PEEK  
comments_image Comments

Motherhood identity politics

Should female politicians brand themselves as moms?
 
 
Share
 

Dana Goldstein has an interesting article in the American Prospect about female politicians who front their motherhood as a political credential.

In 1996 Hillary Clinton reminded us that "it takes a village" to raise a child. In 2007, Nancy Pelosi keeps reminding Americans that she's a grandmother from San Francisco.

Dana wonders whether all this maternal symbolism is good for women:

It was a new articulation of the mommy mantra -- the idea that what qualifies women for politics isn't their intelligence, their experience, their policy proposals, or even their character, but rather their inherent identities as feminine caretakers.

On a gut level, I'm not crazy about the mommy schtick. Yet, as a feminist and a partisan Democrat, I'm not going to complain. As Amanda argued several week ago, Nancy Pelosi's in-your-face parenthood seems to be reaching a lot of women who might otherwise feel alienated by Democrats.

Electoral politics is about symbolism, not syllogism. It's like the Village People. Everyone needs to play a character.

Veterans don't necessarily make better legislators. Nobody said that John Kerry should have been president because he was a decorated Vietnam vet. On the other hand, his service was a powerful symbol of his patriotism and evidence of his leadership abilities. That's why Karl Rove hit so hard with the Swiftboat Liars.

Motherhood is a powerful metaphor, too. Nobody would say that Nancy Pelosi deserves to be Speaker of the House because she's a woman. On the other hand, if she can use her life experiences to market her very real talents, I don't have a problem with it.

Besides, good child-rearing is an achievement. If you've raised kids, that's an important part of your life's work. If it's acceptable to run as a cowboy, or an entrepreneur, or soldier, why not as a Mom?

[Pandagon]

Lindsay Beyerstein a New York writer blogging at Majikthise.

 
See more stories tagged with: