Can a woman be a ‘good mother’ and a political leader?

In The Atlantic, Nancy Pelosi is quoted on why more women don’t run for office:

“Look, I’ve had $100 million spent mischaracterizing who I am,” she said. “Women see that and they say, ‘I could never take that. I would never subject my family to any mischaracterizations about me.'”

I find that quote so upsetting, not because what Pelosi is saying isn’t true, but the split forced on women in the name of “being a good mother.”

How selfish could a female politician possibly be to subject her family to people saying bad things about her? What a bitch. There we have a reason not only for a mother to refrain from political office, but from writing or speaking or risking doing anything controversial that may affect someone, somewhere negatively and come back to bite her family.

Fuck that. Seriously. Women have had thousands of years of practice supporting men and fathers as they go out into the world and pursue their visions. Women need the same support. Professional women already get shamed publicly for how they look and how they dress. On top of that, we’re going to shame public women for being bad mothers? And not even being bad mothers really, but the risk, that they might be “bad” is supposed to be enough to stop women in their tracks.

Erica Jong wrote a great piece in the Wall Street Journal about attachment parenting:

Our obsession with parenting is an avoidance strategy. It allows us to substitute our own small world for the world as a whole. But the entire planet is a child’s home, and other adults are also mothers and fathers. We cannot separate our children from the ills that affect everyone, however hard we try. Aspiring to be perfect parents seems like a pathetic attempt to control what we can while ignoring problems that seem beyond our reach.


Who is going to work to make sure your children get clean water to drink or equal pay or health care? Politicians. Isn’t that what the definition of what a “good mother” is? Unlike Pelosi’s hopes expressed in The Atlantic, politics aren’t getting more civil. My God, we live in the age if the internet, a medium that is proving especially vindictive towards women. I don’t see money taking a backseat in politics anytime soon either. Where I do see change is possible is in families supporting women, just as they would men, when they take the risk to go into public life. Yes, a political leader can be a good mother, and without “getting” that, we’re going to be much slower in making the world a better place for future generations.

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