The Republicans and “moms”

Jessica Valenti is not much charmed by the Republicans’ fetishization of motherhood and “moms” as a compensation for their attack on women’s actual rights and needs.

These days, “mom” is king. It was perhaps the most frequently used word at the Republican National Convention this past week, where Ann Romney, mother of five, said, “It’s the moms of this nation . . . who really hold this country together.” Paul Ryan said his mother is his role model, and Chris Christie all but called himself a mama’s boy.

Republicans’ efforts to woo women have become fever-pitch pandering as the party tries to undo damage from comments such as Rep. Todd Akin’s remark that a “legitimate” rape victim can’t get pregnant and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s advice to women who object to invasive ultrasounds before an abortion: “You just have to close your eyes.”

But given the GOP’s extreme antiabortion platform, which does not include exceptions for rape or incest, focusing on motherhood as a gateway to women’s hearts and votes seems misguided. After all, no matter how many platitudes are thrown around, this is the party that wants motherhood not to be a choice, but to be enforced.

Yes but the two are connected, or even the same thing. Women are swell as “moms,” they’re the best thing ever, but women who aren’t “moms” and who in fact think being a “mom” should be optional and the choice of the woman in question? They’re monsters. That’s the choice for women: “moms” or monsters. “Moms” good, monsters shudder shudder bad. Women who aren’t “moms” are worthless, pointless, a mistake, dead weight, a drain on everything.

American culture can’t seem to accept the fact that some women don’t want to be mothers. Parenting is simply presented as something everyone — a woman especially — is supposed to do.

This expectation is in line with the antiabortion movement and the Republican ethos around women and motherhood. No matter what women actually want, parenthood is perceived as the best, and only, choice for them.

Also in line with conservatism in general. It’s always good news for the rich and dominant when people rally around “family values,” because that means they won’t risk going on strike or telling truth to power. There’s nothing like a mortgage to make a rebel stop rebelling.


  1. says

    I don’t think the GOP had Condoleeza speak; I have no opinion on the subject. I think you must mean “do you think that’s why the GOP had Condoleeza Rice speak?”

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Meri @ # 1 – C. Rice is a Republican type of monster: lying to promote illegal wars and designing torture systems is, for them, right up there with baking apple pies.

  3. iknklast says

    “Is that why you think The GOP had Condoleeza speak? She is not a monster, apparantly.”

    As with everything else, it doesn’t count when they say it doesn’t. Unmarried, childless women can be tolerated, and trotted out, as long as the unmarried, childless women are on the right side, and as long as they don’t get too uppity. They’re for show.

  4. Fin says

    My mum did a great thing for me once. When I was 14, she made me read the Handmaid’s Tale.

    At the time, I had the naïveté to think it was fiction.

  5. Arkady says

    Via comments at Feministe, I came across this tweet from journalist Michelle Goldberg: “You might think that someone at the RNC For Life event would offer a pregnant lady a seat, but you’d be wrong. #GOP2012”

  6. Mimmoth says

    I think you’re mistaken on this. The Republican party doesn’t really respect mothers. They talk a good game because they are well aware that most normal people love their mothers so they’d better sound like they do too.

    But if they really thought motherhood was “the most important job” they would pay mothers–for example welfare mothers–the way people with important jobs are paid. They would listen to mothers–for example welfare mothers–the way they listen to people with important jobs. They would provide health care for mothers the way people with important jobs have health care. And so on.

    In reality they don’t actually care in the slightest about mothers–their so-called respect is a distraction they wave when people start to notice how they treat women, with the slight additional benefit that it might persuade some women considering abortions to tie themselves down to a baby instead, using up time and energy a young woman might otherwise direct at politics.

    They let Condoleeza speak because she has been useful to them, and because she will let herself be used as another convenient distraction from how they treat women. That’s it.

  7. Trebuchet says

    This is the same party that denigrated one of my current US Senators as “just a mom in tennis shoes” when she was in the state legislature.

  8. Tâlib Alttaawiil (طالب التاويل) says

    well said, mimmoth (#7).

    religious people (not just christians) seem tolerate women only if they are virgins or mothers. being anything else is too threatening, somehow.

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