After months of blatant Hillary-hacking misogyny followed by internecine battles with racist/sexist rantings about Michelle Obama, including the New Yorker cover, which took the woman-hatred to another level, I was exhausted and sad and more than a little depressed; not ready for taking on international sexism again, I thought, for a good long time. Badly in need of a rest from it all. I know I wasn’t alone. It almost seemed as though Michelle had rescued us from it with a carefully calculated, down-home chat to the Dems at their Convention – could anyone really smear a woman who was such a thankful daughter, loving mother, successful careerist and gracious First Lady to be?
Then came Sarah Palin. So. Now we are drowning in the mud and mire of mother-blaming carried to the max. We have Bristol Palin, who is either an irresponsible slut or a child endangered by her mother’s anti-abortion, pro-abstinence beliefs (see comments on this post at Shakesville, for instance). And then we have Palin herself, whose politics and policies are worthy of serious attention, discussion and critique. Yet our full attention has been drawn to the nuances of her life as a gestating mother and the guardian of a young woman whose sex life, some think, has been determined absolutely and solely by her “mothering” choices.
The fact that Sarah Palin flew home to Alaska after her labour started means one of two things: she wasn’t actually pregnant because what mother would take the risk of flying while leaking amniotic fluid (oh help us!) or she was just an irresponsible, bad mother, because what mother would take the risk of flying while leaking amniotic fluid (oh help us!).
Sarah Palin was back at work three days after her son, Trig, was born. If she had taken longer, she would have been a bad, selfish woman for taking on elected office when she had better things to do. As it is, she is a bad mother, for we all know that we wouldn’t be back at work three days after giving birth to a premature baby with Downs’ Syndrome. Of course, we know that because so many of us have given birth to a premature baby with Downs’ Syndrome while we were Governor of Alaska.
If Trig is really Bristol’s baby, then Palin is a liar who can’t be trusted as a politician. If Palin is really Trig’s mother, she should be at home with him and her slutty daughter who is clearly running wild and can’t be a good Vice President because her mind will be on other things. Joe Biden won’t be distracted by his son’s service in Iraq, of course. Oops, Palin’s son is going to Iraq too. She really really shouldn’t be VP.
As with Hillary Clinton, most of this is coming from the “liberal” blogosphere, including from women, including from more than a few feminists. I don’t even have to think about why men and non-feminist identified women are engaging in this reactionary conversation. I do have to think about why feminists who I admire are often on board. In many ways, I think that’s a useful train of thought and just might lead to a deeper understanding of the depth and power of internalised misogyny.
I was looking around a bit in the land of Google at the issues of mother-blaming and this idea of internalised misogyny and found an article by David Aaronovitch at The Guardian. He was discussing the fact that mothers driving their kids to school in SUVs were being blamed for the price of gas in the UK. And he said this:
I think mothers are being picked on, and the question is why? The most obvious explanation is jealousy. The mother and child represent an elemental unit, which it is almost impossible for others to break into. And yet we have all been children ourselves and once been part of that unit. Many marriages and relationships fall apart in the first period of parenthood, when men suddenly discover that it is no longer their turn to be baby, and that it probably never will be again. Within the family, father and kids compete for the mother’s attention, and we all know who bloody well wins.
This was tolerable to men while we were an essential part of any family structure involving children. Now we aren’t. It was tolerable to other women when they all had the expectation of being mothers relatively early in life. Now they don’t. It was tolerable when women went about child-rearing in a self-effacing way, and sequestered themselves in maternity hospitals for the birth, and breast-fed only at home with the curtains drawn. Today it’s bosoms out in the Harvey Nicks tearoom. [emphasis mine]
If we break up the school run we can punish women for looking after children, and for not looking after us, and yet still pretend that we love motherhood and bonded kids. It is a perfect act of psychological revenge. One in which we can make a good action out of our bad feelings.
