Thursday, August 4, 2011
Governor Palin recently tweeted a not-so-subtle message to President Obama in which she said it is "Time to #womanup and lead." That, of course, begs the question, "What exactly does it mean to woman up?"
Who among us hasn't looked at a particular woman, within our own families even, and seen something uniquely powerful about her? Even wrapped in her femininity, she towers above the hardships, the responsibilities, and certainly the pains she faces. In times of abundance, she spends wisely. In times of lack, she tightens the purse. She may be a housewife, a professional, a pregnant college student. Maybe she holds a household together, runs a business, or raises her children--sometimes with the help of a man and sometimes in less than ideal circumstances. Regardless, she's had to woman up and lead.
Whether male or female, we can each come up with at least one woman we know who fits that description. We admire her tenacity, and we marvel at how she can take the bull by the horns, how she makes the tough decisions, how she commits to doing the right thing.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is credited with saying this about women and leadership:
Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.
This isn't an exercise in hyperbole. There's definite truth in Thatcher's observation. Women often manage a budget, feed a family, pay the bills, settle disputes, create a schedule, work a job, clean up other people's messes, administer tough love, do five things at once, and still look good. This takes nothing away from a man. Certainly, we each know men who stand tall and work hard. I honor them, for I despise male emasculation almost as much as anything. But in my years of life, in my experience, I've found that women possess an inner strength that is second to none. We ladies know it, and secure men who know and respect us will admit it, too.
Governor Palin, as a wife, mother of five, first female governor of the state of Alaska, member of Feminists for Life, first female GOP vice presidential nominee, and, I feel confident, a soon-to-be declared 2012 presidential candidate, knows a thing or two about what it means to woman up.
Before I go further, let me make it clear that my desire to see a Palin presidential candidacy is driven not by her gender. Rather, it's driven by clear evidence that she is the best person for the job. In other words, she's my candidate of choice not because, as a woman, I simply want to see a fellow sister in that role. In fact, I find it hypocritical that some of the people who support Governor Palin simply because she's a woman criticize Black people who support President Obama simply because he's Black. Some people think their gender enthusiasm is somehow okay, while the race enthusiasm is unacceptable. The bottom line is people have their own reasons for getting excited about various candidates. However, wisdom dictates that our chief desire be to see someone in the White House who has the experience, common sense, and intestinal fortitude to do the job, whether it's a sister or a brothah.
Governor Palin's twenty years of public service have given her a resume that is both impressive and historic. Her background as a small business owner grants her an understanding of job creation. Her tenure as a mayor helped business boom in her hometown. Her expertise in energy ushered in the largest private sector infrastructure project in North American history. And her role as Governor revealed her to be a true fiscal conservative--not when there was no money to spend, but when there was a surplus. Her credentials are indisputable irrespective of gender. Having said that, I submit that being a woman only serves to further qualify her for the most important job in the world. Her ability to woman up, so to speak, only adds to what she already offers the American people.
I draw a lot from my previous experience as a girls' varsity basketball coach. It afforded me the opportunity to see up close the indomitable spirit possessed by women. Females still find themselves competing without receiving the respect, perks, and roaring applause their male counterparts enjoy. Advancements have been made, yes; however, for the most part, we participate, not out of a thirst for accolades, but out of sheer love for the game. We show up night after night and sacrifice our self-interests for the interests of the team. The ultimate goal is shared victory. While coaching girls is no easy task and presents a set of challenges not present in coaching boys, it also presents unique joys. Exceptions exist, of course, but women tend to be driven to compete because we deem the goal worth the effort. We prove this repeatedly when the applause is not forthcoming, the stands not full, and the big-time contracts not offered. To woman up, therefore, means to leave it all out on the floor, even when it costs you--because you're driven by heart above all.
