InTouch, of that I am certain.

msindependent said:


Ms. Gaddo,

I disagree that Palin's words contradict her actions. As governor, she cut wasteful spending and a majority of Alaskan's supported her because of her actions. She did things that the people respected such as selling the Governor's jet and getting rid of the Governor's chef. On top of that, she helped pass energy bills that were important for Alaska and Alaskan's; something that Alaskan's wanted. She didn't impose her views on others while she was in office, she made common sense decisions that the people supported. Her record proves that she has lived up to her actions.

Alexis, I agree with you that Roe v. Wade is going nowhere, no matter which SCOTUS is appointed. It is much easier to add laws than it is get rid of them. Also, you are right about the leftwing media bias being far more destructive than Palin being on the cover of In Touch.

msindependent said:


*she has lived up to her words.

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