Mary Elizabeth Fabian and the Gender Bias of Politics

Mary Elizabeth Fabian and the Gender Bias of Politics October 19, 2018

Mary Elizabeth Fabian is an online friend of mine. We met via a Facebook due date group when we were both pregnant with our youngest daughters (my Laura was born January 2017; her Claire was born February 2017).

She’s a small business owner as well as a mom, a member of my Catholic Working Mothers Facebook group, and the Republican candidate seeking election to the Colorado House of Representatives to represent District 18. You can read all about her and her campaign here.

Recently, Fabian chatted with me about her experience thus far as a political candidate. The most surprising aspect of her candidacy, so far, are some of the comments she has received about her family. Specifically, she has been asked/told:

  1. Where are your children going to be while you are off playing lawmaker?
  2. How can you possibly be a legislator when you have three kids?
  3. What will happen to your children while you are pursuing politics?
  4. I feel bad for your family if you win because you will ignore them.

These weren’t online drive-by comments — the first three questions were asked in-person (the first two by men and the third by a woman); the fourth was left in a voicemail (by a woman).

How much do you want to bet that Fabian’s Democrat opponent, Marc Snyder, has not been asked these questions?

Fabian’s experience is a clear example of gender bias in politics. If a male candidate has several children, he is never asked how he will balance his political career and his family. He isn’t told he is abandoning his children by pursuing political office. No one raises the issue of his children as an example of why he can’t be a legislator.

Why is Fabian getting these questions? If it is impossible for a woman to be a legislator without neglecting her kids, why isn’t it similarly impossible for a man to be a legislator without neglecting his kids? Is a male politician with a family merely “off playing lawmaker”?

Her husband, James, is currently and will continue to be a full-time stay-at-home-dad while he attends college on the GI Bill. These questions aren’t only insulting to Fabian — who is fully capable of being an engaged, involved parent while representing the citizens of her district — they are also insulting to her husband, because they imply that he is incapable of parenting his own children. If a man is capable of being a politician and a father, surely he is also capable of being a stay-at-home-father while also pursing higher education.

I’ve only seen a few episodes of the show Parks & Recreation, but I think this clip epitomizes what’s wrong with pigeonholing women into specific and limited roles when it comes to politics.

Women, like men, have diverse talents. Some women, like Amy Coney Barrett and Marjorie Dannelfelser and yes, Mary Elizabeth Fabian, feel called by God to use those talents within the political sphere to work for and advocate for the rights of all citizens. If God believes them capable of being mothers and also judges or lobbyists or lawmakers, who are we to say otherwise?

If you’re a member of House District 18 in Colorado, vote for Mary Elizabeth Fabian!

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