Mother as politician

The evolution of the whole ‘Mum’ identity in politics is completely fascinating if not also repellent. You can read Judith Warner’s entire piece, “The New Momism” here. It is a pretty thought-provoking article.

There was a time when words like “mom” or “mama” weren’t necessarily associated with the traits needed for good political judgment or the trappings of power…

In an age when “the mommy brain” is now considered a greatly superior organ — uniquely suited for multitasking, specialty-schooled in the challenges of diplomacy and budgeting, grounded in the can-do here and now rather than in the hopelessly abstract or esoteric — being a mom (the “just” has been dropped) is now frequently spun as a prime career asset, particularly in the world of politics…

Being a mom is synonymous with being one of the people. No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve lived or how much money you’ve made, if you’re a mom, you are simple; you are decent; you are real.
Ick.


Categories: Culture, gender & feminism, media, parenting, Politics, Sociology, work and family

6 replies

  1. What I find particularly insidious about this motherhood trope is difficult to articulate.
    It’s as if the “mums are wonderful” is considered to be such a huge compliment to us that we’re supposed to overlook that it relegates us to a larger identity that is supposed to subsume our personality, which is to be put aside in service of the family.
    I suppose that’s why it’s so easily co-opted as a signifier that is supposed to say that a mother must be a nobler, more dedicated and wiser person than a non-mother, because look at what she’s sacrificed for others already.
    As if mothers don’t run the whole gamut of human character attributes, as if all those pesky individuality things just get totally over-ridden by sparkly scented snuggly Motherhood.
    Motherhood can be a character-building experience, certainly, as well as a highly emotionally rewarding one. But that doesn’t mean that how it reshapes one’s family relationships is necessarily going to be a net positive for all involved, or that any changes in one’s psyche will necessarily extend to reshaping one’s political wisdom.

  2. “As if mothers don’t run the whole gamut of human character attributes, as if all those pesky individuality things just get totally over-ridden by sparkly scented snuggly Motherhood.”
    Yes. I pick up less on the ‘sparkly scented snuggly’ thing and more (based on U.S. commercials and chitchat) on the implication that all mothers have the same skills; all mothers have the same social status; all mothers have the same values, the same scope of interests, the same attitudes. That all mothers are interchangeable, like Stepford Wives.
    So mom-ism in politics looks to me like an attempt to treat all childed women as one homogenous power-base that can be tapped into by anyone who says “I’m a mom, too”. Because hey, she’s just like you, so that means she will represent your interests, right?

  3. That’s a very good point – as if there’s no such thing as different parenting/mothering philosophies and how those might be informed by and also inform/influence one’s other political views.

  4. I hate what it implies for non-mothers as well – all the usual stuff like less of a woman, can’t understand family issues, somehow just generally less knowledgeable than women who are mothers and can’t possibly sympathise…

  5. Last time hubby picked me up for swearing in front of the kids I told him that at least our kids would learn that Mummy gets F*cking angry and swears. Then I silently dared him to say something else. Then I think we both laughed and it was over.

  6. I hate, HATE the way things like this:

    That’s also why Michelle Obama is on the campaign trail not as an Ivy League-educated lawyer and a former hospital executive but as a woman whose critical faculties are primarily bound up in protecting her kids: “When I think about the issues facing our nation, I think about what it means for my girls,” she says in her stump speech. A mom knows what she knows; she rules from, and is ruled by, her gut.

    are being used to perpetuate stereotypes of women as less rational than men, and that women’s other achievements – some of which may be much better qualifications for public office than biology – are relegated to a less important, secondary position.
    Also, what Hendo said.

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