When Sarah Palin described herself as a "hockey mom" at the Republican convention last week, the media instantly latched onto the phrase as a shorthand for white suburban mothers who haul their kids to practices. But how are these moms different from "soccer moms," the white, suburban mothers hauling their kids to practice four years ago? A new Forbes article offers a helpful run down of the different traits of America's sports moms, but do these terms actually tell us anything about these women and their voting preferences? Or has a party with a strong "not locking people in a box" policy just found another fun way to pigeonhole middle-class female voters?The Forbes article starts out saying that "so powerful is the public's urge to categorize mothers that even the arena of sports has bred a taxonomy with which to order the chauffeuring, ref-hating, ice-pack-applying women who get their kids to games and practices." Yet despite a lengthy comparison of soccer, hockey, basketball, baseball, and football moms, it fails to explain how the sport the child plays gives any indication of how the mother will vote in the election. While "soccer mom" was shorthand for "wish-washy female suburban voters," the new "hockey moms" are supposed to be "a more decisive voter: the pro-life, red meat Republican." Yet, it is noted within the same paragraph that hockey is played in both red states and blue states, and there are plenty of liberal hockey moms. What the article really highlights is how ridiculous it is to stereotype women based on the sport their child randomly chose to play. (One particularly absurd point: that "Michelle Obama has about her the air of a basketball mom" because the basketball mom "doesn't have to venture into the next county, or sit on one of those silly folding chairs that soccer moms tote with them, or use the rest room at Dunkin' Donuts ...The basketball mom can attend games in heels, all the while congratulating herself for being a stylish force of life.") All that soccer moms, hockey moms and those pretentious basketball moms have in common is that they are middle-class, suburban mothers. Despite the fact that if you go to any random youth sports event in the country you'll find both mothers and fathers watching their children's games, women are still defined as caretakers whose lives are dictated by their child's sports schedule. At least NASCAR dads get to be classified by an activity they enjoy, rather than a task thrust upon them. But there is a difference between "hockey moms" and "soccer moms": Sarah Palin has given the term more pride. Whenever the term "soccer moms" was used in the 2004 election, it seemed like no matter how desperately politicians wanted their votes, they term may have been an insult to those women. You didn't really imagine the soccer mom forming any sophisticated political opinions while listening to talk radio in her minivan on the way to a game. By coining the term "hockey mom," the Republicans have not only brought the discussion of sports moms back to this election, but shifted the description of the same group of women from a beleaguered sweatshirt-wearing frumpy mother, to a kind of hot, "pit bull" of a mom who seems more likely to whack someone with a hockey stick than worry that every kid gets a chance to play.
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