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?