Motherhood: 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, 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 less 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 it’s 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?

There are plenty of “mamas” to go around and the experiences we gain from motherhood can inspire us and propel us to run for office or to speak up or to seek change for those who need it. I know I’ve said 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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7 Responses to “Motherhood: The Definitive Political Qualification?”

  1. Becky Says:

    Hmm. I wonder if she would have said the same to Jerry Askins, single and childless man.

  2. Jill Miller Zimon Says:

    Becky – good one!

    Joanne – this is a great post – thanks so much. I love Henneberger’s piece on Pelosi too. Really – this is the flip side of Palin’s aide saying, “give her a break, she’s got kids.” Now it’s okay to say, “give me extra points! I have kids!”??

    Enough. Show us what you do – how do you apply what is distinct. That’s all. It really makes you feel like some of these folks do not have a CLUE about what matters, at all.

  3. Anita Says:

    I appreciated the point on this made raised at Women and Politics, that Fallin has a terrible record on voting for children’s issues. If you’re going to use the fact that you’re a mother as a political achievement, then you’d better have a political record consistent with those values of motherhood you’re espousing. Otherwise, it’s fair to call out the hypocrisy (and the sooner the better with the election days away!).

    http://womenandpolitics.org/archives/does-being-a-mother-make-you-a-better-politician/4002

  4. Kristen Says:

    Two words.

    Sonya Sotomayor.

  5. Chris Wysocki Says:

    So, a mom for SCOTUS == good. (http://www.punditmom.com/2010/05/the-supreme-court-could-still-use-a-mom)

    A mom for governor of Oklahoma == not important.

    Got it. Thanks for the intellectual honesty.

  6. Shannon Drury Says:

    The Mommy Wars have infected the campaign trail? Damn. It’s a shame that this is being used as a wedge, but you make a good point–the fact that two women are the leading candidates is progress. Equal opportunity sniping, yeah!

  7. PunditMom Says:

    Oh, Chris. You missed the whole point. Yes, having mothers’ opinions are great, and we need more mothers at all levels of government. The different here is that Fallin said it was her “key” and primary qualification to be Governor.

    But I think you knew I was saying that. Also, if Fallin is going to proclaim a mom credential as a qualification, it would be nice if she actually supported legislation that would help other mothers — she voted against CHIP, failed to vote on funding for an infant mortality prevention program, and voted ‘no’ on a bill that would have made it easier for employees to sue for employment discrimination.


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