With the confidence of a captain of the girls' basketball team, Sarah Palin swished her way into the office of Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, took a jump shot at being Governor of Alaska, and then slam dunked the nomination for the Republican vice presidency.
Along the way, she’s accomplished a feat that often sidelines powerful women. Throughout her impressive career, she has never made her husband look diminished.
How she has dribbled her way around this challenging issue is a subject truly worthy of debate. After all, studies in Social Forces and The Journal of Marriage and Family say that women who are more successful than their husbands have higher divorce rates.
Many powerful women have come forward to admit that their careers have sent their relationships to the bench, including Pink and Reese Witherspoon. Amy Adams in this month’s Vanity Fair says she’s looking for a guy who won’t look at her success as his failure.
Sarah Palin, however, seems blissfully unvexed. Using her arsenal of charm like a lethal weapon, she is showing America that you can be powerful and sexy at the same time. And you can keep your studmuffin by your side, looking happy.
Hillary Clinton, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel — none of these women’s relationships with their husbands conveyed much marital heat in public. The husbands were more likely to get their wives into hot water, or have been so lukewarm, no one paid any attention to them.
Now we have Todd Palin, the hot political hubby.
At campaign stops, Todd Palin looks macho while doing nothing more than standing there holding their baby.
There isn’t any apparent resentment as he applauds his wife at the political pulpit, nor does he hood his eyes on the rope line when she reaches for supporters’ hands and beams her megawatt smile.
Calling him her “First Dude,” Palin has also wisely devised a name that fuels his masculinity. Her folksy fawning about his prowess in the Iron Dog race, a grueling 2,000 mile marathon on snowmobile, also burnished her husband’s he-man image.
When asked what work her husband was expected to do as the governor’s spouse, she nonchalantly said, “I’ll let Todd be Todd.”
“Most men are easily emasculated by successful women,” notes New York-based psychotherapist Lauren Howard. “While this causes many divorces, I tell my clients, it has nothing to do with the woman and everything to do with the man. But a smart woman knows how to work her relationship at home as well as in the workplace.”
Howard notes that some women “falsely elevate their husband’s successes to compensate for the career imbalance.”
Bad idea. Howard says that this will most likely backfire.
Instead, Palin focuses on what her husband does well. Palin doesn’t talk about Todd’s take on Putin but instead about taking on the Alaskan pipeline and their commitment to “drill, baby, drill.” (Her husband has worked for BP on the North Slope for years.)
“She has also shown that she can separate her powerfulness from their romantic relationship,” adds Howard. “A woman can rule the world and, behind closed doors, be coquettish. Palin doesn’t seem to have trouble shifting into different role plays.”
Nor does her husband. He could be the poster boy for stay-at-home dads.
In describing his contributions to her role as Governor, she noted, “there is no way I could have done this job without his tremendous contributions to the home life. He’s able to keep it organized, like a well-oiled machine.”
Considering that in 33 percent of working couples the woman makes more than the man, more and more wives have to worry about crushing their husbands’ egos. Now they can sigh, “Honey, why can’t you be more like Todd Palin.”
Before Todd Palin, the resentment over career imbalances would simmer and eventually boil over into a divorce. Well-off women would then find themselves paying manimony. Jennifer Lopez had to pay Chris Judd $14 million after their eight-month marriage; Britney Spears got financially sheared by K-Fed for millions of dollars.
Roseanne Barr, who famously said that power is not given to women so must be taken, was powerless when the courts ruled that she had to pay Tom Arnold $50 million. Anne Heche recently went to court to renegotiate her manimony payments to her ex.
It sure doesn’t look like Sarah Palin will be facing divorce. While she may have difficulty explaining financial proposals or foreign policy, or firing her sister’s ex-husband without causing a scandal, she is clearly skilled at juggling her career and family life.
With a wink and a smile, could Sarah Palin teach us a few things? You betcha.