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Jill Stein, leave essentialist ideas of motherhood out of the election

I like Jill Stein, the doctor and repeat Green Party nominee for the presidency. She seems like a rad lady. But I was disappointed by her tweet yesterday about Hillary Clinton and motherhood:

Dr. Stein went on, in a string of further tweets, to call “real” mothers healers and negotiators.

Whether you’re #WithHer or Feeling the Bern, we should have no patience for this kind of essentialism. Mothers aren’t magical fairy goddesses who embody eternal feminine “values” of goodness and love and truth and breaking up the banks or whatever. They’re people, billions of them, who care and fail to care for others in many different ways, not identical props for a morality play.

Monolithic visions of maternity — who can be a good mother, and how they should do so — have served for a long time to restrict the personal and professional lives of women. Surely Dr. Stein know how much of the country still believes that the “maternal value” of selflessness is incompatible with work, or how public assistance is often predicated on a vision of the “maternal value” of sexual purity.

And guess what: there are plenty of awesome woman who aren’t mothers. That doesn’t make them less than, as people or as leaders.

Plus, at least one mother is, in fact, Hillary Clinton. Critiquing a woman politician for being insufficiently maternal is a classic move from the sexist playbook of politics. When was the last time you heard anyone wonder if a male politician is a good enough dad?

Want to talk about whether Clinton’s policies meet your feminist politics? Great. But don’t reduce the diversity of mothers to a flat, frankly sexist vision of mothers. You can do better, Dr. Stein.


Washington, DC

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at During her four years at the site, she wrote about gender violence, reproductive justice, and education equity and ran the site's book review column. She is now a Skadden Fellow at the National Women's Law Center and also serves as the Board Chair of Know Your IX, a national student-led movement to end gender violence, which she co-founded and previously co-directed. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she is the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future. She has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice at campuses across the country and on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, and NPR.

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at

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