Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Betsy Newmark: Women Can't Have It Both Ways

Best editorial by Betsy Newmark yet (and that's saying A LOT) about women claiming their feminine wiles in politics:

All this hoopla about moms and grandmas in power seems to imply that they care more about children. Don’t fathers love their children and want to make a better world for them? Are male politicians now going to have to surround themselves with their adoring children and cute grandchildren to establish their political credentials?

And if women are going to use their status as mothers as a qualification for higher office, should voters then ask about their parenting skills and which candidate raised better children? [Editors note: We should.] After all, running as a mom means that their mommy skills are now part of the political calculus.

Why should gender matter in politics today? Have we returned to the arguments from a century ago that women are more moral and will clean up politics? In the 2006 campaign, Pelosi argued that it might take a woman to clean out the House of Representatives, unconsciously echoing a 1912 cartoon showing a giant woman voter sweeping away corrupt politicians. What happened to all the feminists’ slogans about how there was no difference between women and men? Wasn’t it questioning just this idea that got Larry Summers into trouble?

Women can’t have it both ways. Either men and women are essentially the same, or each gender has certain strengths that the other lacks. If women are going to claim that they bring special gender-based skills to politics, men can start claiming that they, too, have particular strengths as leaders.

Of course, no male politician would be so crass as to say that openly, but you can bet that voters, faced with a woman candidate for president, will be wondering exactly that. And, in a time of war, do women really want to start that discussion?

We have come to a point in society where a crazed woman astronaut (a Rocket Scientist, no less) plots to kill her competition. She is smart, accomplished, aggressive, and by the looks of it, likes to dominate. As far as I can see, she is equal in all ways to a man professionally. Will she claim some inherent feminine weakness when defending her actions to attempt to kill a co-worker?

Women can't have it both ways, indeed.