In previous posts I’ve lamented about how women political and judicial candidates get criticized for not being mothers–somehow being childfree makes them less qualified. Well, the issue is up again with the current Oklahoma governor’s race.
Democrat Jari Askins and Republican Mary Fallin are running to become the state’s first female governor. Gasp! Askins has never been a wife or mother. But could Fallin be taking the issue too far?
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. Fallin, who has a combined family of six children “says her family and her experience as a businesswoman and officeholder have made her most qualified to be governor.”
But here may be a bit of a good sign the public is resonating less with this ludicrousness. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, at a recent campaign debate when Fallin cited her motherhood as a key difference between the two candidates, the audience groaned, and “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.’
Could the fact that women from both sides of the aisle are commenting like this be a sign that motherhood as political qualification is petering? It still amazes me that we never talk about this when it comes to male candidates. They are not criticized for not being fathers, and this status somehow making them less qualified for office.
How about being single? Have male candidates been criticized for this? Possible, but it still seems like women take more heat for this.
Not only is this kind of criticism sexist, it is pronatalist. But reading about groaning audiences in this regard gives me hope that voters may be moving away from buying the idea that marriage and children qualify one to serve in public office.
What do you see in your area in this regard?
We have had some single, childfree/less people run for and win elections. Take Kathleen Rice, a mid-40s woman who defeated a 30+ year incumbent for my county (Nassau County, New York) DA back in 2005. She easily won re-election in 2009 and ran in a primary for NYS Attorney General but lost. Her marital and childed status was never an issue.
We also had Ed Koch, one of the most colorful mayors ever to run New York City, from 1978-1989. He brought NYC out of its doldrums (fiscal and otherwise) and back into propserity in the 1980s. He was single and had no children. He remains popular today.
I am glad to see Fallin get spanked for her remarks. It would be great if she loses, especially in a red state such as Oklahoma.
Thanks, Deegee. I wonder if overall marital and child status is not talked about more than it is talked about? What do you think.
From what I see it is not talked about when it is a man… ~L
This has been a pet peeve of mine — that women constantly talk about how being a “mom” makes them more responsible, more qualified, more knowledgable, etc. As a Human Resources professional, I can assure you that no job description lists “mom” as a required knowledge, skill, or ability. To me, that’s their personal life and we ALL have them, whether it’s kids or hobbies or whatever. You’re right – men NEVER talk like this. If a man proclaimed “I’m the best job candidate because I’m a dad” I’m quite certain he’d be viewed as a pansy! Reproductive status has nothing to do with one’s ability to perform anything. The troubling part is that there are women who wanted children and were unable to have them, so to throw it in their face like this can be upsetting, humiliating and insensitive. I’m pleased to read that most women aren’t falling for this crap.
PS … I’m glad you wrote on the OK race as I saw Askins interviewed on GMA this morning (Fallin declined to take part) and she said, “Oklahoma has had many men as governors who served us quite well, and not one of them was a mom!”
So well said, Erin~also thanks for the info on Askins on GMA–will check it out. Bravo to her comment re men gov’s not being moms! May deserve a postscript to the post! Thanks~