Elyse from Skepchick has now inspired two such posts. Her first post, the one I referenced yesterday briefly, came to my attention because I'm becoming more and more fascinated with the skeptic movement via exposure by smart, critical-thinking women. (It's a very interesting perspective to dip my toes into rational critique while my mouth's chanting goddess mantras and my brain spins and dances between these two places. But said smart woman recently praised my ability to portray my feeling two things at once so maybe simultaneous contradictory thought is my bag...) In that post she
1) made me pee my pants:
Why are the media talking about Palin like she’s some kind of superheromom? She’s in the PTA. She’s governor of Alaska. She carpools tohockey practice. She cooks moose burgers for her family. She flew homefrom Texas to Alaska while she was in labor… on the back of a pegasus…unicorns were waiting for her at the airport to whisk her away to thehospital… she was throwing gold coins at homeless eskimos betweencontractions… Jesus was her midwife and when the baby crowned, a chorusof five thousand Boticelli angels erupted in chorus, singing a songpenned by the Almighty himself about how Sarah Palin is the greatestmother ever to grace His 6,000 year-old universe.2) triggered some working mom guilt in my head, and
3) asks: "Why don’t we ask that question [ "about how she’s a crappy mom for abandoning and exploiting her family for political gain." ] and agree that it’s just as wrong fora man to abandon his wife, disabled newborn, pregnant teen daughter andhis three other children to run for office?
After that, remember, I read this thing at MamaPop and said "Yes! That is position." Then Elyse commented and says she thinks that basically Dana at MamaPop agrees with her. I reread both posts carefully and I think that the thing they have in common is the demand that the same standards be applied to parents of all genders. But I don't read that as the crux of Elyse's post. The overriding theme in her article is that working a demanding job makes for a bad parent of young children.
I will address that, but I need a quick extra note here. Last night I listened to an NPR broadcast about children and learning and there was a reference to a "Four Thirds" parenting approach, and a brief statement about the lack of quality parenting time. The featured author says parents should each give two thirds (time? effort? attention? all of the above I guess) and the child gets more than enough. I liked it- an overlapping, holistic approach to attentiveness. (Sorry, no link yet...)
With that in mind, Elyse doesn't seem to be giving much credit to Palin's husband or extended family, and she's making assumptions I'm uncomfortable with. We don't know how childcare works in this family. I'm extremely put off by the language she's chosen:
"Sarah Palin is a selfish, shitty mom."
"...with a hormonal pregnant bitch sister and a retarded baby."
Um, yeah... that ruffles my feathers. I know at five months I was a glowing nesty bliss mama, and at eight months I was a bitch. But seriously, it's like this was intended to be infuriating. I also recoil at the word "retarded" as an adjective for a human being. It's more specific and medically accurate to use it as a descriptor for intelligence, growth, etc. People with Down Syndrome do have varying degrees of mental retardation but it's not always global developmental delays and the label retarded calls to mind a time when we understood such conditions much less than we do now. Yes this child needs intense parenting, but can we discuss him and other kids with Downs a little bit of sensitivity?
Being a mother has made me hyper aware of other's choices. I know there's a natural tendency to critique, and I won't even pretend that I don't get judgmental about breastfeeding- I do. If you don't make an educated attempt to nurse (within the few biological limits), I'll judge. I won't call you out as a shitty mom, though, and certainly won't extrapolate that judgment to all moms who don't breastfeed.
Judging parenting skills is so subjective, and so complex. With mothers it is so tied into the tangled notions of worth that we have now, "post-feminism." Elyse gets a pass for the feminist ramifications, because she does insist that fathers be held to her standards too. My argument is that she doesn't have enough information to judge this family as a whole and I'm not comfortable with the idea that we should judge the Palins as parents on the basis of career decisions.
I don't know where to fit this, really, but in a way I think that in the big picture the role model of a mother-politician is pretty noble in theory (although let's be clear again I HATE her politics) and putting the service of a people as a whole up against a family is really confusing to me- if she were a champion of women and the earth I would call that a beautiful, meaningful career that gives her extra "parenting points" as modeling service to others for her kids. I might still give her points, but as her positions are deplorable I'm just befuddled.
Elyse is planning, I think, a follow up post and I'm excited to read it. I have more to say, but I want to step back for now and read-think-process more. Thanks again, Elyse, for engaging in a dialogue about this.