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.