Count me in as another member of the “unsurprised but disappointed” party. As many people probably don’t know, since it wasn’t reported by any major news source I saw, a Michigan Information & Research Service freelance reporter asked Ingham County Clerk and potential lieutenant governor candidate Barb Byrum how she would swing a statewide campaign and be a mom at the same time.
Ugh. Of course he did. A minor to-do ensued. Wonkette ran an appropriately ranty piece about it, MIRS apologized, called Byrum and re-ran the article without the bit in which a woman was passively accused of not having her priorities straight because she is successful. (Byrum’s response to the question, by the way, was brilliant.) That’s a fine response, I guess. But I’m still a little disappointed that the outrage stopped there. I’m upset that Wonkette, Michigan Liberal and Name It. Change It. were the totality of the news coverage on this.
I’m a counter. I count women; I count minorities. Call me wonky, but I think numbers matter. When Mark Schauer emerged as the likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate for the next election, my first thought was, “Oh good. Another straight, middle-aged white guy.” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him as a person, but I do think numbers matter. I think a diversity of voices produces the best governing.
So I was super excited to hear rumors that Byrum was at least being considered for lieutenant governor. And when her potential candidacy was immediately questioned on account of her mommyhood, I was livid. Sure, it was just a question. Sure, MIRS apologized. But every single woman in the state should be outraged that even the mere suggestion that she ascend to a position of power is a disservice to her children. Especially now, when female legislators are at a 20-year low in Michigan, and some of those women have been banned from the House floor for speaking out on women’s issues, now is not the time to let this go.
Today, women are held back, not by sweeping laws or disenfranchisement, but by a million tiny cuts: dwindling numbers of our peers in power; continual chipping away of our right to control our own healthcare decisions; questions that are meant to shame us for success; underreporting of each time it happens.
These things matter, each and every one of them. I think we should count them.