Guest Author - Stacy Wiegman
Mary Fallin was elected governor of Oklahoma in the 2010 elections. She is the first woman governor for Oklahoma and a staunch supporter of gun rights. But she also ran as a mother and wife--are those "credentials" that should matter?
Fallin is not new to politics. She served as a state representative, then as lieutenant governor for 12 years, and most recently spent 2 terms in the U.S. Congress. She was running against another woman, Jari Askins, also a very experienced politician. No matter who won, it was going to be historic for the state of Oklahoma.
But what drew national attention during the campaign is when Fallin stated in a debate that being a wife and mother was also one of her qualifications to be governor. The liberal press, like the Huffington Post, jumped all over that comment, which is a departure for them as they usually like to ignore the "flyover states." Her opponent, Askins, responded afterwards that she never planned not to be married and have a family, but that it just never happened for her.
Whenever women enter the public spotlight, people always wonder about their families, or lack thereof. The recent Supreme Court nominees have both been women and childless, which was noted by the press during their appointment hearings.
I don't blame the press for discussing that aspect of candidates for any important job. Frankly, the public is interested in the personal lives of public and political figures, so the press is simply responding to that interest. Why, though, are we that interested in the lives of women in politics?
It smacks of a double-standard. Not that we aren't interested in the lives of men in politics, but we don't seem to judge them so much for it. Men trot out their families for the "happy family" photo opportunity when they're campaigning, but people expect that. It's as if we blame the women for their personal situation when, even in this day and age, if a woman is married, it is probably because a man did the asking. I was always taught never to ask a woman why she wasn't married because the assumption was that no one asked her--in other words, she probably wasn't pretty.
And that's why Fallin's status as a married woman and mother is not truly a "credential" to be governor. I do think it gives her a perspective into how families and mothers deal with day-to-day issues, but it doesn't make her a more qualified candidate. I'd like to see more women, both single and married, get involved in politics so that women's issues of all dimensions get more attention.