Sunday, January 25, 2009

The new U.S. Senator from New York

N.Y. Governor David Paterson hinted that the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Hillary Rodham Clinton has become a woman's seat when he announced Friday that U.S. Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand will fill the position. Caroline Kennedy, considered by many the front runner, had withdrawn her candidacy a few days earlier.

There is a lot I could comment on regarding Ms. Gillibrand's politics, which are a real mixed bag, though seemingly pro-woman (she supports abortion rights). What I want to focus on here, however, is the media's portrayal of her as a mother. It is deep in the NYT story by Michael Powell and Raymond Hernandez before we learn that Ms. Gillibrand is the mother of young children--including an infant. Here's an excerpt:
Ms. Gillibrand is indisputably intense; a rising corporate lawyer before entering Congress, she worked until the day before she gave birth to her first son, Theodore, now 5 (and received a standing ovation on the floor of the House when she did the same before the birth of her second son, Henry, who is now 8 months old).
The accompanying slide show on the NYT site also includes two photos of Ms. Gillibrand as mother, but they are the final two in the group of ten images.

So, it seems, Ms. Gillibrand's status as a mother does not loom large, at least not in the NYT coverage. That is certainly different from how the media played up, for example, Sarah Palin's motherhood--but perhaps that difference has something to do with how each candidate herself handles the issue.

1 comment:

Jen said...

I'm not sure it's just a difference between the candidates. It's also about the different nature of the positions. We've already had female Senators, although granted I'm not sure how many have had children under age 1. Nevertheless, I think the higher women go in politics, the greater the scruitiny. Especially with executive power...