Welcome to Dispatches, your round-up of the latest news from the frontlines of the War on Women. This week we’ll be focusing our coverage on the Democratic National Convention and the upcoming election. Have a story from your state or an idea on how to push back? Share them here and fight back against the War on Women.
During the Republican National Convention we heard a lot about how the GOP loves women and understands the value of the work of motherhood. Ann Romney devoted almost the entirety of her speech to the trials of motherhood.
Moms, Romney explained, are worn out. They worry about homework, elderly parents and keeping the household running, and that’s a lot of work. It was a speech built on the familiar Republican tactic of celebrating motherhood as proof the party isn’t trying to legislate against women’s interests. But in Ann Romney’s world, and in the vision of the world put forward by Republicans, parenting is a mother’s job, and a mother’s job first.
Contrast that vision with the picture painted by First Lady Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention. In a speech peppered with personal stories of early days in the Obama household, Michelle spoke of women and men struggling with the daily task of making ends meet. She highlighted the single mothers raising sons, her own father working through a multiple sclerosis diagnosis.
In the First Lady’s speech dads worry about homework as much as they worry about economics. They juggle the emotional and practical needs of the family in partnership with the mothers of their children.
It’s a startling and important difference and one that plays out in the policies of the parties. Engaging women isn’t about telling us how much you love moms. Engaging women is about promoting policies that support my family, policies like equal pay, domestic violence protections and affordable and accessible health care.
And this was the point that Michelle Obama understood so brilliantly in her convention speech. She was genuine in speaking of her concern for her daughter’s future and what it means to be the Mom-in-chief. She didn’t mention her time as dean at the University of Chicago, her successful career as a lawyer or any of her additional accomplishments, but all of those experiences were evident in her speech.
Motherhood is not something that is “separate” or distinct in Michelle Obama’s world, and it doesn’t stand separate and apart from her relationship with her husband. And so long as motherhood continues to be a political identity as well it’s important to pay attention to the images of motherhood the parties put forth.
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Photo from AN HONORABLE GERMAN via flickr.