08 August, 2012

Parents for ...

I just read Mel's news.  She has been approached to write blogposts for the Obama campaign.  "How thrilling for her," I thought, excited shivers going down my spine.  Then I read the name of the blog:  Parents for Obama.  And I felt a kick in the teeth. 

You see, it's not just that there is a group for parents supporting a candidate or political party.  After all, I've seen the Dogs Against Romney campaign on Facebook, and I'm sure there are Teachers for Obama and similar groups (okay, I've just checked the website and see there are groups for women, LGBT, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, People of Faith, etc etc).  I'm sure Romney has a similar number of groups - though perhaps not one representing the LGBT community? So lots of sub-groups, each with their own issues.  I understand that. It's what we see here too.

This post though is about how I felt.  And no, of course I'm not a voter.  Not in the US (thank goodness!).  But I am a voter here.  And elections often make me feel this way.  Elections kick me in the teeth.  Campaigns seem to go out of their way to ensure the complete alienation of the childless.  And yet, I read statistics that say by about age 40, 20% of women do not have children.  Let me write that out.  Twenty percent!  That's a huge proportion of voters.  Are they all going to feel alienated like I do?  I feel as if my vote doesn't count. Yet I care about the future of our country, about the future for my nieces and great-nephew.  I care about their education and health and future opportunities.  And personally (though yes, unfortunately I know democracy doesn't work this way), I think I know a lot more about education and health and future opportunities for their children than many parents.  But that's the thing.  I'm reminded once again I'm not a parent, and that I don't seem to have a right to an opinion.  What I think doesn't matter. And that's what hurts.  I know I could go and start a Childless for ...  group.  But could I do that, and then comment on the same issues that the Parents for ...  group could comment on?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I guess the point is that I don't want to be seen as a sub-sub-set.  I may be marginalised, but I don't want to feel marginalised.  Hence, a strong reaction. 

I'm surprised that something as simple as the name of a group supporting a candidate (in a completely different country)  can throw me into a spin, when I've been feeling so great lately.  Perhaps it was where I read this.  Though I've always seen Mel's blog as a mommy blog more even than an infertility blog (but that's okay cos it's her blog!)  so it shouldn't really have surprised me.   Even as I write this, I know that I've been feeling fragile for a number of reasons - not enough sleep (Olympic-mania), a major meeting coming up, a migraine yesterday I'm still recovering from, hormones, etc.  I was also worn down this morning reading Loribeth's post about Maeve Binchy and the links to various articles.  And so this was just the straw that broke my back.  

But only today. It broke my back today.  It won't last.  Even sitting here feeling a bit wobbly, I can look into myself and know that I still feel okay about my no kidding situation.  What I don't feel okay about is the way my situation is viewed / ignored by others.  There is a difference.  A big difference.  And that difference means that I can shrug this off and smile.  I hope you can too.


  1. I adore Mel and her blog, and this is a wonderful opportunity for her. But I can relate to the left-out feeling. It seems like everyone is courting parents (& mothers in particular) as audience/voters/potential customers. And yet those of us who are childless/free are a substantial portion of the population (who pay substantial taxes to educate other people's children) with significant purchasing power -- but we don't seem to count. Nobody is courting us.

    I was reading the reports about BlogHer and companies anxious to heap "swag" on mommybloggers who would write about their products. Not that I am in blogging at all for the brand connections, but I can just imagine how much they are interested in ME and my primariy audience. :p

    I feel the same way about the current focus on youth (in movies and entertainment, in clothing stores, even in the workplace -- everyone talks about how to get the millenials and make them happy). Hello, I think I have a lot more disposable income at this stage of my life than a 20-year-old does -- where are the movies and music and clothes that have been created with ME in mind??

  2. I think it makes total sense that the name of that group, and the way people are addressed during campaigned makes you feel alienated and marginalized. And you're right, 20% is a HUGE amount of people. I think that just goes to show that while our cultures are becoming more aware of those without children (either by choice or not) we still don't recognize them with the same legitimacy as we should, as I think we will some day. I have to admit, I have never noticed the message (subliminal or obvious) that parents are more important during campaigns, even when I wasn't a parent yet buy maybe I didn't notice because I assumed I would be a parent some day so I still felt those messages applied to me. Or maybe, as a teacher, I felt addressed in that group as well.

    I have to admit, I dislike election time because it reminds me that I'm living in a country of people that I don't necessarily relate to well, who have beliefs that make me uncomfortable and sometimes angry. It reminds me that living in the liberal bubble of San Francisco is not an accurate representation of who we are as a nation AT ALL. In fact, just the opposite and it makes me ashamed that so many people here still let hatred and fear and bigotry guide their beliefs and their political views. It's scary stuff, whether you have children or not.

  3. dear Mali,
    big hugs for you from the other part of the Earth! How well do I understand your writing!

    I discovered all different blogs when I was already in the phase of accepting my infertility & being childless forever. And I know that Mel is very famous, links to her blog are everywhere. I am sure that she is a great person. But I just never ever read her blog. Only for some seconds, then I realized that it is a mommy-blog, and I closed it forever.

    This is just my recipy how to look after my fragile heart. It works for me :)

  4. Honestly, I had a similar gut-reaction to Mel's post. I think it's great that Mel was asked to do this, but I cringed at the Parents For...part. It leaves me with the feeling that my vote isn't as valuable because I don't have children. Silly, I know, but I guess I'm just very sensitive about it.

    A few months ago there was a provincial election in Canada where two of the candidates were female. Much was made of the fact that one of the candidates was not a mother. Her opponents and the media questioned her ability to govern when she "obviously" had no clue about what families and children need. How incredibly insulting and ignorant! She eventually revealed that she was infertile, perhaps because she felt pressured to justify her childlessness. It enraged me that this was an issue at all and that it brought her ability to lead into question.

  5. Same here. I think Mel is a wonderful writer and I daily thank whatever it was which led me to her ALI blogroll, but the Parents For punched me in the stomach too.
    It came at a bad time too, because we're awash at the moment with the "Proud Sponsors of Mums" ad campaign because of the Olympics - so much so that I am considering a boycott of P&G products!

  6. I had the same reaction to the P&G ads! (and I have a kid)

    Before you feel too gutted, though, keep in mind that there will likely be a broad appeal to women of all walks of life within this campaign somewhere - single, married, straight, gay, childfree, childless, moms. Because there has been a series of attacks on women's reproductive rights here and a series of personhood bills that keep getting shot down, I think that hitting up the female voters is going to be a part of the campaign agenda. So parents, yes, but also women specifically (eventually).

    1. Yes, I've been aware of the reproductive rights issues, watching from the other side of the world in horror.

  7. I can't tell you all how good it is to see your responses. To know I wasn't the only one! I certainly didn't want to come across as petty or to be misunderstood - as I said I was thrilled for Mel. It was just that I felt very excluded from the "club."

  8. I think it's both the shortsightedness of politicians ("What? We need to hit all possible voters and not just ones that fit neatly into these 10 categories?") and it's the reality that there are key issues at play and they're looking to get people with hardcore life experience to speak on those issues. Nurses, doctors, the newly insured, the chronically ill to speak about health care. Parents and teachers to speak about education. Could other people write just as easily about some of these topics -- yes. Could they just have it be People for Obama and not section everyone out with a label -- yes (and it would be preferred, frankly).

    I loved it when a magazine asked me to choose ten parenting bloggers to highlight and they not only didn't blink when I added on favourite childfree after infertility bloggers but they mentioned they were happy to have the list open up the conversation. I wish more spaces were willing to hear everyone's voice vs. the same ones over and over again.