Why Isn't Elizabeth Warren Using the M-Word?
I’ve now seen so many ads of Scott Brown driving his truck and folding his laundry that I feel like I live with the guy. I may not agree with his politics, but if likability has anything to do with this race (and doesn’t it always?), he’s going to win.
Here’s the problem. The other day as I was driving my kids home from school, one of Brown’s ads came on the radio. His wife, Gail Huff, was talking about how dedicated Brown is to women’s issues, in large part because he’s the father of two daughters. I could immediately picture Gail, the gorgeous daughters, and Scott, and not to harken back to Chris Matthews getting that weird thrill up his leg when he listened to Obama give speeches, I confess I experienced a nice, warm feeling about them as a family. In short, I totally connected. And, in the next instant, I realized I had no idea if Elizabeth Warren even has children. It suddenly seemed important that I, a 40-something, card-carrying Democrat and, yes, a mother, didn’t know that. In this political season of Momzilla, why do we know so little of Warren’s life as a wife and mother?
I’m not saying she has to don an apron and wax nostalgic about the days when she dropped her kids off at Kindergarten (I’m getting enough of that on my Facebook page right now, thank you!). Like most women I know, I’ve grown tired of the clichéd view of mothers, first propounded by Ann Romney in her Republican convention speech, as people who are somehow more special than everyone else. The New Yorker took a hilarious swipe at such pandering for women’s votes with this Shouts and Murmurs piece called “I’m a Mom.”
Even Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic convention seemed pitch-perfect but for the glaring absence of any mention of her own impressive resumé in lieu of all-things mother and wife. Lisa Belkin called her reference to being “Mom-in-Chief” the one off-key moment of the speech. No one wants Elizabeth Warren to suppress her impressive career or boil her life’s work down to a trite catch phrase.
But, just as many of us longed to hear Michelle Obama tout the full story of her ambitious career, I wish Warren would give us a fuller depiction of herself in terms of her family. Not just her childhood and upbringing, but also all that came after—what was it like to raise two children while in law school and teaching, what does her marriage mean to her, who folds the damn laundry? Those are the small, mundane details that politicians use to connect with people as we drive our own kids home from school, and even President Obama isn’t above referencing the loves of his life in his speeches and ads. Why is Warren?
Toward the end of her Democratic convention speech, Warren spoke movingly about how people are not corporations. They are human beings who live and love and dance and die, she said. It was a great line, and the crowd rose up in applause when she said it. I wished they had clapped longer and harder. But the line was missing one bit of background that kept it from soaring: We have yet to see her dance.