Full-time mothers, like everyone else, have global concerns, but focus of their energy is by definition the home-front and meeting the basic needs of their families. For women whose primary concern is their families, it may be difficult to achieve representation I government.
I was intrigued by a story several months ago about a group of women in Hungary which has formed a Mothers’ Party. The issues it advocates include providing free medicine to young children and clothing at wholesale prices. The aim of the National Party of Hungarian Mothers is to push for better conditions for full-time motherhood.
The difficulty with such a political party is that it must by necessity draw on people other than stay-at-home mothers to be representatives. The women it hopes to represent are too busy at home to spend their time in parliament.
Traditionally, men have represented both women and men in parliament. Today many people consider that to have been sexist. The prevailing belief today is that women are better served by women, blacks by blacks, homosexuals by homosexuals, and on and on.
During the recent Progressive Conservative leadership race, MP Terry Clifford observed, “Somebody that has a family they have to look after and bring up has got a commitment to other people that have families. I think it’s part of why people can identify with Charest.”
Recognizing an opportunity to liven up the contest, the media portrayed Clifford’s remarks as an attack on the twice-divorced Kim Campbell’s marital status. Charest and others distanced themselves from the issue, in keeping with the popular myth that one can separate into public and private selves.
Despite his political incorrectness, however, Clifford touched upon something important. People tend to look for a candidate they feel they can identify with, which those who branded him a latter-day Neanderthal would surely recognize in another context.
Had he said, for example, “Somebody that is a feminist today, that has endured the pain of patriarchy and has grown because of it, has got a commitment to women. I think it’s part of why women support Candidate X,” his logic would have appeared obvious.
Had he observed, “Somebody that is gay today, who has come out in a straight world, has got a commitment to other gays. I think it’s part of why gays and lesbians support Candidate Y,” he would have been insightful.
But these straight white males, married with children, ….are they not, by definition, into oppressing women and minorities?
There is a lingering Marxist ideology in our culture, defining classes of people on the basis of race, colour, sex, sexual behaviour, religion, education , and so on and on. Our society is breaking down into a collection of conflicting groups.
As we cannot presume to share common values, we look for external clues to help us define a candidate in ways which are important to us. For some voters, Kim Campbell’s marital history is one measure of her character. It does not tell the whole story, but it suggests possible weaknesses, whether in judgment or commitment or something else.
The number of issues discussed during any election are usually few, and as the Hungarian mothers suggest, they do not address the bread-and-butter concerns of families. In the absence of family-conscious leadership, perhaps the best we can do is try to assess a candidate’s character, by whatever limited means we have available to us.
The women who are drawn to political careers are rarely from the ranks of the married-with-children. They are usually attracted to politics by a feminist agenda which is incompatible with traditional family values. Those exceptional women who seek to promote traditional values rarely enjoy the support of feminist women, illustrating that feminism is not for women; it is for radical women.
As for a Mothers’ Party…it may be a while before Canadians are ready for that. On the other hand, who’s going to look out for you better than your mother?
“It’s time we put our foot down about the principle that women as caregivers have to be recognized as already working. If those women go out into the workforce, they are doing two jobs.” Single mother Josephine Grey who has raised four children on social assistance, speaking on the Ontario NDP’s plan to cut welfare to single mothers and push them into the work force. (Toronto Star, July 14, 1993)
“If you can relieve a person’s pain,, and if you can make him feel liked a wanted person, then you are not going to be asked about euthanasia.” Dr. Nell Muirden (St. Vincent’s Bioethics Centre Newsletter, March 1993)
“Sexuality has lost a lot of its spiritual aspects. In trying to make sex seem more natural…we leaned over backward and have forgotten to emphasize that sexuality has as much to do with spiritual matters as the physical and mental.” Dr. Benjamin Spock, speaking to the press on his 90th birthday. (The Wanderer, July 15, 1993)
“For far too long Asia has suffered from…specialists devoted to the idea that development is only a billion dollars or a billion birth-control devices away. The increasing evidence suggests, however, that development has less to do with lavishing aid on people or with reducing their numbers than with unleashing their potential.” (Phillipines Daily Enquirer, May 4, 1993.)
Having it all
“I am 47, a member of the first generation of women who were told they could have it all. We were offered the pill, the IUD, abortions, and no one told us our fertility was compromised.” Diane Allen, a volunteer who helps infertile couples. (Toronto Star, Aug. 2, 1993)