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Moms, Do You Discuss Politics With Your Daughters?

When I discuss women and their – our – political engagement (or lack thereof) I always start with two statistics:

1) Though women are 51% of the population we make up 17% of Congress. So, all of our interests and they do differ from those of those of the opposite sex are largely being determined (or maybe ‘dictated’ is the proper word at times) by men.

2) Women need to be asked an average of three times to run for office. Any office. Whereas Ron Paul wakes up once every four years, checks himself out in the mirror and then off he goes to run for President. Never mind the odds of winning, he does it anyway.

I focus on women because we are a traditionally underrepresented group. Women also continue to lag behind men when it comes to most things political. While we make advances in medicine, law and other areas that were once traditionally ‘men only’, women continue to find difficulty entering politics.

Several reasons come to mind as to why women continue to find themselves out of the political process: the effect on their families, the general animosity between candidates and the amount of time have all been mentioned. And, I cannot say that I blame women for not wanting to be involved in politics after watching the last two years of this often vitriolic 2012 presidential campaign.

People are always shocked to hear that  I wasn’t raised in a particularly political family. My mother brought me to vote and would let me pull the lever but we never discussed Clinton v. Dole at the dinner table even though I was 13 years old at the time. I took it upon myself to start watching C-SPAN and then I became obsessed with the United States Senate and now I watch presidential debates with rabid interest and write paragraphs on the deficit. I am also now the only woman in the room during meetings and that is something I have long thought needs to change.

So, I asked other bloggers – mothers with daughters – if they discussed politics with their daughters or brought them up to realize that women can be involved politically and engaged. I was thrilled by their answers. And now I ask you: Are you like these parents? Do you discuss politics with your daughters? Why or why not?

