Late last week, Chelsea Clinton announced that she was expecting a baby with her husband of four years, Marc Mevinsky. What does this mean beyond the fact that Clinton and Mevinsky will soon be parents, and that Hillary and Bill Clinton will soon be grandparents? Not that much, really. Oh, wait. Did I say “not that much”? What I really meant was that this is sure to be the biggest game changer in the 2016 presidential election cycle, because if there’s one thing that Americans really want to know about their next leader it’s what kind of grandparent they’ll be. Like, will Hillary go by “Grandma” or “Nanna” or maybe just “Hillary”? And what about Bill? He seems like more of a “Pop-pop” than anything else, doesn’t he? Inquiring, political savvy minds want to know.
Or, at least, that’s what just about every political outlet would have you believe. This fetus has been called everything from a “politico-obstetric earthquake” to a “surrogate for the Clinton campaign,” and there has been plenty of speculation that the Clinton-Mevinskys planned this pregnancy to boost Hillary’s electoral chances as much as possible by making Hillary seem softer and more compassionate. And all of this is sickening for the obvious reasons, including the fact that no one ever spent that much time talking about Mitt Romney’s 87,000 grandchildren and that anti-abortion groups are using this pregnancy to crow about how the pro-choice Clintons are suddenly comfortable using the term “baby” instead of “clump of cells.” And also, I don’t know, Benghazi, I guess.
The one thing this coverage is missing, however, is the salient (and sad) fact that even though we are now in an age in which there is a viable chance of electing a female president, we remain incapable of discussing a woman’s candidacy without incorporating a traditional narrative focusing around her fertility (or that of her child). While it’s true that the Clintons—more than any American political family since the Kennedys—have long straddled the line between political and celebrity family and so things like pregnancy or marriage are bound to be covered in a much more tabloid-inspired way than would be the case with, for example, the Bush family, it should also be emphasized that, as far as pregnancies go, Chelsea’s is just not that interesting. And I’m not just saying that because I’m not interested. (Although… I’m not. Honestly, unless you are me or very closely related to me, I probably don’t care that much about your baby.) The fact that a wealthy, well-educated married couple in their mid-thirties chose to have a baby is pretty much the very definition of uninteresting. (Seriously, it’s why Park Slope is so boring, you know?)
However, that doesn’t mean, though, that I’m categorically opposed to all stories about a woman’s fertility as it relates to political issues—on the contrary, really. Because as much as we live in an era of powerful political women, we also live in an age where women’s reproductive freedoms and access to birth control and abortions are being curtailed in many places around the country. We’re living in a time in which employers attempt to deny women access to affordable health care in order to dictate what these women can and cannot do with their bodies. And so, in a sense, I wish more women in powerful positions were speaking out about what was going on with their bodies. Only, I don’t really think we need to hear more about pregnancies. Instead, there could be more of an acknowledgment of all the babies that aren’t born, and more thought given to all the women who are able to have careers because they had ready access to birth control and abortions in their 20s and early 30s. It’s not babies that are the miracle anymore. Anyone can have a baby. The miracle these days is being able to build a foundation upon which women can make the choice to do what is right for themselves with regards to their own bodies. And the more we focus on and fetishize pregnancies like Chelsea Clinton’s the less likely it is that we are going to think about all the women in this country who don’t have the same privileges she does when it comes to accessing good health care. So when the election cycle really does pick up? I’ll be much more interested in hearing what Hillary has to say about all the women who don’t want to have children than I will about one woman who does.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen