Yesterday, Chelsea Clinton announced that she's pregnant. And then, like clockwork, "HOW WILL HILLARY'S DAUGHTER'S PREGNANCY AFFECT HER PRESIDENTIAL RUN?" bellowed some idiots.
In an article covering the pregnancy announcement, USA Today wrote, "It's unclear how Chelsea's pregnancy will affect Hillary Clinton, who is considering a race for president in 2016." "President or grandmother?" Charlie Rose asked Bill Clinton on CBS This Morning. Not to be outdone, the Christian Science Monitor published an entire piece on it: "Chelsea Clinton baby: Will Hillary Clinton be less likely to run in 2016?" the headline ponders.
This is patently ridiculous. If the genders were reversed — say, if Bill Clinton were running for President again (why not, America's an oligarchy anyway) — no one would feel the need to speculate on whether he'd set aside his political ambitions and focus on being the best grandfather he can be; for a real-life comparison, Mitt Romney welcomed two grandchildren on the campaign trail and no one asked how that would impact his run.
How does this question even make sense? How can we justify asking it? Seriously, what even are the obligations of a grandparent to an affluent two-parent family? They're really not very time-consuming: in my understanding, it's mostly just showing up at the holidays, remembering to send cards and telling the young ones to brush their hair. How would that interfere at all with a presidential campaign, especially one as widely anticipated as Hillary Clinton's? It's terrifying to think that we could stretch the political mommy wars a generation back and extend the unfair scrutiny of female politicians' work-life even further. Asking whether a woman's devotion to her career compromises her role as a mother is insulting. Asking whether it compromises her role as a grandmother is daft.
Not only that, but it's also —obviously — deeply sexist. This is something most would readily acknowledge, if only to bat the notion away. Take, for example, the Christian Science Monitor's insipid "GRANDMA PRESIDENT??? IDK" thinkpiece. "Perhaps it's sexist to even ask the question — how will a grandchild affect her decision," the author writes. She then proceeds to pointedly not engage with the proposed criticism:
[B]ut until she announces either way, it will be out there. It must be noted that former President Clinton, too, has talked longingly about grandchildren. But as anyone who's had children knows, there's often nothing like the bond between mother and daughter when the first grandbaby is on the way. If we had to guess, we'd say that Hillary Clinton will be a tad less interested in running for president now that she's about to be a grandmother.
Excuse me? Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be less keen on holding the highest political office in the country because a cute lil' baby came along and her grandmommy hormones kicked in? Are you kidding? The only way this question wouldn't be sexist is if we lived in a society in which women running for president were required to offer up their first-born grandchild as a sacrifice to the electoral gods. In that case, it would be quite reasonable to frame the President-Or-Grandma Conundrum as an either/or situation. Otherwise, stop. Just stop. It's extraordinarily retrograde to frame it as a choice between two very distinct paths.
Also, it's not as though this is a huge surprise: Hillary and Bill have been talking about how they'd like to be grandparents for years, their daughter is happily married, and she's talked about wanting to have children ("[My husband and I] want to make 2014 the Year of the Baby," Chelsea told Glamour last October). So the Clintons had to have seen this coming; it's not as though the pregnancy throws a big wrench in the works. If Hillary is planning on running for office (remember, we still don't know), she likely planned for this. She probably just didn't see it as a choice between two irreconcilable roles, because it really, really isn't.
Chelsea announced her pregnancy at an event for women. "I certainly feel all the better knowing whether it's girl or a boy that she or he will grow up in a world full of so many strong, young female leaders," she said. It's extremely disappointing that the media felt the need to seize upon this opportunity to remind us just how needlessly difficult it is to be one.
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