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  • Kristen Howerton 1 of 10
    Kristen Howerton
    "I talk politics with all of my kids. My daughters are only 3 and 6, but they understand that an election is coming up, and that we live in a country where we get to choose our leader. They understand that I am involved in social justice activism I would imagine that as they get older I will involve them in that as well." - Kristen Howerton
  • Karen Walrond 2 of 10
    Karen Walrond
    "I do discuss politics with Alex, and try very hard not to infuse my own political bias with our discussions, allowing her to come to her own conclusions (that part isn't always easy). I also always take her with me to vote, because I want her to see it as something that adults just naturally do, like applying for a driver's license or getting a check-up. I became a US citizen specifically so that I could vote. I want my daughter to see that it's an important part of taking responsibility for your community." - Karen Walrond
  • Rita Arens 3 of 10
    Rita Arens
    "I do discuss politics with my eight-year-old. She watches me watch the debates. As I was watching the vice-presidential debate, she asked me which guy I liked better and I told her who I liked better and why, but that not everyone -- not even everyone in our family -- would agree with me. I could tell that rocked her world a little, so I left it at that. One shocker at a time when you're eight." - Rita Arens
  • Kelly Wickham 4 of 10
    Kelly Wickham
    "Yes, I discuss all politics with my daughters. I don't think I have a choice since we happen to live in a country where women and black people can vote. I don't mean that in a poor manner, either, I just know that since it's available to us and the suffragettes and civil rights workers demanded equality in voting that there is a sense of obligation to ensure our voices are heard. I'm also an educator and have talked to them about how laws and policies affect my job and our livelihood as a family. Getting my oldest daughter engaged in civics started before she turned the legal voting age because I wanted her to be informed beforehand. Because we talk about fairness of being an equal person (to a man) and because we talk about issues of race easily, discussing politics is the next logical step." - Kelly Wickham
  • Amanda Magee 5 of 10
    Amanda Magee
    "Yes, I do talk to my 3 daughters (4, 6 and 8) about politics. Typically I let their life experience's guide our discussions—case in point, "Mom, can boys marry boys?" I try to be sensitive to how little or how much the parents of their classmates might be sharing. Generally I will say something like, "Well, yes, they can, but only certain states recognize it. See, there are a lot of people who think it's not OK, that it should just be a man and a woman. Your dad and I believe that people should love who they want, but not everyone thinks that way." Their first experience with a presidential race is that an African American man won. That a woman was in the running. They didn't quite comprehend why we thought it was so remarkable. We are deeply committed to supporting small business in our town. Our daughters participate in that and literally implore people to buy local. I suspect that as they grow up they will form their own opinions. Our hope is to raise them with the inquisitiveness to explore different ideas and values and then to have the confidence to own their own views." - Amanda Magee
  • Erin Kotecki Vest 6 of 10
    Erin Kotecki Vest
    "Yes I talk politics with my daughter all the time. She's seven and I bring it up if it's on the news, or if it seems natural in conversation. It's easy because it's all around us. When the mail comes and I get a bill, I open it and say things like 'Wow, this bill used to be MUCH bigger, but now with the President's help it's smaller.' When I go to the doctor, we talk about how I'm able to get treatment because of the President's hard work. I'm lucky, my daughter is encouraged to be involved in her community through school and home. So it makes my job as Mom a bit easier. Because my daughter attends a charter school that emphasizes being a global citizen, she always has community projects. Between school, and the political jolt she gets from me, she naturally wants to be involved in many things. I brought both my kids to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and they found it entirely normal." - Erin Kotecki Vest
  • Julie Marsh 7 of 10
    Julie Marsh
    "We can't help discussing politics with our daughters; current events and political issues are part of the daily conversation at our house, whether it's an election year or not. We strive to put the news in context such that our kids can understand how policies and developments may impact people and why we care. Being of minority political and religious views in our community, we've counseled them on handling differences of opinion respectfully. However, we've also demonstrated our commitment to candidates and positions by participating in local political outreach, including canvassing in local neighborhoods (once bringing our seven year old along to observe)." - Julie Marsh
  • Heather Spohr 8 of 10
    Heather Spohr
    " My daughter is only 2 1/2, so it's very basic. We teach her that everyone is equal, to care for others, and that it doesn't matter who you love, as long as you're happy. We'll take her with us to vote on November 6th, just like we did with her older sister four years ago." - Heather Spohr
  • Allison Czarnecki 9 of 10
    Allison Czarnecki
    "I talk to my daughter about politics every. bloody. Day. All day long. My husband and I are very "political", meaning we listen to all the politics, local, national, and worldwide. We talk about politics on our way to swim practice, in the carpool lane, while we make dinner, when we snuggle in bed at night and talk about our day. We listen to a lot of NPR at our house, we don't own a tv so we don't watch any of the "news" channels but we do read a lot of online articles and watch debates, etc. I try hard not to "pollute" my daughter with my political views, so I offer her both sides of the argument and tell her to make her own decision about how she feels. So far it's not working because she would vote right along with me at the polls. I guess I'm not as discreet about my Mitt Romney loathing as I thought. She really hates the conversation going on at lunchtime and in the hallways at her junior high because we live in a VERY conservative republican community, but she managed to find the one kid whose dad voted Obama, so maybe it will all be okay in the end. But if I'm not going to lay out the arguments and bills and laws being passed for her, who will? I take the responsibility of teaching her about civic responsibility, education, community involvement, and global thinking very, very seriously." - Allison Czarnecki photo credit: Justin Hackworth
  • Liz Gumbinner 10 of 10
    Liz Gumbinner
    "It's funny, there's this total acceptance of teaching your children your religion, your cultural traditions, and your sports team allegiances, but so many people are uncomfortable with the idea of teaching your children your politics. For me my politics is aligned with my values, so I want my girls to know who I vote for and why. But we also explain that other people have other ideas, and that we don't agree, but that doesn't make those people bad. Kids are able to take in civics lessons at very young ages. Earlier this year, after watching Jamie Oliver, my 6 year-old daughter was upset that children were pouring chocolate milk on their cereal at school. She wrote a letter to her principal expressing concern, and subsequently a local newspaper picked it up (if skewering the story). I felt like that was her first real civics lesson--that she has a voice. That she has the right to express dissatisfaction and then try to do something about it. I couldn't have been more proud of her. Not because of what she cared about. But because she cared at all." - Liz Gumbinner photo credit: Nancy Letts

Keep the conversation going with Heather Barmore at Poliogue: The Art of Political Dialogue, Twitter and Facebook.

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