It Wasn’t the Woman Issue for Warren
Why is Warren not winning? It’s not because she’s a woman. Well, it is, but it’s more complicated than that. The biggest issue is that she’s a Mom. Not a mom, with a small “m,” like Hillary Clinton, but a Mom. You can picture her leading PTO meetings, rooting on her kid’s team from the sidelines, or giving you a little bag of cookies before a long trip.
This isn’t a dig on Hillary’s mothering, by the way. She seems to have a great relationship with Chelsea, who is a pretty amazing woman in her own right. Still, one of Hillary’s most-cited quotes remains: “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.”
Of course, Warren has been a career woman, too. First as a public-school teacher, which is known as being family friendly, and later as a law professor — more intimidating perhaps, but still under the umbrella of “acceptable” female jobs. The difference is that Hillary was always known as a ball-buster. Or a bitch. She couldn’t shake either and lost the election.
Warren has a harder moniker to shake. Albeit brilliant, experienced, and tough, Warren is a Mom above all else — offering warm hugs, kind smiles, and encouraging advice as she wends her way through a contentious primary. This Mom status also means she’s an un-fuckable woman, as in Amy Schumer’s viral skit; it’s a lethal combination. (Even small-m moms have their own porn subheading: MILFs.)
No, Warren is the Mom we fear; the one Freud blames for all our psychological problems. She is the one, according to feminist psychologist Nancy Chodorow, men hate because they fear being vulnerable and women hate because they see her own unequal fate written on the body they share.
This isn’t the same as fearing WWIII, which history and scores of movies have braced us for already. This is the fear of utter dependence on someone more capable than us. This is fear of the person we love to hate because we know she’ll always take us back.
In Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty, social critic Jacqueline Rose writes: “motherhood is, in Western discourse, the place in our culture where we lodge, or rather bury, the reality of our own conflicts, of what it means to be fully human.” We dread our humanity, our frailty, and our possibility. What represents the possible more than a Mother?
We need to stop fearing the power women possess: to procreate, to hold together fraying families, and to give sustenance when we are hungry for more than just food. Warren is supremely capable, whip smart, and has accomplished great feats both in and out of Washington, D.C. Through all of it, she has kept her humanity. She wears her Mom heart on her zipped-up rain jacket.
This Mom-ness kept Warren from winning. She’s officially ended her campaign and mothers across the country are having to swallow the bile that now comes after they tell their daughters: “Sure, you TOO can be president one day.”
Giving Warren this win would have meant admitting that we, for all our bravado, really just want to sit on our mom’s lap and be told everything will be okay. Admitting we need a hug is often much harder than raging against the wind. Our nation needs a Mom more now than ever, though. We must gather behind the swinging pendulum of the patriarchy and throw our collective weight against an out-of-sync system that only recognizes chest-thumping, ugly taunts, and petulant tantrums.
In the 1980s, the image of the welfare queen rallied a nation to vote for Reagan. More recently, we have erected wall to keep away women who might sully our lands with their offspring. Our fear has burdened us problems we will spend generations fixing. Warren, and Motherhood, are not fearsome if we celebrate the potential of what we are yet to be instead of fearing our humanity.