She vs. Her: Playing "The Mommy Card" in Oklahoma
“Mommy Wars” Shouldn’t Be an Issue
Oklahoma voters are about to elect their first female governor, either Republican Mary Fallin or Democrat Jari Askins. You’d think women would be thrilled to see two highly qualified females battling for Oklahoma’s top elected spot. Not so. Some are crying foul because Fallin had the nerve to say that she is a mother.
Responding to a question about what makes her qualified to serve as governor and what sets her apart from her opponent, Fallin said:
First of all, being a mother, having children, raising a family. Secondly, being in the private sector as a business manager for a national corporation ... worrying about profit and loss ... making a payroll ... worrying about health care costs ... being in the Oklahoma legislature."
Eight words out of a lengthy, impressive resume has set tongues wagging because Askins is not married and has no children. One female Democrat elected official called Fallin’s comment a “cheap shot” and believes the line was meant as an attack on Askins.
Leftist columnist Eleanor Clift blasted Fallin, saying "it feels like a throwback to an earlier time when a woman's worth was measured by her marital status, and a woman who did not bear children was expected to explain why not."
Being a mother is a cheap shot, a throwback? Since when? Besides, being a mother is NOT the only thing Fallin said, it simply was the FIRST thing she said.
The View’s Joy Behar called GOP senatorial candidate Sharron Angle a “bitch” and said she is “going to hell,” and some women are worked up because Fallin had the nerve to say that she is a mother! This appears to be a case of selective indignation based on party affiliation.
As a working mom, I appreciate Fallin’s pride in her family. When I give speeches or am interviewed, usually the first words out of my mouth are “First and foremost, I am a wife and mother. Everything I do, I do for my family.” It’s not a verbal hand grenade in the “mommy wars.” My role as wife and mother is at the core of being, and Mary Fallin is no different.
If being a wife and mother is a candidate’s self-described most important qualification, voters should know that. Voters are bright enough to decide if that makes a candidate worthy of their approval.
Although Askins has received some much needed publicity (Fallin has an 18 point lead), making her into a victim won’t help. Instead, jumping to Askins’ defense because Fallin made a statement of fact about her own family status makes the Democrat candidate look weak.
Frankly, voters have bigger issues to worry about such as a struggling economy that is sure to impact more lives than Mary Fallin’s mention of motherhood. In 2010, my guess is that Oklahoma’s “mommy wars” will prove more of a distraction than an actual issue.
When Did Motherhood Become the Definitive Political Qualification?
Women with children bring a unique perspective to the political process. It's no big secret I believe that and I'd like to think at this stage of the political game, it shouldn't be a surprise to other politicos.
But one of the candidates for governor in Oklahoma has taken that idea beyond its logical conclusion.
Republican candidate Mary Fallin actually claimed, in a debate with her Democratic opponent Jari Askins last week, that she was more qualified to be governor of Oklahoma because she's a mother -- that her motherhood status was a "key difference" between her and Askins, who happens to be unmarried and has no children.
Listen, I'm all about taking mothers more seriously in the world of politics. But it borders on the ridiculous to set aside all other background and qualifications (Fallin is a congresswoman and Askins is Oklahoma's Lieutenant Governor) of these candidates and ask people to vote on the basis of their ovaries and marital status.
Fallin's remarks made the crowd gasp, and left some wondering whether her comments were about her particular perspective -- or whether it was a purposeful jab at a woman without children in a state that's known for embracing the whole "family values" thing.
Whatever happens on Election Day, Oklahoma will be electing its first woman governor -- which is a step in the right direction. But at what point do we make it clear to candidates that we're more interested in their policies and qualifications and tired of last-minute political chicanery designed to eke out a win?
I know I've said before that if you want change, vote for a mom. But it is insulting to suggest that moms are by definition more qualified for political office -- or anything else -- than other women.
It's a matter of degree. In the post-Sarah Palin era, more women are embracing the "mama grizzly" moniker (even some who aren't mothers)!
But if you're a woman candidate who wants votes from all women, there's a motherhood line you can't cross. And I'm afraid Mary Fallin may have jumped onto the wrong side of that one.
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