A "Bump" In the Road: Female Politicians and Family Foundations

8:38 PM


Last week Chelsea Clinton announced that she and her husband are expecting their first child later this year. In less than 10 minutes the first tagline began to stream: "How Will Grandchild Affect Presidential Run for Hillary?"

About 15 minutes after that, a much more insightful line began to roll: "How Will Growing Family Affect Presidential Run… and is it Sexist to Ask?" 

This is not a political issue. This does not belong to one party or another. This doesn't even belong to one media "wing" or another… CNN, Fox, NBC, ABC… all of 'um, are guilty. 

Women and girls have been failed by the media - yet again. This is not new. Unfortunately, it is also not history. Today, right now, in 2014 - women their intelligence, their character, their leadership, their bodies, are still subject to a mockery via all forms of mass media. 

I sometimes find myself falling into the trap; I find myself truly believing that "we've come so far" and that unlike the generations of my mother and grandmothers, I will not be limited by my biology.

And then and then, all of a sudden, the glass ceiling seems all encompassing - it becomes more of a glass room. The walls are moving in and the ceiling dropping lower - the more we push and resist, the more the oppressive fights back. And then, the question that has plagued generations of working women, of educated women comes back to call… 


But this time, this question: this is more than selling burgers using women's bodies, more than objectification… this time, the media is trying to send a message, that mothering - that parenting - that being a foundation of one's family is a sign on weakness. 

Needless to say such sentiments made me pretty angry… "IS IT SEXIST TO ASK?!" ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME…" 

Needless to say, this got my mind spinning… So, I dashed to my computer, and turned on the Google machine… what about my sitting president? What about our nation's presidents of the past? How have their family lives impacted their political run? How many Mr. Presidents had their families grow? How many times had the First Family grown and how many times had it been discussed as a concern by the media? 
Well, as it turns out… most forms of mass media give no cares about the First Family's growth or that of the potential First Family… as it turns out… it has never occurred to most people that the addition of a grandchild (or even child) would play a role in the ability or potential for a candidate to perform adequately in their role. 

It has never been asked of male candidates how they'll balance their time between family and the campaign trail? Would they leave the White House for the delivery of their grand/child? Would their (grand)child be negatively impacted by the fact that their (grand)parent wouldn't be available to tuck them in every night? Was there no sounding alarm that their missing dinner on a regular basis may place their (grand)child at an increased risk for engaging in risky behavior like drug and alcohol abuse?

I put together this chart to help illustrate how common families (and growing families for that matter) are when it comes to the hallowed halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue… (Actually, growing First Families are even more historic than the White House!) 




Turns out, that the media cares a whole lot more about female politicians and political candidates when they're in this position. Democratic or Republican… it doesn't seem to matter…  Being a mother… being a grandmother is a sign of weakness. Being a mother and a grandmother makes you seemingly incapable. 

And as this is a concern, and as this is an opinion, I just wanted to say this: throughout our history the role of women has shifted, but the role of a mother has been ever endearing. For many years mothers ran the home and many continue to do so today. In one sense Forbes Magazine estimates that the contemporary Stay-at-Home parent has a job inclusive in scale and skill enough to be valued at over $114,000. In another, more and more women are becoming the "head of household" being the high-wage warner in their home, particularly as more and more women graduate from college. 

From cooking and cleaning, to balancing the check book and paying the bills: mothers have ensured food has gotten placed on many a table. Mothers, have kept the family budget balanced and families within their means. Mothers have taken on the roles and responsibilities of teachers and tutors. Mothers invest in our education, and encourage our creativity. If "that's all" that these women are capable of, maybe we should be asking why we haven't leaped at the chance to have a (grand)mother in the White House a little sooner. 

So maybe, maybe at the end of the day it's time to realize that a little mothering wouldn't be so bad for a country on the tail of an economic crisis. Maybe a little mothering is just what a country beyond a decade of war needs, maybe a little mothering would help the two sides of the aisle get along just a little bit better ("If you can't play nicely you're going to be separated"). 

Not only are women capable of "taking care" of their children and their families, but they are intelligent and capable enough to "take care" of our country. 

These women, these people, deserve the respect and dignity that motherhood as well as personhood has entitled them to. 












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