Chicago Sun Times Asks Whether Woman Can Be Parent AND Candidate

If we didn’t know any better, we might think that Lisa Madigan, the attorney general of Illinois read our book on how to respond to sexist questions from the media.

Madigan was at the Democratic National Convention last night when she took questions from Dave McKinney, Fran Spielman, and Natasha Korecki of the Chicago Sun-Times regarding her future plans on running for governor. The reporters apparently felt it was fair game to speculate whether Madigan would be capable of balancing being a governor and a mother.

Madigan and her husband, Pat Byrnes, have two young children, ages 7 and 4. She was asked whether she could serve as governor and still raise her kids the way she wants to.

“Wow. Does anybody ever ask that question?” she said. “I’m very lucky to have the support of my family. My husband helps take care of our kids. But, I think more people should ask that of men running for office as well.”

Madigan is completely right: The media nearly always places the responsibility of child-rearing on the mother, while the father is not only allowed, but expected to pursue and maintain a career. Has Paul Ryan been asked how he plans to raise all three of his kids while also holding the second most powerful position in the nation? Doubt it.

Women are routinely questioned about their capacity to balance work with family, but you’d be hard pressed to find even one man that has been subjected to a similar inquiry.

Despite Madigan's very reasonable response, the reporters wouldn't let it go. They apparently weren't satisfied with her answer and “pressed further on whether she could simultaneously hold both jobs—governor and mom,” and “reminded [Madigan] that being governor is a lot more demanding than attorney general.”

Several things are disturbing here: 1) Is the reporters’ sexism so deep-seated that being shut down by Madigan didn’t give them a clue to change the line of questioning? 2) Did the reporters really think that Madigan might not be aware that being governor is a demanding job? 3) Is all of this because she’s a woman? (Okay that last bit's rhetorical.)

Luckily, Madigan fired back:

“I can be the attorney general and do that. There are plenty of women who juggle.”

“All of these jobs are very demanding. And people who, unfortunately, have to work three jobs and don’t necessarily have health-care coverage — they’re even in a worse situation. So nobody needs to give any pity on what elected officials have to endure.”

What is a pity,  however, is that women in office and women candidates have to face this kind of sexism, from even the most esteemed publications. Looks like the Chicago Sun-Times nees to read our Media Guide on Gender Neutral reporting. Meanwhile perhaps their readers could tell their editors that this kind of sexist double standard has no place in the political coverage.

Published by Tessa Ross on 09/06/2012

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