On paper, I'm the mom that the GOP thinks it has in the bag.
I attend church. I have two children. I stay at home, live in the Midwest and
oh yes, I'm white. We are "Faith Moms" — described by the Christian Defense
Coalition as "…the millions of women that attend weekly Bible study and
discussion groups, coordinate church activities, drive their children to youth
group and choir practice and are literally the lifeblood of thousands of
churches across America. Both Catholic
and Evangelical churches would have a hard time functioning without these
dedicated 'Faith Moms.'"
With a dying and evolving base, the GOP is reaching out to
us "Faith Moms" in an increasingly desperate attempt to stay relevant. In Iowa,
we have Joni Ernst, of the Sarah Palin mold. She is folksy in her approach,
Conservative in her politics. If you asked Pat
Robertson what an acceptable female politician would be she is the perfect prototype. Similarly, this month
the GOP aired ads where women try on wedding dresses, metaphors for politicians.
The metaphor is troubling at best: Wearing men, white men, to fit their
patriarchal dream. And that is just scratching the surface.
But the problem with this pandering is more than its
condescension; the GOP is totally missing the point of what women need out of
The reality of the "Faith Mom" or the "binders full of women" that the GOP believes it has in its clutches is far more complicated than they want to admit.
While I fit the mold of "Faith Mom" if you scratch the
surface, the illusion of the perfect conservative woman falls apart. I am a
stay-at-home mom, but only because I live in the Midwest where jobs that pay
women well and provide benefits are hard to find. I once went to a job
interview, six months pregnant, and was told I would be required to work 50-hour work weeks, no flexible hours, no paid maternity leave, abysmal health
coverage and I would be paid $28k a year. I walked out.
I also have two children and childcare is an overwhelming
cost that we can't afford with me working such a paltry salary. Yes, I am
actively involved in my faith, but I am becoming increasingly disillusioned in
a church that systematically silences the voices and narratives of women and is
rank with homophobia.
Even my friends, who fit this "Faith Mom" mold a little
better, still spill out of the box. They want flexibility, they want maternity
leave, they want, God forbid, birth control.
Recently, I found myself in a conversation on Facebook about
the IUD with a faith leader. When I told him I had used an IUD and so did many,
married, middle-class mothers, he accused me of lying and being a baby killer.
So, that went well.
The reality of the "Faith Mom" or the "binders full of women" that the GOP believes it has in its clutches is far more complicated than they
want to admit. Women who have faith aren't just single issue voters. Women who
have children aren't always going to agree with a Republican interpretation of
what it means to be "pro-Life." And this is because of our status as women and
The GOP is forcing narratives on women that just don't fit, even with the women who fall into their base.
I admit, it took having children, in the space of a loving marriage
and a middle-class Midwestern life, to fully empathize with the difficulties
single mothers must face, to recognize my privilege and to want something
better not just for me, but for all women. No matter what it should be, having
children and working, this is hard. And it's a hard thing to do when your
party, when your politics, when the people who assign themselves the job of
representing you, don't even listen.
But the ultimate point is that the GOP is forcing
narratives on women that just don't fit, even with the women who fall into their
base. The Republican narrative insists that the women who want equal pay, paid
maternity leave, free birth control, IUDs or government subsidized childcare
are single, poor or irresponsible, when the reality is, we are their base. We
are married. We have children. We have faith. And we just want to be heard. Unfortunately,
the GOP isn't listening.
Unfortunately, just like the women in the wedding dress ad,
the GOP isn't going to listen, they are just going to keep stuffing us into
dresses and packages that they think are pretty and hope we say, "Yes."