Home > dads, family, feminism, grandmothers, media moms, motherhood, Politics > The Mommy Wars charge the Bully Pulpit

The Mommy Wars charge the Bully Pulpit

I’m not the first or even 10,001st person in the past four days to spend a little time ruminating on the way that various complex facets of the Mommy Wars, of feminism, of women’s issues, have all be thrust into the spotlight by the presidential election. If you can’t bear to hear any more, please feel free to click away.

My thoughts are rather jumbled which is why I’m going to sit down and write them out. They are all merging with some interesting thoughts on feminism and motherhood and the way that those two things both merge and clash. The fact that those thoughts have been jumbled for the past three years won’t help me make my thoughts on this mess any clearer.

One of the things I am finding most amusing is the way that people are reacting to the question, “Should a mother with a special needs baby be running a national campaign?” Many many very smart and savvy women get so angry at that question that they start to sputter and steam. (Female Science Professor, for instance.) The conservatives, who seem to be against women in the workforce at all, are being conspicuously quiet on this front.

Myself, I think it’s almost a valid question. “Almost” because the question should be “Should a parent with a ….” I don’t think the question is invalid — especially not when she’s running on a family values platform — but I think that any politician, male or female, should be asked it. I get the second-wave feminist knee-jerk anger but I’m a third-wave lady myself and I think dads should be held to equal culpability in parenting.

Then there’s the fact that her daughter is pregnant. I love Obama for shutting down the questions with no room in his voice or words for doubt. (Though I’ll admit that I’m anti-McCain enough to want some surrogates to go out there and beat that drum over and over again.) But the issue is out there and it’s not going away, especially as this girl approaches her third trimester just as the election is going to come to a head. It’s not really all that valid as a political football … except that her mom is violently pro-life and supports abstinence-only education.

And suddenly, once again, a woman is being defined by her uterus. And her daughter’s uterus. Sigh.

Worse, she’s being defined by her tight little ass, too. Watch this video of McCain taking sidelong glances at Palin’s rear during her speech. Watch him fiddle with his wedding ring. Watch him try to kiss her as she dodges, feints, and parries. Watch her pained smile when he finally connects. Contemplate this website: www.VPILF.com. (For those of you who haven’t seen American Pie, “ILF” is an acronym for “I’d like to F*ck.” Gotta give the guy credit — the site’s been up for two months already.) Check out the fact that every article mentions her stint in the Beauty Pageant world.

There’s also the blatant grab for the Hilary Holdouts. Sigh. Why is Senator Clinton always refered to as Hilary when her male counterparts are referred to by last name? Why are they being seens as vicious shrewish women who are holding out bitterly just because they thing they got shafted? Do the pundits and the campaign wonks really think that these women are so stupid as to vote for a woman, regardless of the fact that she’s ideologically 180 degrees from Hilary?

(And then, I admit sheepishly, there’s the lingering question in my mind: Are these women that stupid?)

There’s the fact that, when asked in 2000, what McCain would do if his teen daughter turned up pregnant, he basically said that they would make a choice together as a family. Uh… they would make a choice. Get it? He’s pro-choice as long as it’s for his daughter. Rich white girls get a choice. Poor girls, black girls, girls with abusive parents and or who live in rural areas…. he wants to decide for them.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s think about the call that Bristol Palin “has made the right decision.” Of course, if you’re the daughter of a politically powerful woman and have the love and support of a big and wealthy family, then yeah, keeping the kid might be a right decision. But what if you’re alone? What if your family is sqeaking by on $30K a year for five people? What if your father calls you a slut and kicks you out of the house? What if the father of the baby doesn’t want to marry you? It’s not the right decision for everyone.

Finally, there’s the fact that Gov. Palin has recharged the fundy base fo the GOP because she’s so violently and unimpeachably pro-life. Not even in the case of rape or incest, she says.

I have miscarried a child. I needed Misoprostal to  avoid a D&C. That would probably not be available if Roe v. Wade was reversed. (And make no mistake — with three SCOTUS justices getting ready to retire, that’s what would likely happen if the GOP take the White House.)

I had a friend who conceived a child with osteogenesis imperfecta. She aborted, even though, technically, a late-term miscarriage wouldn’t have been qualified as dangerous to her, medically. Never mind the mental anguish of carrying a child for months that you know can’t live. (I had a cousin born with o.i. who lived an awful and agony-filled three weeks before she died…. I can’t imagine bringing a child into this world to suffer that way.)

I’m not clarifing my thoughts much, I’m afraid. Just cataloging the inane idiocies of this past week. I’m sorry. I’ll stop.

  1. TC
    September 3, 2008 at 2:47 am

    It ain’t a misogynist conspiracy. It’s smart branding of the first viable female candidate for presidency. That is to say that the candidate branded herself as “Hillary,” and it was probably a smart move.

    Seriously. Take a look at all the materials the campaign produced in the primary. Notice how her first name is always in large type on yard signs and whatnot? This isn’t a media (or even vast right-wing) conspiracy. It’s how her campaign packaged her for sale.

    Her campaign sold her as “Hillary,” not “Clinton” or even “Hillary Clinton.” Using just her first name would bring up the scandals of the 1990’s and talk of dynastic reign in the White House. So one reason Hillary Clinton is referred to as “Hillary” is to differentiate her from her husband. Another is to reinforce the fact that’s she’s female.

    Sorry, but I get tired of reading that Senator Clinton was treated differently because she’s female. It just isn’t so. If Biden had packaged himself as “Joe,” we’d probably all be referring to him as “Joe.”

  2. paulmcneil
    September 3, 2008 at 1:06 pm


    Just because the choice of branding came from within the campaign does not mean that it doesn’t show a certain amount of sexism. I agree that a lot of the branding choice was to differentiate Hillary Clinton from Bill Clinton. However, I do not agree with your last statement that a man who packages himself by his first name would be referred by that first name by the media.

    Many years ago I worked as an aide to Congressman Sam Gejdenson (D-CT). His campaign ads joked about how to spell his last name with a little old lady saying S-A-M at the end. His posters had SAM in much bigger font than Gejdenson. Yet, he was always referred to in the media by his last name (including national media since he won one election by 21 votes).

    I’m not saying that there was a conspiracy to make Senator Clinto look less professional by using her first name. What I am saying is that different genders are treated differently. Maybe that’s not fair, maybe it is. I’m just as confused by all this as the author of the blog.

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