Thursday, September 25, 2008

Milking It: Manipulating Motherhood on Planet Palin

Seems quite a few women are incensed to see the "sexism" abounding on the net (and here at Crabmommy) when it comes to questioning Sarah Palin's ability to run the White House, should she be so required if McCain kicks the bucket or spontaneously combusts in a fit of his trademark ire.

Many of you agreed with me when I said--saucily, people, as is my wont--that anyone breastfeeding her babe shouldn't have a finger near the nuclear button; others found my post anti-feminist and offensive. I find it hilarious and stupid in equal measure that we are even having a conversation about empowered mothers, women's rights, and shattered glass ceilings when the person in question is totally against women's rights and reveals herself to be quite a questionable mother at best, not to mention a believer that the road to smart women begins with teaching Adam and Eve in school.

Some thoughts:

  • If Sarah Palin were a great VP candidate we would not be talking about motherhood.
  • If Sarah Palin were a great mother we would not be talking about motherhood in the White House because she would not be politicizing her children for her own ambitious ends.
  • If Sarah Palin's camp thinks it's unfair for her attackers to talk about her children and pontificate on her ability to simultaneously be a mother and a VP, then Sarah Palin's camp ought not talk about her newborn, nor parade her knocked-up child on stage for all the world to see in a grand fallacious gesture of "walking the talk" of family values.
The irony, the hypocrisy. It's so funny, it's turned me serious.

In spite of the Palin freak show we continue to engage in absurd conversations in which people say such things as "If Obama had a baby no one would ask him how he planned to juggle it" etc. etc. Similarly, several comments here and elsewhere suggest that if Obama had a young baby then we too should question him on how he would cope. Puh-lease.

Me, I don't ask the same questions of Obama or McCain because neither man has a babe attached to his bosom, nor does he traffic in talk about juggling breastpumps and Blackberrys and "soccer mom" hoo-ha. If either man were the primary caregiver of an infant I might idly question how that kid would get shafted (though it wouldn't play a role in my vote), but that's not the case here, is it?

This convo is so ridiculous in its bending-over-backwards attempts at political correctness. For one, Obama isn't grandstanding about family values while parading his pregnant teen onstage like a circus animal and speaking proudly about stepping up to grandparenthood. Nor would Obama in power ever do anything to reverse a woman's right to choose whether she wants a family at all. Obama is not a mom and he's not running as a Supermom while also attempting to stop moms from making their own decisions about family and career, so I'm not asking him to show me if he can handle being a mom and running the country at the same time.

As for Palin "walking the talk" let's hear some of the talk and then see if she's really "walking" it. On abortion: we all know Palin is pro-life, even if her own daughter were raped, (and on the subject of rape, as we now know Palin thinks raped women should pay for their own rape kits). As for the pro-life/pro-choice question, I believe we are meant to see Palin's Down's baby, the unfortunately named Trig, as the living example of Palin's truly "walking" her own talk. I dare say that's a major insult to anyone with a Down's child: comparing Palin's circumstance with Trig to one in which a person is raped and falls pregnant is offensive beyond all measure, yet that's what's actually between the lines if anyone considers Trig proof of Palin's "walking" her pro-life talk; i.e., that the decision to have her child proves her to be a woman willing to go all the way when it comes to her beliefs on life vs. choice.

I believe that everyone has the right to abort or keep any baby, healthy or not, but I don't believe that Ms. Palin's decision to have her Down's baby is something for which anyone should be congratulating her, much less a signifier of the beautiful courage of the pro-life position; Palin's decision to have her son is her personal choice in a personal and individual case, a case with far more opportunity for a mother's optimism than, say, the case in which a fetus has a disease or a congenital defect that would cause it unbearable suffering and/or certain death were it to be born. A Down's kid may have health complications, but there are, quite obviously, way worse diagnoses than that. And then there's rape, Ms. Palin.

To reiterate, babies are a matter of personal choice in my book--the mother's choice. That Ms. Palin *may* exhibit courage in the matter of choosing to have Trig is irrelevant to me and should be irrelevant in any political campaign. But it's not, for Palin and her team and supporters have mined and distorted this narrative of so-called personal courage in quite the twisted way, when you look at it closely. As for poor naughty knocked up and unfortunately named Bristol, again Palin is not walking her talk because it's not hers to walk: it's Bristol's, whether Mom wields the influence or not. And, to be blunt, this daughter cannot either be touted as an extension of Palin's particular pro-life position because this daughter has not been raped, though apparently if she had been, Mom would still push her to have that baby. Nice!

Whatever happens, America will get what America asks for. And so many Americans right now think Palin is, at the very least, is a woman we should all take great pains to view as capable of both motherhood and governance, because any other stance is sexist and backward and redolent of double standards! Slap on the wrist, Crabmommy, and anyone else who dares to suggest that her particular circumstances as a mother might cloud her ability to run the country.