Now, think about childbearing. Have you ever wondered why God entrusted women, not men, with this? It's a painful process, and if women were as weak as some men allege, surely He would have given that responsibility to men. Instead, in His infinite wisdom, He ordained that women would have that task. A simple Google search would reveal a plethora of quotations and jokes about how things would be different if men had to have babies. Some say humans would have long ago become extinct, and even Princess Diana is quoted as saying they'd only manage having one child each. The consensus of opinion seems to be that it takes a woman to tackle what is required to bring life into the world. This sentiment speaks to a woman's ability to patiently endure the months of waiting, handle the pain of labor, and push--literally--through the resistance to bring forth the life she carries within her. Amazingly, despite all the pain involved, most mothers give birth to multiple children over time, so women are obviously not deterred by the task, even knowing it won't be easy. I still remember my friend's husband who, after witnessing the birth of their first child, said he had a newfound respect for women. They now have four. Indeed, to woman up means to not shirk the tough, grueling, and downright painful aspects of life. It involves possessing both the vision to see beyond the now to what is ahead and the courage to go for it.
Throughout history, women have demonstrated an ability to lead, not allowing the looming dangers to hinder them. Remember Harriet Tubman, a conductor of the Underground Railroad, abolitionist, Union spy during the Civil War, first woman to lead an armed assault during the war, women's suffragist, and nurse. Commonly called the Moses of her People, she exemplified a passion that guided her actions and fortified her through what can only be described as about as close to hell as one can get. She deemed freedom worth the risks and sacrifices she faced. Having secured her own freedom, she made several trips back to the South to free others. Who would have blamed her if she had faded into obscurity and lived her own life, free of the pressures and life-threatening challenges she encountered each time? But nay. She put the "woman" in woman up. Interestingly enough, if Tubman--a Republican, of course--lived during our time, she would, no doubt, be called a sell-out, a terrorist, and a hostage taker. Her motives would be questioned, and surely she'd be labeled a media whore by those who don't appreciate people who stand on principle.
Governor Palin has had everything thrown at her for simply taking on the task of serving the country she loves. She has often praised other women who have not fully shattered the glass ceiling but have managed to put some cracks in it. The onslaught of sexist, elitist, and revisionist attacks waged against her would have destoyed a much weaker vessel long ago. But she has chosen to woman up and remain in the fight.
Governor Palin epitomizes what it means to woman up and lead. Like that female athlete, she shows up night after night, sacrifices her own self-interests, and puts it all out there for the benefit of the team--for America. Even without a title, she has led on every major issue we've been facing. Like the woman entrusted with bringing life into the world, she is willing to be stretched, to push, to endure the current pain for the sake of future generations. It's an uncomfortable process, but one she's deemed worthwhile. Like Harriet Tubman, she refuses to sit back and do nothing when liberty is on the line. There's a price to be paid so that our children and grandchildren can live and breathe free, and she's paying that price. Unyieldingly, she takes a stand--hardships and all--with an army of people following, many of whom have found the courage, through her example, to take a stand as well.
Those who support Governor Palin are aware of her accomplishments. We know she has the executive experience to put this nation back on the right track. We trust her character, which has withstood scrutiny from every possible angle. And though she's been leading on the national stage for three years already, we look forward to the day when she makes it official. Governor Palin is the only person in the field of candidates who has the complete package, and for that reason we continue to support her. Add to that the passion, courage, and strength often found in such abundant measure in women, and we've found the leader America needs at this crucial time in her history.
Governor Palin's tweet was basically a challenge to President Obama to step it up, to lead as a qualified, disciplined, and principled woman would lead--as she herself leads. The problem is he simply doesn't have it in him--not the experience, not the common sense, and not the ability, frankly, to "#womanup and lead." Governor Palin, you're going to have to take over from here. You've already been doing what you've asked the President to do, so we simply await your announcement to do so officially. A multitude of Americans are with you.
I am reminded of the famous "Ain't I A Woman?" speech by Sojourner Truth, another strong woman from whom we can draw inspiration. She delivered this at the 1851 Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. A portion of her speech reads:
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!