On Saturday morning US News’ political section, Washington Whispers, published a poll asking their readers the following, very profound, question:
“If you had a choice of four daycare centers run separately by Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi, which would you choose for your kids?” (you might be able to still see the results here)
First of all, are you kidding? Second of all, are you kidding?
What on earth are the editors of US News thinking? It goes without saying that US News would NEVER ask the same question of any male political leaders–Michelle Obama has been an accomplished healthcare executive, Sarah Palin is a governor, Hillary Clinton is the Secretary of State, and Nancy Pelosi is the FIRST female Speaker of The House for Christ’s sake–and this is the question US News asks us about them?
News flash US News–your poll is profoundly ignorant and sexist. All four of these women, whether you agree with their politics or not, can clearly run anything they set their minds to (I am less certain about Palin, but still). No, what this poll is really about is that US News editors and most Americans clearly cannot get past the idea that the most important quality women should be judged upon is their ability as caregivers, i.e., as mothers. Can she juggle multiple toddlers with one hand tied behind her back? Can she change a dirty diaper with her eyes closed? Give me a break.
If we judged all politicians on their abilities as caregivers and questioned male politicians about their ability to run, say a daycare center, I might feel differently about this. But politics is traditionally about power and influence, not about who is the best caregiver. Maybe this should change, but that’s beside the point. By running this poll, US News has asked us to judge four political formidable women, not on their political leadership, but on whether or not we want them to take care of our children. It’s beyond condescending.
Remember all the times you’ve heard some male politician say motherhood is the most important job any human being can have? Yes, parenthood is the most important job any human being can have, but that pronouncement has always been a back-handed way of justifying lower wages for women who play those roles as professionals in our society; nurses, teachers, and yes, daycare center workers. After all, doing the most important work provides satisfaction enough, doesn’t it? Why worry about a little thing like pay?
When will Americans finally get past the idea that a woman’s success in all roles is judged upon her ability as a caregiver? Or, when will we judge men in the same way? If a prominent newspaper feels comfortable asking this question, it’s clear we have a long way to go as a nation as far as our ideas about gender roles.
House Speaker Pelosi has changed thousands of diapers and wiped snotty noses, she’s also passed ground breaking legislation that affects millions of Americans thanks to her political leadership and hard-earned power. How dare the US News?
Update: As of this writing, Sarah Palin, who ran one of the most vicious vice presidential campaigns we’ve seen in years, is deemed the best care taker. Those results truly take this poll to a new level of absurdity.
Image courtesy of US News