I’m just going to say it: I don’t want your “average hockey mom” as my Vice-President. Neither do I think, as Marsha Blackburn insists, that only a “mother of five” can summon the “bravery” necessary to refuse earmarks—or, more importantly, run the country.
Motherhood no more prepares one for public office than imprisonment as a POW does. If this were the case, Britney Spears ought to appear on the next Republican ticket along with any Guantanamo detainee.
But you see my problem. Making these claims makes me seem anti-motherhood, unpatriotic and insensitive to McCain’s POW experience. So let me explain.
I’m a mother, and I raised both of my kids alone. I know from motherhood. My eldest just left for college and my youngest is a sophomore in high school. I know as well as anyone the “bravery” (not to mention, chutzpa, accounting skills, indifference to sleep) required to raise children. I also know that the experiences of motherhood have not rendered me capable of being the next President.
It’s a sweet thought; indeed, a bit childish. When my youngest was in middle school (a time when he thought I could do anything) he just knew that I’d make a great President. He was twelve. And that is unfortunately the level at which conversations about mothers take place in the media. We are simultaneously too delicate for certain tasks in the military and tough enough to take on any political task tossed our way. These extremes distract the political conversation and ignore the reality of women’s lives and how politicians might improve them.
Some women are mothers, some aren’t. Those of us who chose to birth children, keep them healthy and safe and keep our heads do not deserve greater cultural cache than the women who made different choices, faced their own challenges. Neither do we deserve some kind of consolation prize in the form of an unqualified woman working as second in command—and against the best interest of both the women she claims an affiliation with and those she does not.
I think that what we’re really seeing here is a recognition of the following reality: after W., what’s the difference?
Can another inexperienced ideologue make a bigger mess of things? Sarah Palin—conservative hyper-sexist mouthpiece in drag—is the perfect expression of Republican attitudes to women. Since the last eight years have made the stakes so low, why not go a step further and invite (gulp) a woman (wink, wink) to join the ticket? Send her out with the anti-woman, anti-family rhetoric, get her to tell lies about Obama’s experience, and when anyone objects, cry sexism. Perfect: a sealed cynical system.
But if motherhood teaches us anything, it’s how to resist false flattery, act in our own best interests, and know a lie when we hear one.