On Horses, Unicorns, Women, and Motherhood

On Horses, Unicorns, Women, and Motherhood September 7, 2012

I am a unicorn, but there is more to me than just my horn. There, is your interest piqued? Dianna Anderson recently offered an excellent analogy regarding how the Republican party treats women. And yes, it involves unicorns. It also speaks to how the Republican party views women and, ultimately, how it uses the image of the unicorn – i.e. the mother – to cover up for its lack of attention to women’s needs more broadly. To start, let me allow Dianna Anderson to explain the anaology:

“I need to stop reading about politics before bed.

Last night, I had a dream about the Republican National Convention. After Clint Eastwood told Zombie Reagan that he’d make a fantastic Supreme Court Justice because he can’t die, I somehow had an argument with Mitt Romney.”

I’m going to pause here to say that I would sort of like to enter Dianna’s dream world, because it sounds awesome.

You see, Dream!Romney seemed to believe that horses all eventually evolve into unicorns. Therefore, all horses – no matter their set purpose or their owners personal feelings about unicornism – should be treated as “pre-unicorn.”

This produced the memorable line, “Just because you believe in unicorns doesn’t mean you can regulate all horse-owners.” Yes, even in my dreams, I argue about politics. But, the dream did give me something to chew on.

The metaphor there is fairly obvious, if heavily imperfect.

Go read the whole thing. But for the purposes of this post, let me summarize to make sure you’ve all got the point. Basically, in this metaphor, horses represent women who are not mothers and unicorns represent mothers. Dianna says that the Republican party treats horses as though they are “pre-unicorns” – i.e. treats women without children as though they are “pre-mothers.” Dianna, however, would prefer to remain a horse. She thinks horses are pretty awesome, and should be valued as horses and not just seen as “pre-unicorns.”

I couldn’t agree more, but as I read Dianna’s post, I realized that there is another point to be made here. The Republican party fetishizes unicorns – i.e. mothers – but it pays little attention to either the fact that unicorns are more than just a horn or that unicorns have needs beyond having their horns praised and admired. And as a unicorn, I find this extremely troubling.

The Republican party fetishizes unicorns. It talks about how wonderful they are all the time! But for all their talk about the importance of unicorns, I’m not feeling the love. To put it quite simply, all the Republican party seems to care about is my horn. The rest of me? Not so much. (Wait, there’s a rest of me? Something to me besides my horn? That’s news to the Republican party for sure!)

When I grew my unicorn horn (i.e. had kids), the rest of me remained the same as always. (Go with me here.) Just like before, I have a mane and a tail and a glistening coat. I have the same needs as before too – I need grain and a place to run, for instance. These things haven’t changed. But all the Republican party seems to see when it looks at me is my horn. And it really really likes my horn. Or at least, it likes to talk about it.

Seriously, what is it with the fixation with my HORN? Yes, I have a horn. Yay horn! But I’m not JUST a horn.

The Republican party seems to only care about praising my horn, forgetting the fact that I still need grain and a place to run. And you know what? If these needs are ignored, well, my horn won’t fare so well either. The Republican party needs to end its fixation with my horn and realize that there’s more to me than just that, that I’m still here just like I was before in all of my glistening, muscled horsey pride.

Okay, I think I just killed what remained of that metaphor after Dianna was through with it. But I want to finish with another quote from her piece.

Rather than treating (especially single) women as something that will eventually evolve into something more awesome (and, by extension, treating us as “not-awesome” until we do), learn to see us as individuals with hopes and dreams, not as a group that is just waiting to move onto the next stage.

Yes, and this brings two things to mind.

First, when I became a mother, I didn’t stop being an individual with hopes and dreams. I didn’t stop existing. I didn’t stop being me. In all the pandering to “motherhood,” and all the platitudes to the importance of mothers in holding our country together, I feel like I am being forgotten, ignored. I’m not just a mother. I’m a person.

Second, the Republican party uses its perpetual “ode to motherhood” as a way to cover up its treatment of women in general. How can we be anti-woman? They ask. We love moms! We think motherhood is the most important job in the world! Oh yeah? Then how about mandating paid maternity leave? How about offering national coverage of maternity-related medical expenses? How about government subsidized daycare? How about not shuffling their feet on the Violence Against Women Act? How about ending their tirades against the evils of “welfare moms”?

It’s all words, tactical words. That’s all it is. And I am sick of it.

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