But there’s more to it than this. If we have performed our mothering in self-effacing ways, if we have sacrificed ourselves and/or our careers in any way, it is difficult not to critisize a woman who doesn’t mother in the same way. It is difficult not to believe that our way of mothering was necessary for the good of our children, else what is the meaning of our self-effacement, our sacrifice? If we believe that mother’s don’t have absolute control over the sexuality of their daughters, what fears for them must we take on board? Will our daughters be subject to the corrosive judgment of society for their wild and borderless bodies? How afraid are we of being judged ourselves when our daughters “transgress”, for are they not reflections of the sexuality and morals of their mothers?
If we have followed the advice of the experts in matters of pregnancy and childbirth, breast feeding because it’s best for the child, giving up coffee and alcohol and pain killers because they’re not, if we have submitted ourselves to totalitarian regulation because we are new age earth mothers, is it tolerable that another woman doesn’t do so as well and expects to be called “good mother”? If we stay at home with our babies for the first year of their lives, sacrificing career advancement or, for some of us, just boring ourelves to death, can we support women who are so ambitious or “calculating” or simply realistic or restless that they are back at work within days of “dropping” their kids? Is it our way or the highway? Have we imposed our own way of regulating motherhood?
Just wondering …
And one more thing, for now. Most mothers today had mothers who worked outside the home. In one way or another, to one extent or another, that outside work impinged on our childhoods. The world is not made for women who have children and paid employment. Nor is it made for children who have employed mothers. Daycare is inadequate and often un-regulated. Provisions for parents of children who have the chicken pox are notoriously poor. Most adults today have experienced longing for mothers who aren’t so busy and stressed and distracted. The subject of daycare is a sore point for my son. He and his wife are having their first child soon. My grandchild’s mother will stay home to care for him, because you can be sure that no child of my son will have to suffer the abandonment he felt when I left him behind, day after day, to attend to something apparently more important. Are we punishing today’s mothers for the absences in our own lives? Mothers, of course, being those miraculous beings who can and should fill up the holes left by a child-hating, woman-hating society.
Check out TGW and American Power for views from progressive feminists and Republicans on the Palin baby talk. If this crap doesn’t validate the view of PUMAs that the Democratic Party is fatally sexist, I don’t know what does.
Forgive me for concluding that the real problem here is that Sarah Palin is female, and thus, in the reasoning of both Obama supporters and Pakistani tribesmen, she belongs in the red tent/birthing house/women’s quarters with her daughter. They can do breathing exercises together and discuss amniotic fluid. That’s what women are meant for, by God, not commanding troops!
UPDATE: Reading the comment threads, so you don’t have to. How’s about this one on an article by Clive Crook at The Atlantic, wherein he critisizes the Dems for their discourse on Palin and the babies:
Palin’s family off-limits? Maybe for Barack Obama, but not for me.
Democrats shoot themselves in both feet every time they try to take the high road, because the Republicans never do. For example, if I were Al Gore, I would still be contesting the 2000 election instead of all that “concede and heal” nonsense.
So… I’ll say what nobody else will. If Sarah Palin can’t keep tabs on her own daughter, arming her with abstinence education and Christian piety, how, someone tell me, how, in God’s name, is she supposed to run a country?
If baby Trig, known to have Down Syndrome, came prematurely by a month to a 44-year-old mother, and that mother, Governor Palin, finished a speech and then flew for 12 hours with her water broken only to pass up two hospitals with NICUs only to give birth in some backwater medical clinic, how, in God’s name, are we to trust her to handle a time-is-of-the-essence international crisis?
If son Track can’t be mentioned in public without noting that he enlisted last year, and, coincidentally is headed to Iraq this year on the same date– September 11th– then I’ll be damned if I’ll keep the kids out of it.
Governor Palin is, plainly and simply, whoring her kids out for political purposes. She’s turning Track into a modern doughboy, Bristol into an anti-choice poster child, and using Trig as testament to her pioneer toughness, bragging that she returned to work just three days after birthing him… like that’s something to be proud of.
She’s a disgrace– a political animal of the first order that could only be the creation of ambition, blind fervency, and Karl Rove.
Posted by Thomas Horton
Shameful. Just shameful. And, stupid.
UPDATE II: Clever Sarah Palin “jokes” from the MSM published at the Big Orange Satan
UPDATE III: This post is too long already, but I have to add this moving post by Anglachel via Historiann