I among others have suggested that feminists should not make Wendy Davis the poster-woman for their cause.
Do feminists really want to be identified with a mother who abandoned her children in order to go to Harvard Law School and then gave up custody because it wasn’t a good time for her?
Apparently, they do. Even the thoroughly estimable and often praised (on this blog) Kirsten Powers is rushing to defend Davis.
Her argument goes something like this: you would never accuse a male who left his children with their mother in order to go to law school or to serve in the military with child abandonment.
Let’s not call it a real argument. It sounds like it comes from a high school student who is learning how to play the double standard game.
Why do so many otherwise intelligent people torment themselves over the fact that men and women are different and that, to some extent, regardless of the culture, customs and habits affirm the difference.
Apparently, it’s just too much for some people to grasp.
The next thing you know they will want to ban “mother” and “father.” The new formulation will be gender-neutered parental person.
For the edification of Powers and others similarly tormented, it is true that males are normally not excoriated for abandoning their children when they go to war, but, then again, how many males do you know who are mothers?
Besides, if men are never said to be abandoning their children when they go to war, perhaps that means that everyone— except a few recalcitrant feminists— understands that they are not abandoning their children. They are protecting and providing for them.
After all, Naomi Schaeffer Riley’s column, quoted in a post yesterday, speaks for mothers who think less of a woman who abandons her children.
And Powers could also have read up on the work of Anne-Marie Slaughter, formerly head of policy planning in the State Department who chose to resign her post because her children, one of whom was a teenager, could not cope with her absence.
And, let’s not forget Sarah Palin. For all of her considerable political talents, Palin could not run an effective campaign for the vice-presidency and eventually could not do a good job as governor of Alaska because she was the mother of small children, one of whom was a baby with Down syndrome.
Obviously, Palin should have known this before accept her party’s nomination. And John McCain should have known it, too.
Obviously, mother and father are two distinct roles. A father might be a good caregiver, but he will never make a good mother. You do not have to have read too much Darwin to understand that a mother’s nurturance is of fundamental importance for a young child.
When a child loses a mother, human communities have universally replaced her with a substitute mother. As psychoanalyst and feminist Nancy Chodorow once explained: “Only women mother.”
Powers should put her high dudgeon in a lockbox. Her argument would be more persuasive if she did not indulge in intemperate rants, like this:
For crying out loud, she didn’t leave her children on the side of the road. She left them to live with their father. It’s fair to criticize Davis for her misleading bio that implied she had been a single mother during law school. Instead, a misogynistic mob is determined to punish her for her parenting choices.
The fact that Davis did not leave her children on the side of the road is not a great recommendation for her moral character. She did leave them with a man who was father to one of them and step-father to the other. Apparently, Powers does not care that one of the Davis children had been abandoned by both father and mother.
Naturally, Powers calls out those who are criticizing Davis as misogynist. When reason fails, you can always fall back on name calling.
Who is Powers calling misogynistic? Why, mothers, of course. That was why I quoted Naomi Schaeffer Riley and why Riley quoted Anne-Marie Slaughter. If Wendy Davis turns off mothers, her political career, as Riley says, is over. Why would we not respect the views of mothers? They, more than anyone else, know how important it is to nurture a young child.
And they, more than anyone else will hold Davis in contempt because she abandoned and gave up custody of her children.
Here is the way Powers sees it:
But Davis never has said exactly why she made this decision, except to say that, “It’s not a good time for me right now.” It’s reasonable to assume she made the best decision she could for her children. Which is probably why, in the end, both of Davis’s daughters are supporting her candidacy.
You do not need to know why she made the decision. She stated explicitly that her decision was not about her children it was about “me.” True enough, she did not lose custody of her children. She relinquished custody voluntarily. Perhaps she knew that if she didn’t the court would have taken them away from her. After all, she had abandoned them to go to law school.
What kind of mother believes that her children will be better off not being raised by her? Even by Powers’ reasoning— such as it is— Davis’s heroism consists in declaring that the best thing for her daughters was not to be brought up by her.
The fact that the girls are now supporting their mothers’ candidacy means nothing. There is no such thing as politicians children who do not support their parents.
Yesterday, I suggested that it would be a bad idea for feminism to jump aboard the Good Ship Wendy Davis. That ship is sinking fast. If Kirsten Powers is indicative, the efforts to bail it out are becoming increasingly desperate.
My advice: take your losses and move on already.