Editorial: The Right to Bear

An unsigned editorial

The Gaucho Gazette, (Petaluma, CA)

Women have long been discouraged from pursuing powerful positions in the job field of politics. Recently, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s youngest leader of the labor party, was called into question because of her refusal to disclose her pregnancy intentions while running for office. This poses the question: if a woman running for office is within child-bearing years, is it appropriate to ask her what her plans are for a family?

The real argument surrounding a fertile woman running for president does not have to do with the “her body, her choice” argument, and instead, lies in a separate category–that of duty to her country. A person (regardless of gender) who is running for president should be ready to dedicate their lives for the next four years to the nation (with as little personal distractions as possible).

   The average maternity leave in the United States is approximately twelve weeks, but some companies offer anywhere between six months to a year of time off for new mothers. That is a significant amount of time to be away from the job when you’re supposed to be managing the country. Because we have never had a female president who is still young enough to bear children in office, there are no set maternity rules in place–the vice president will take over as long as Madame President is away and unfit to serve.

   As voters, we make our decisions based off of our morals and ethics, as well as what we wish to see change or happen in terms of laws and society. If we were to find out that a potential candidate might take such a significant chunk of leave, this might sway our decision as to which candidate we wish to nominate, or even elect.

“In an ideal world, a person would be hired based on their inward qualities, not their sex, but this will probably never be the case.”

   There is a Pregnancy Discrimination Act which “prohibits sexual discrimination on the basis of pregnancy” (an employer cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman because she is pregnant). In an ideal world, a person would be hired based on their inward qualities, not their sex, but this will probably never be the case. The Equal Rights Amendment (proposing “equal rights for all citizens regardless of their sex”) has only been ratified in 36 of the 50 states that comprise the United States of America–just two states shy of the three-fourths majority needed in order for it to be added to the Constitution. The bill was passed by Congress in 1972, and 45 years later has made almost no progress.

   The job of president is one of (if not the most) stressful jobs in the world, and dealing with a newborn in the office adds to that anxiety greatly. Reddit user FinickyPenance commented on the issue: the “last thing the nation needs is for someone to be launching nukes because their baby has a colic.” Though this is an exaggeration, it shows how the matter of an “expecting” chief executive would affect today’s (still gender-biased) voters. Is it likely that a pregnant leader’s “raging” postpartum hormones will affect her decisions? Probably not, but the stereotype paints them as if they would.

“For centuries women have been regarded as below men.”

   If a woman in such a powerful position wishes to have a child, it is her right. But, it is her civic duty to make decisions based on what’s best for the country.

For centuries women have been regarded as below men. They have been given fewer job opportunities, been regarded as not as smart, and been overall viewed as less than men. In recent decades men and women in the job market have become increasingly equal, women have become lawyers and doctors, and men are becoming teachers and stay at home parents, but one field has remained male dominant: politics. Now there are plenty of inspiring female politicians, yet a woman has never been in the highest office in the United States, president. In this past election, Hillary Clinton became the first women to be a nominee for a significant party, yet America still wasn’t ready for a female leader. Aside from her political background, Clinton was still a prime candidate for the Democratic Party because of her age. Younger women are hardly involved in politics, let alone running for high-status office and this is because of children.

“It is her body and it is up to her how she chooses to use it,”

   Women who are still well within childbearing are more heavily scrutinized for running for office than women who aren’t. The youngest age one can be to be able to run for president is 35, which, if a woman wanted to be a presidential candidate, still allows her to have a good ten, possibly twenty, years that she can have children. Yet women are shamed out of running for office because, for them, it is posed as an either/or: children or a political career. In today’s society, a mother is still expected to stay at home with her child for months while the father is at work and that has been used as a “valid” reason to keep younger women out of office. Newsflash: it’s not.

   A man that is campaigning for office and has a wife that has or could have children should be regarded just as a woman would, but he’s not because women are considered differently, women are considered as unequal. When a woman is campaigning she should not be treated any differently than a man would and that means she should be asked the same questions. A woman candidate should never be asked whether or not they intend on having children for a myriad of reason, but mainly because it is not a question a man would be asked and because it is nobody’s business. A woman is entitled to her own make her own decisions and, overall, she is entitled to her own privacy, especially when it involves her own body. It is her body and it is up to her how she chooses to use it, it is private information and it is not something that should be publicized. On top of that, men are never questioned about their personal life, so what makes women different? A woman’s ability to have children or be a mother does not diminish her worth or ability to lead a country. Honestly, it probably enhances it – so why do people see it as a weakness?

Photo credit: Liora K.

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