Being A Mother Isn’t Important, But Talking About Children Is

Bill de Blasio, Chirlane McCray. and their children, Dante and Chiara
  • Kate Orlinsky c/o The Wall Street Journal
  • Bill de Blasio, Chirlane McCray. and their children, Dante and Chiara

Luckily for New Yorkers, the sexual exploits of Carlos Danger are no longer splashed on the front page of every city paper, and we can focus on the mayoral candidates who have a chance of winning and whose genitalia we have not seen from every possible angle that Weiner’s Blackberry could capture. What that means of course, is that the race is heating up to such an extent that the top two contenders in the Democratic primary (which, as of today are Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio) are at each other’s throats. Which, aahhhh…this is all just a reminder that you would need to be a very specific blend of narcissist and masochist to ever want to run for public office.

But so, the latest bone of contention arose out of a New York Times Maureen Dowd editorial in which the columnist quotes de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, as saying about Quinn, “She’s not accessible. She’s not the kind of person I feel I can go up to and talk to about issues like taking care of children at a young age and paid sick leave.” McCray has since clarified that she was misquoted by Dowd (with audio transcript as proof), and actually said, “I don’t see her speaking to the concerns of women who have to take care of children at a young age or send them to school and after school, paid sick days, workplace, she is not speaking to any of those issues. What can I say? And she is not accessible, she is not the kind of person that I feel that you can go up and talk to and have a conversation with about those things.” The Times has issued a correction, but no explanation for why Maureen Dowd fucked that quote up quite so badly.

Prior to the correction however, Quinn fired back to the misquote, saying, “There are women all across the City who don’t have children for any number of reasons, whether they simply can’t, choose not to, or circumstances don’t afford them the possibility. I have taken a number of shots in this race from the men running against me, and I accept that as par for the course in a political campaign. But to criticize me as not understanding what young families go through because I might not have children, is over the line.” And, even though Quinn’s camp has been informed that the original quote was essentially a fabrication, they stand by their response, saying, “The updated Maureen Dowd column affirms the fact that the de Blasio campaign made it quite clear they believe that Christine Quinn is not the ‘kind of person who you can talk to and go up to and have a conversation [with] about those things…’ directly referencing ‘tak[ing] care of children at a young age.”

But, is that what the de Blasio campaign was saying? That because Christine Quinn doesn’t have children she is somehow less of a woman, less of a person, less of a candidate than the other people running? Or is the de Blasio campaign referencing the fact that Christine Quinn, in her time as City Council Speaker, has opposed things (until it was politically expedient for her to support them) like the Paid Sick Leave Act, legislation designed to help hundreds of thousands of working New Yorkers who are also raising families. I think it’s the latter, and I think it’s an important indication of how out of touch Quinn seems to be with middle- and lower-class New Yorkers—including, but not limited, to those who have families.

There are struggles in this city that are specific to people who are raising children (whether those people are parents, relatives, or guardians), and those issues include things like health care costs, affordable housing, public schools, and minimum wage. Many of these issues are also issues of the middle- and lower-class residents of the city, because many of these problems can be solved easily enough without government involvement if money is not an issue. However, these are the kind of things that are a huge issue for exactly the type of people who have felt dismissed and diminished by the Bloomberg administration and by several pieces of legislation that Quinn herself supported in her time on the City Council. So perhaps McCray wouldn’t want to talk to Quinn about kids not because Quinn doesn’t have kids, and not because McCray is “homophobic” (this said by Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who endorsed Quinn, and apparently doesn’t think that McCray’s previous identification as a lesbian means anything), but because Christine Quinn has shown through her own actions that she doesn’t really care about the kinds of policies that make it possible for any families other than the wealthiest to stay in this city. And so, no, being a mother isn’t important. But being a candidate who wants to make New York a livable place for middle- and lower-class families again? That is more than important. That is essential.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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