Sarah Palin Does Not Speak For Me

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | September 5, 2008 1:50 pm

I’ve been receiving emails and comments about Sarah Palin lately, and some are questioning my commitment toward advancing women in politics and elsewhere–a subject I regularly write about:

In spite of the go-women perspective at this site, I suspect it may not include “conservative” women or women with opposing viewpoints.

Look folks, it’s true that Mrs. Palin and I have lady parts. We’ve both lived in the northern United States, and we each recently welcomed new additions to our families. Similarity ends there.

Sarah Palin’s politics are not ‘pro-woman’ simply because she is female. She does not support sex education, abortion rights, environmental protection, alternative energy development, and seems to maintain a blurred vision of the separation of church and state. Her nomination was a strategic and dangerous decision, surpassing partisanship. The choice was brash and it increasingly appears she was not vetted.

So to answer readers, a candidate’s gender should bear no role in his or her ability to take on the responsibilities of president. But our VP-in-waiting must be prepared on day one. In global decision-making, we don’t get a do-over. Sarah Palin’s positions on critical policies seem based on values that many throughout this diverse country do not share and she lacks the experience–especially in foreign relations–to lead.

The message I advocate at The Intersection and elsewhere is that men and women should be considered equally for many roles, never that anyone should be afforded preference based on number of X chromosomes. Let our leaders be chosen, not by the composite of their gender, but by their readiness to preside over our great nation.


Comments (23)

  1. sandra

    My thoughts precisely. Palin is no Clinton..or Snowe. Several were likely qualified for President. But not Sarah.

  2. David Bruggeman

    In other words, the complete opposite of Samantha Bee’s perspective from The Daily Show last week:

    Word (to Sheril, not Samantha)

  3. Susan

    Right on, Sheril.
    You say it EXACTLY as it should be said and done, clear position, nail-on-the-head!

  4. Sciencefan

    I just watched the clip from The Daily Show. What a huge chuckle!

    Oh, by the way, just the picture, not the sentiment of you and Sarah Palin, seems a compliment. If nothing else, she (and you) is pretty.

  5. Dave X

    “So to answer readers, a candidate’s gender should bear no role in his or her ability to take on the responsibilities of president.”

    Whether or not it should, it seems clear to me that Palin’s gender bore a significant role in the GOP’s VP selection process. I don’t know how to speak about that without sounding sexist.

    If she had the same number of X chromosomes as the other candidates, we could talk about the experience and family values with the same “respect” we’re used to. But the fact that Palin is a woman both hides and exposes lots of important issues.

  6. If this is a primary qualification to lead … positions on critical policies seem based on values that many throughout this diverse country do not share … then no one would ever become President. It’s exactly because this country is so diverse, that there are many differing positions on many important issues. Just because Palin doesn’t agree with you on particular issues doesn’t make her unfit to lead. It just means you won’t be voting for her. As is your right.

  7. Emily

    Cheers, Sheril. Extremely well put, as usual.

  8. SimonG

    The choice of Palin seems quite sexist to me: “Women are so dumb they’ll vote for anything in a skirt.”

  9. The url says science blogs, but everywhere I go here I find liberal blogs.


  10. Sheril, I disagree that Mrs. Palin was not vetted. Mrs. Palin clearly fits the need of the Republicans to divert attention away from the failed policies of George Bush and his henchman John McCain. I believe that was the plan and it certainly appears that initially they have accomplished exactly that.

    I would dearly like to see progressives never mention Mrs. Palin again except to comment that being a commendable wife and mother does not make Mrs. Palin an acceptable vice president any more than being a POW makes Mr. McCain a hero.

    The focus needs to be on Bush and McCain. And like this comment I also would like to never more see a gender specific pronoun used in reference to Mrs. Palin.

  11. The message I advocate at The Intersection and elsewhere is that men and women should be considered equally for many roles, never that anyone should be afforded preference based on number of X chromosomes. Let our leaders be chosen, not by the composite of their gender, but by their readiness to preside over our great nation.

    Yes, agreed. It bothers me to no end when people assume my desire for equal opportunities for women means that I think those opportunities should be given to all women no matter their qualifications. I want an even playing field, not special preferences for any and all women. Palin seems to have been selected solely because she is an attractive socially conservative woman rather than for her qualifications, and I don’t find that to be much of a step forward.

    William Wallace: I’m surprised that you are surprised, given that one of the authors of this blog wrote a book titled “The Republican War on Science”

  12. Palin isn’t even ready to Meet the Press. She’s given no interviews, and has to go bone up for two weeks to get ready.

    A pitbull with lipstick, not much else there. She left her town $20 million in debt, after asking for $30 million in federal pork, and Alaska gets more fed funds per capita than any other state. This despite enough oil money to give every man woman and child $3000 a year just for waking up in the morning.

    I’m so not impressed.

  13. Peggy, William Wallace is a well known anti-science troll, so it’s not as if he’s even looking for real science at scienceblogs, nor that he’d recognize it when he finds it; best to ignore him.

    Well put, Sheril! Kindof a shame it even needed saying, mind you…

  14. JHS

    If Palin were to go through a series of primary elections to be the VP nominee, what would the competing Republicans said about her? Hmmm… she is experienced, qualified, … yeah?

    Well, Republicans would never admit that McCain’s choice reflects poor judgment on his part.

  15. The gushing over Sarah Palin has been striking… It’s clear she meets a need people have – a need for the “ideal mother” who sticks to her “values” no matter what… Who is folksy, rather than elitist; local rather than global; white rather than swarthy…

    Also its noticeable how people have reacted to “attacks” against her over church & family problems (“poor woman”) rahter in start contrast to similar attacks against Obama (“elitist”, “uppity”).


    Sarah Palin is human like the rest of us.

    Let’s see how long she enjoys being the great white hope…

  16. John the Gnerphk

    The difficulty, of course, lies in finding an individual that can effectively represent us. And, since Jed Bartlet isn’t running (and why can’t we find a Jed Bartlet?!) we’re kinda stuck.

    McCain is a maverick Republican that’s either too conservative or too liberal for most of his party (and certainly most of the country), depending on the issue. Obama is a wild card with about the same level of experience as Palin. And Biden is a confirmed party hack. Once again, we have no great choices.

    The good news is that all four principals are moderately intelligent individuals with effective methods and competent staffers. The Vulcans are gone for the time being and war is soon to be a very unpopular national sport. Better still, every one of them is pro-R&D.

    I for one see little difference between the two choices. At the moment I’m leaning toward McCain simply because it will divide the government between two parties, making it less effective. And a less effective government is a good thing; divided administrations tend to have a harder time spending my money, appointing extremists to the bench, and making fundamental alterations to my way of life.

    But then again, I’ve never seen government do its job well, spend my money wisely, create effective law enforcement, or fight a just, righteous, necessary, and good war. Maybe the next administration will surprise me… but I doubt it.

  17. Peter: Thanks for the heads up! Sorry I fed the troll.

  18. Eric the Leaf

    The offshore drilling song.

  19. BJN

    Well said. I’m disappointed by “feminists” who enthusiastically support Palin despite her actual positions on the issues that are critical to women and children. Palin has a uterus and is not afraid to use it. Good for her, but that’s not a qualification for the office she’s seeking.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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