To the various self-proclaimed feminists who have come over to this blog and declared me and my supporters to be sad disenfranchised victims of patriarchy: keep talking your PC talk and we may all soon become sad disenfranchised victims of GOP patriarchy, only this time disguised in a skirt.


Yet the tedious argument grinds along: whether we dig Palin's issues or not, we ought to respect her right to go for the VP role untainted by pesky sexist questions. After all, party affiliation aside, she's still a role model, right? She's still punching at that glass ceiling while pumping her boob with the other hand! She's still a woman with career and yet devoted to family, juggling furiously and getting it all done! And even if she does have some kinks as a mom, who are we to judge...right? I mean, it's not our business.

From a moral or political perspective I don't care if Palin is a bad mother, which I think she is. Being a bad or good mother or father is a non-issue for me among the issues I do care about when it comes to this vote because I don't particularly care about the candidates' children: I happen to believe the personal lives of politicians have nothing to do with me or my interests. (I also don't give a royal fig who the candidates sleep with; nor do I give a rat's bum whether they're cross-dressers or porno-watchers or wear purple drawstring pants in their spare time.)

I don't care if Palin's a bad mother, or a good mother. But I do care that a woman running as a mother and using her specific family circumstances to further her campaign is not allowed to be criticized as a mother. That's where the double standards come in. If you raise the subject of motherhood in your campaign, Palin, then so can we all. And for my money, you can be any sort of mother you like, just not in my White House (where all that late-night feeding might distract you).

22 comments:

kim said...

God forbid in a country that so vigorously waves about its first amendment right to freedom of speech, that one might actually express one's opinion. If a presidential or vice-presidential candidate can't stand up to public dissent and ridicule from their own countrymen how on earth can you expect them to stand up to public dissent and ridicule from the world at large. Trust me...we in other countries mock this woman much more viciously then you

Fall From Grace said...

!!!APPLAUSE!!!

oh, man! that felt good. Thank you, Crabmommy. Nice to have you back.

anndeo said...

Thank You! Someone has a voice and is not afraid to use it.

Anonymous said...

Way to say it crabmommy!!! I am soooo relieved to read your expression of this insanity....I really didn't think it could get any worse in this country from the last 8 years....but here they are!!! It is disheartening to hear so many two leggeds, actually defending them....blaming their unintelligent responses on the interviewer!!
MANY THANKS.....

Jenni said...

Very well said. That was awesome! I agree with everything you said 100%!!!!!

minor matter said...

Love this blog - what an unwise but effective soccer mom. Please please tell me that Americans will tire of her, and her lies and silliness and vote for the democrats? I care, eventhough I am, sadly, far away. I don't have DST so can't watch the debate tonight!

kidletsmum said...

Here here!
I don't agree with the hormone/BF part of your earlier post (just because I think for different women it's a different experience) but I agree totally with you on everything else.
I'll also add that I have no respect for a woman whose family clearly needs her desperately right now is choosing to enter a career that would offer her almost no time at all with them. That sickens me. It would sicken me in any candidate.
I also hate her uber-conservative stance on everything.
I just plain hate her.

Thanks for your excellent post, crabmommy! I'm so glad to have stumbled upon your blog today.

emily said...

Ya, there's annoyingly serious stuff going on this year in the USA!

The right to choose is a safety all women deserve. Honestly, until Palin, I had assumed that any major candidate would never oppose that right.

She is bringing out McCain's psycho side!

mommyknows said...

Regardless, of Sarah Palins status as a mother, ability to work and lactate simultaneously (she obviously does manage to work and parent, maybe not to everyone's standards); she isn't qualified for the job. She may be able to 'fake' her way through as VP but god-forbid she become leader of the free world. I don't think it really matters what her gender is, her marital status, parenting skills (or lack of) ... this candidate just isn't well educated enough, nor does she have enough experience to be on the GOP ticket. What were you thinking Mr. McCain?

jerseygirl89 said...

BRAVO!

Great post.

Alexis said...

Well, I was one of the disagree-ers on your pp, but I do agree that Palin should not be VP based on her stance on the various issues you detail here. I still think someone can work hard and well and breastfeed their child, though. Maybe SHE can't, but many can and do. I've known high-powered lawyers that pump and yes, work ungodly hours, and I am willing to guess their careers are more demanding than governing Alaska (maybe that's a bit of hyperbole, but you get my drift).
I don't think you're anti-feminist--clearly, Palin is much more worthy of that title--but I am still a little uncomfortable using gender as the issue here. I don't think many people would find it acceptable to show Obama's faults to be linked to his race. In fact, I'm willing to bet we'd all be outraged to hear criticisms in that vein.
I despise Palin, but because of where she stands on issues that matter to me and because I think it is terribly irresponsible of her to accept the nomination when she is so clearly under-qualified for the job.
/rant
Still love your blog!

Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama said...

Well said!!

Lilly Web said...

I have to agree with every comment here well put!!!!

Laura Neely said...

Check out this article...it complements your post nicely. http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/09/30/palin_pity/index.html
Here's a quote...
"I don't want to be played by the girl-strings anymore. Shaking our heads and wringing our hands in sympathy with Sarah Palin is a disservice to every woman who has ever been unfairly dismissed based on her gender, because this is an utterly fair dismissal, based on an utter lack of ability and readiness. It's a disservice to minority populations of every stripe whose place in the political spectrum has been unfairly spotlighted as mere tokenism; it is a disservice to women throughout this country who have gone from watching a woman who -- love her or hate her -- was able to show us what female leadership could look like to squirming in front of their televisions as they watch the woman sent to replace her struggle to string a complete sentence together."

tonypark said...

Hi from the Okavango Delta. Who is Sarah Palin? And, more importantly, who cares?

It's SA school holidays here now and I regret to report Botswana is awash with plastic shoes and head lights.

Anonymous said...

gThe hormone argument isn't "saucy," it's stupid. It automatically disqualifies any woman who is menstruating or menopausal. (Might Hillary not bomb Iran during a bad hot flash? Obama has already said that "periodically" she feels down and goes on the attack...)

Crabmommy said...

anon,
maybe it is stupid. but stupid people running for office bring out the stupid in me. Seriously, I was being satirical...and serious too: both. Here's the thing: If someone runs for office using motherhood as a big part of her platform, it calls attention to that side of her life and I have ZERO INTEREST in cheering on some "soccer mom" who talks about breastpumps when she should be talking about Baghdad.She set the topic, I only poked fun at it.

Yeah yeah I get the PC feminist argument, I do. But I don't get why feminists are choosing to focus on it when there are real women's rights issues at stake. It's all far too knee-jerk PC b.s. for me. Let me say for the record that were there some phenomenal candidate running for office with a newborn that she was breastfeeding I wouldn't question her ability to run the white house IF AND ONLY IF she stopped blathering on about motherhood. Pass your kid onto Dad or nanny--be my guest--just don't talk about motherhood and breastfeeding and "juggling" when you're meant to be telling me how you're going to fix up the country. I'm not interest in a juggler for the WH.

Dez said...

I agree with you blog, however I was wondering what is it about Palin that makes her a bad mother? I get tired of hearing this good/bad mom binary that no one bothers to explain and besides where do we get off judging other people's capabilities as a parent? Yea she obviously using her kids to her own advantages...but does not every well meaning parent do that to some extent? Do we not all use our kids successes as some sort of proof in our ability to parent? I don't know its just a thought I had as I was reading your post...which i enjoyed thoroughly! :)

Emily said...

Thank you so much!

Sarah Palin has a complete absence of family values. She does not yet understand what it is like to have a child with disabilities (he's only 5 months old). If she valued her family, she would not be running for office at this time in her life. She is not qualified in any way, even if she wasn't breastfeeding. And let's all just admit that breastfeeding makes you a little stupid. Don't tell our bosses, but if you've done it - just admit that those weren't your best months (years) for making decisions. please continue to call as you see it. thank you from a working mom.

Crabmommy said...

Dez,
i totally agree that good mom/bad mom binaries can be really stupid and usually I don't traffic in them at all, since Crabmommy herself has been accused of bad mothering by the Perfect Mother Police. But I couldn't avoid the judgment with Palin because she has been politically pitched as a good mother and is running as one and so it begs me to ponder the question. I like this answer from margaret and helen's blog post--the grannies whose opinion on Palin has been making the rounds in the blogosphere:
"She loves to talk about being a mother but the last time I checked, having your newborn on national TV at 11PM instead of in bed wasn’t considered 'good muthering.' Neither was making your child’s unexpected teen pregnancy the talk of the nation because you desperately wanted to be a politician in Washington DC - or isn’t that exactly what you said you didn’t want. "
Palin's in-your-face, pushy pro-family values stance is so rich, so hypocritical that it forces one to look at her so-called mothering skills and see if they're really "all that." It's especially galling to me that Palin uses feminist rhetoric to her advantage while playing the soccer mom card at the same time. But I would like to reiterate this: if she were a great political candidate, I wouldn't give a rip what sort of mother she is and wouldn't make a public judgment on that issue. Because it wouldn't be relevant. It wouldn't be any of my business.

Daisy said...

"The irony, the hypocrisy." You're so right. Someone left a comment on a Palin post at my blog that sums it up: A woman voting for Sarah Palin is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.

Anonymous said...

Hear Hear!!! Mind if I use some of your tirade on my GOP friends?? Well said.........I feel better already.