OK, if you read my blog regularly, you might have picked up that I am not a fan of McCain-Palin.*
Despite my political beliefs, I really don't mean the following post to be a gripe about any particular party or person, though it's possible some of my preference might be evident. It's more of an observation about politics in general. And, I suppose, life in general.
Of all the things that bother me about Palin, one thing has been bugging me: The fact that she's a mother. OK, not really that she is a mother. I think it's great that she's a mother. (Really. However any of us want to judge or applaud her choices, I 'm sure her kids love her and she loves them.) What I have an issue with is that during the speaking breaks (or when they decided that the speaker wasn't important enough to stay with thankgodforCspanwheretheymostlyshoweverything...) at the RNC, when they interviewed people here is what I heard:
"I think she's great. The fact that she's a mom..."
The first word of the video to introduce her: Mother.
The headline to a story about her: Sarah Palin: Mother of five...
Obviously, a lot of this identification as "mother" comes from her own telling of her story. But surely this woman, as much as I don't think she should be vice-president, could be identified for other things? What if Sarah Palin didn't have any children? What would the narrative be? Would she ever have even gotten elected as Mayor if she didn't have the PTA?
Sexism of course makes this more of an issue for her - we might still be discussing this if she were a man, but not as much and more of the glory and more of the sniping would be directed towards the female spouse. (And the PTA thing - I know that sounded sexist, but I am trying to view it as people would view her - as somebody with no kids, not as somebody without drive or ideas - does that make sense? I hope so.)
But seriously, are women with children that much BETTER than those of us without? This idea of "mother" is put on such a pedestal. That being "mother" makes you wiser, more patient, more caring. It's the subtle condescension I hear from friends who tell me I'll understand when I am a mother.
I mean really? What the fuck is that? I can accept that maybe I can't completely know the kind of love that comes with being a mother because I can feel the absence of that love. But patience? Wisdom? Generosity? The ability to potty train? Bullshit. I was a live in nanny for years to the extent I really was part of the family. I have "done" the age three with six different boys. I *know* potty training, people. (And because of all that potty training, I *really* know patience.)
And it's not just mother. Let's say the Obamas didn't have children. I don't think Obama would be on the ticket. Not that he makes a big deal out of his kids. He mentions them certainly, and they were used as part of the pageantry at the DNC, just as all candidates parade their families, but they're not a central part of whatever narrative most of us assign him. (Granted, this is due in part to being a man - once again with the sexism.) But even then, no kids and what happens?
Barack losses his ability for compassion. Michelle becomes nothing more than a cold career woman. How can they care about the future if they have nobody to create a future for?
America does not trust people without children who are running for office. (We *really* don't trust people who are single without kids who are running for public office.) Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but I do believe they are few and far between.
Did anyone really think Charlie Crist stood a chance being picked as McCain's running mate? Here's what I know about him: He's really tan, he's a Republican, he's a single man with no kids. (Yes, I also know he's now engaged. And maybe a couple other things. But those are the first three things that come to mind.)
I think his status as a single man with no kids ruled him out as a choice - it makes him a playboy, selfish, childish himself. Possibly gay. Poor guy. Other than being a Republican and probably a good candidate for skin cancer, he's probably great and thoughtful and all that jazz. But Americans would never accept somebody who can't haul a family on stage after the speeches.
Hell, I wonder if part of the thought process that went into picking VPs was how many children they could add to the milieu on stage. (And Biden had such a great backstory for his sons. A horribly sad and life changing one, but it plays well in Peoria.)
I think being a parent changes your life, I really do, even if I haven't had a chance at it yet. But I think that even now, dealing with infertility, it's easy to fall back into the idea that it somehow makes you a better person. I think it can. But parenthood is not the only path or even a certain path to all those qualities we like to ascribe to it.
Feel free to share your thoughts. (Kate, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Clinton - I kind of left her for you since I figured you'd have better stuff to say there.) I know this was kind of disjointed and random and maybe I contradicted myself somewhere. It's complicated and there is no definite right or wrong. But it's what I've been thinking about.
*For those of you somehow not aware, I am a flaming liberal: I am pro-choice, for gun control and gay rights. I think if you want to burn a flag, you should be able to do so even if I don't like it. I believe in economic justice and the regulation of industries that could profit from harming people or the earth. I believe that discrimination on the basis of race or religion or sex or a million other things is wrong. I believe most conservatives need to expand their understanding of what discrimination means. I believe that until we have a perfect justice system, the death penalty will be imperfectly used. I believe banning books is a crime and creationism is ridiculous. But if you want to have a book about creationism, I'll let you put it in my library. I won't teach it in my science class though, because it's not science. It's religion. I believe that speaking up about what my government is doing overseas IS patriotic. I believe that letting people die because they don't have health insurance is criminal.
Don't worry my Republican friends - I believe in a lot of other more universal things too: chocolate, puppies, booze, sleep.