First, there was Pelosi. As she was sworn in as the first female Speaker of the House ever, she surrounded herself with children, to reinforce her role as a mother and grandmother. And talked about how it "takes a woman to clean up the House" and touted the virtues she has as a politician, due to the fact that she possesses a vagina and has more estrogen flowing through her body than 84% of her fellow Members in the House.
Then there was Hillary. As she was getting ready to enter the '08 race, she told The View that it would make a difference to have her, a woman, as a president, not because she's an accomplished politician. No, because she's a mother.
There's a great piece by Dana Goldstein up over at The American Prospect that details exactly why this "mommy schtick," as Goldstein puts it, doesn't actually help female politicians. That playing the gender card, instead of making them more viable players in the political field, actually hurts them and other women in regards to politics. It says exactly what I've been trying to articulate since Pelosi's "I've got feminine wiles and therefore make a good politician and Speaker" mantra started coming out. Definitely worth the read.
When Clinton and Pelosi claim political capital due to their experience as mothers and homemakers, they are selling their ambitious selves -- and, indeed, all women -- far short. Women don't deserve to be in politics because we're more compassionate or nurturing than men. We deserve to be there because we are human beings, and especially because we are human beings who, regardless of our choices about if and how to become mothers, continue to live under a social and political system that denies us many of the same options men have enjoyed for generations.
And this closing, which I love:
Perhaps it's unfair to ask our female politicians to transcend gender when we still live in a world so unfairly structured by it. But the fact is, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi will be the victims of misogynistic attacks questioning their seriousness, qualifications, fashion choices, and family lives -- not to mention their politics -- no matter what they do. The question is, will they rise above the fray, or let it limit them?