The recent news that Hilary Clinton is to become a grandmother provoked strong reactions from the public, with people claiming that Clinton can’t possibly become President as she will be ‘less interested’ in running the country with a newborn grandchild.
And more worryingly, these comments aren’t just coming from the male political elites, this was widespread, with Linda Feldmann, reporter for The Christian Monitor, stating: “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.”
In addition, well-known US TV journalist Charlie Rose expressed disbelief that the two roles could possibly be combined, asking: “President or grandmother?”
Apparently it is not possible for a woman to do both.
The news has sparked a huge debate around sexism and ageism, both in politics and everyday life, as women are seemingly still defined merely in terms of their reproductive capacities and roles as caregivers.
Many have also asked whether this reaction would be the same if a male candidate were to become a grandfather whilst running for president.
The answer is obviously no. When Mitt Romney (as awful a candidate as he was) ran for President in the 2012 election, despite having over 20 grandchildren, this was not an issue.
In fact, if Romney’s role as a father or grandfather was mentioned, it was stated as a positive thing which only added to his chances, describing him as a ‘loving family man’. In addition, Romney is around the same age as Hilary Clinton, yet his age was of absolutely no concern during his election campaign.
In contrast, the hype around Clinton’s possible run for presidency seems to centre exclusively around the fact that she is now A) ‘old’, and B) a grandmother-to-be.
Furthermore, the idea of women being unable to be a grandmother and have other jobs and commitments is not just resigned to politics. The Sunday Times recently published an article on Margaret Archer (head of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences) tackling human trafficking, with the headline “Grandmother, 71, tackles slave traffickers for the Pope“, which completely neglected her highly respected position.
This is not an isolated event, and the same cannot be said of men, who are always defined in terms of their jobs and achievements, rather than their reproductive capabilities.
Guardian journalist Hadley Freeman also states: “Many presidents have been grandfathers in office, although it’s actually quite hard to figure out how many because, guess what? No one ever gave a good God damn, so no one kept track. Funnily enough, Jeb Bush, who may well be Clinton’s opponent in 2016, is also a grandfather, but that has yet to be raised as an issue against him”.
These issues just go to show that even in 2014, contrary to claims that sexism doesn’t exist and feminism is no longer relevant, there is still a long way to go before women are considered equally capable as men of running a country, and before women are defined as more than simply wives, mothers and grandmothers.
Image from Huffington Post