Getting Beyond Motherhood as Political Qualification

Democrat Jari Askins  and Republican Mary Fallin are running to become Oklahoma’s first female governor. Askins has been a judge, a legislator, head of a state agency and a corporate attorney, and now is the state’s lieutenant governor.  But Fallin, thinks that is not enough.  She has a combined family of six children and says motherhood is the qualification that sets her apart from Askins, who is not a wife or mother.  

There may be good signs that the public is not buying it. At the recent campaign debate when Fallin said this the audience groaned, and according to the San Francisco Chronicle, “has stirred discussion about whether the emphasis on Askins’ unmarried status had gone too far. 

Several other women in public life, including Republicans, objected. ‘I don’t understand why that’s important,’ said Brenda Reneau, a Republican and former state labor commissioner. ‘Is she going to bring them to work?’ 

State Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre, one of 17 women serving in Oklahoma’s legislature, also said Fallin’s comment seemed like a ‘cheap shot.’ McIntyre, a Democrat, said Askins’ unmarried status ‘doesn’t have anything to do with anything.’” 

This week Good Morning America and The View took up the motherhood as political qualification issue. Askins and Fallin were invited to be interviewed, and Fallin respectfully declined.  Askins articulately speaks to why the political mommy wars is irrelevant and off focus, and comments that to this point all of Oklahoma’s governors have been men, “none have been mothers” and have served the state quite well.

The GMA piece asks Oklahomans and there are varying views from it does not matter whether a woman is a mother or not, to the view that if she is, she’ll be “more responsible.”

When the women on The View went at the political mommy wars, interestingly, the newest edition to the group, Republican Elisabeth Hasselback, ardently argued that motherhood should not be used “for or against” a candidate. 

Joy Behar makes the point that out of 100 Senators, 17 are women. The remaining male Senators were and are never asked whether they were “nurturing fathers in their career.” Amidst interruptive discussion, Sherri Shepard seems to way in that motherhood should be taken into account.

Groaning audiences and female politicians weighing in gives me hope that people are realizing this attitude is sexist, mother-centric and, in a word, wrong.  Then I see clips from GMA and The View and am reminded that this clarity is out there, but also that pronatalism’s pervasive influence remains alive and well.  


Families of Two


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