I couldn’t hold it any longer.

By the fourth semester of teaching the same college-level Women’s Health course, there were few surprises. But then, in that last term, during the session on reproductive health, our faculty lecturer asked the crowd a question she’d asked every class: “what is the most common form of birth control?”

Usually there would be murmurs of ‘condoms’ ‘IUDs’ and ‘birth control pills’ from the crowd. In three terms, we’d never heard anyone give the correct answer (sterilization). But that last semester, we were all shocked when the crowd of 300 students filled the lecture hall with a single answer: “ABSTINENCE!”

Holy crap. The other GSIs, the lecturer, and I all exchanged surprised and frightened looks. We realized in that moment that the generation deprived of sex education was hitting college-age and the impact of just what that meant had a chilling potential. (Coincidentally, this was also the term when one of my freshman students came to office hours after the anatomy and physiology lecture and shyly asked, “So, women have, like, three holes, right?”)

Maybe those experiences were my hint that American people are really, incredibly, and undeniably in the dark. That our nearly 30 years of conservative governance chipping away at the building blocks for solid, healthy lives and quality education have grown a populace too under-educated, too tired, and too sick to make good choices. This is my only answer for why anyone in their right mind could think Sarah Palin is a good choice for Vice President of our country.

I do not want to give the Governor a hard time because I honestly feel badly for her.  She was thrust out of her small town responsibilities and into an arena she is no where near being experienced, educated, or informed enough to handle.  She is not there because of any political credentials or successes.  The McCain campaign, by choosing her, exposed their own prejudices and misogyny inherent in the radical right agenda; they did not look within their party to the successful, experienced women who are known to be among the more moderate on their side of isle (Olympia Snowe? Kay Bailey Hutchinson?)  Instead, they are giving us what we voted in 8 years ago… an unknown, religious fundamentalist, junior legislator with little experience and completely unprepared for the office of President.   They chose a woman directly to speak to Clinton supporters, yet with none of the qualities Hilary brought to her candidacy. (And speaking of Clinton, whoa, Palin seriously owes her some major props for more than a year of tough campaigning and door opening, without which the Palin nomination would never have been possible.)

All I can think of when I see Palin and hear the school-boy love gushing by those conservative doughboys is how the McCain camp picked the only kind of woman they can support: one that they can fantasize about. Whether it is the sexy-librarian, the hot-for-teacher, or the superior officer fetish (you remember that one, Jack Nicholson relays it in ‘A Few Good Men’ – line about half way through the clip), Palin brings that sex appeal to the race.  Guys and girls alike have no problem dismissing the ugly girl. But when a pretty girl comes along and asks for something, guys have a hard time not obeying her every word. And girls, well, we can sometimes have a hard time not following that same siren call; we were indoctrinated through years of watching 90210.

Steinem called her “Phyllis Schlafly, only younger”.  I think she’s worse.  She fills the conservative analysts’ favorite seat, the one that was Paglia’s and then Coulter’s, that of the anti-feminist feminist.  With Palin, McCain’s camp can twist feminism as a buzz word, invoking all sorts of archetypal favorites: The Mother, The Tough Cookie, The Small-town Hero, and make theirs a campaign about butterflies and rainbows and sit-by-the-fire family stories.  Anything to avoid attention on what the campaign should be about: issues.

Please, my fellow country men and women, please please please help me believe that we, as a nation, are smarter than this.  That we will not put another fundamentalist into office.  That the next executive branch will not include a creationist who denies global warming and encourages the burning of more fossil fuels.  I need to believe that we are better than this, that we can elect leaders who stand out and represent the best of what this great nation has to give.

UPDATE: This post was named a JUST POST for September 2008.  (Thank you, Alejna!)