Voices: Why Marjorie Taylor Greene’s comments about parenting aren’t just offensive - they’re terrifying
I wish Marjorie Taylor Greene could meet my stepmother – or as I call her, “Mom.” Of course, it’s probably safer for Marjorie if she doesn’t. My stepmother is a wonderful woman, but telling her one of her kids isn’t hers, even one she didn’t birth, is a dangerous gambit.
Yesterday, in an exchange unbecoming for a member of the House of Representatives, the Congresswoman from Georgia asked Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, if she is a mother. “I am a mother by marriage,” the witness answered.
“By marriage,” Marjorie answered, the disdain dripping from her tongue. “I see.”
Marjorie went on to say that Weingarten is “just a political activist, not a teacher, not a mother.” According to data from the US Census Bureau, 8.7 percent of children in the United States live with at least one stepparent or adoptive parent. This does not account for children who may have a stepparent they do not live with, but who may still play an active role in their life. It also does not account for the 2.55 million American children living with their grandparents, in what The Atlantic previously dubbed “the age of grandparents”.
I was one of those children. My biological mother was just shy of her 18th birthday when I was born, leaving me and my father a few months later. Soon after, Dad was in a terrible motorcycle accident. I was raised by his parents until I was two, at which point he married my stepmother – the woman I call Mom. I split my childhood between their home in Ohio and my grandparents’ in Kentucky, until I would later move in with my grandparents full time when I was 15. Mamaw and Papaw, as I call them, put me through high school and college.
I consider all these people my parents. I have a warm relationship with each of them, including my biological mother, who I met for the first time when I was 16. If you asked me to choose who is “Mom,” though, the answer is both my stepmother and my grandmother – not the woman who birthed me. I love her, but I know she understands the special relationship I have with the two women who raised me. I cherish my relationships with the rest of my stepfamily; from my hero stepbrother – who to me is simply my brother – to my late stepgrandparents who welcomed me into their home without a second thought.
So I certainly found Marjorie Taylor Greene’s comments incredibly insulting. Never mind the veiled level of homophobia to her remarks – Weingarten is a lesbian. She insulted not just parents in same-sex relationships, but the millions of Americans who take care of the babies and children of this nation every day – babies and children they are not tied to through birth or blood, but whom they nonetheless nurture, comfort, and ultimately love.
In a post-Roe world, one would think this kind of altruistic parenting ought to be encouraged by Republicans. After all, someone needs to take care of the unwanted babies they are forcing American women to birth. It is the height of delusion to believe that every single one of those children will be – or even should be – raised by women who otherwise don’t want them. Yet for all their talk of “the sanctity of life” and declining (white) birthrates, the modern Republican Party does not care about mothers (biological or not) anymore than they care about children. It is why, despite increasing evidence that children are toiling in unsafe conditions across this nation, Republicans are racing to roll back and repeal child labor laws with an understanding that it won’t be their children who must toil in America’s factories, farms, and fast food restaurants. As Robert Reich wrote in The Guardian just last month, “the children who are being exploited are considered to be ‘them’ rather than ‘us – disproportionately poor, Black, Hispanic, and immigrant. So the moral shame of subjecting ‘our’ children to inhumane working conditions when they ought to be in school is quietly avoided…”
Marjorie Taylor Greene’s comments were insulting enough on their own, but when contextualized alongside Republican policies and positions, they are downright terrifying. She essentially said that the Republican Party recognizes only a very narrow definition of family – that of an affluent biological mother and biological father in a covenant marriage – and seeks to privilege that definition in law at the expense of any other type of family. And she’s right. Republicans are regularly opposing efforts to ban child marriage out of fears it would infringe upon evangelical and far-right religious communities. It’s why the official platform of the Texas Republican Party seeks to repeal no-fault divorce and replace it with “covenant marriage,” which makes it more difficult for abused women to leave their abusive husbands. (This was recently discussed in terms of right-wing shock jock Steven Crowder’s announcement of his divorce, in which he appeared to lament how easy it was for his wife to exercise free will by leaving him.) And, of course, it’s why Republicans still want to reverse Obergefell, the 2015 Supreme Court decision that ruled the US Constitution protects the right to same-sex marriage.
This is all part of a Republican initiative to undo the progress of the last century and return us to a Victorian past where the children of poor families worked for the wealthy, where women remained in the home and could not leave their husbands except in extraordinary circumstances deemed extraordinary by a (usually male) judge, where forced birth was the norm but state assistance was not, and where a little girl could be married to a grown man so long as a Bible was involved. A Dickensian dystopia.
Nothing can change the way I feel about my grandmother or stepmom; they’re my moms whether Marjorie Taylor Greene accepts them as such or not.
What can change, though, is the laws we take for granted which protect families like mine – blended, modern, and representative of the nation as we are, not as Republicans would have us be. It is why it is imperative that people like Marjorie Taylor Greene – people who don’t respect the mothers of this nation in whatever form they come, be it grand or step or even fairy god – are never allowed to enact a new Gilded Age where women and children are reduced to property and the bonds of family are reduced to genetics.
If she doesn’t like that, I’d like to hear her say it to my stepmother’s face. Tell her I’m not her kid and she’s not my Mom. She’ll knock you back to the 19th century – which frankly, is where Marjorie Taylor Greene and her Republican ilk seem to want to be anyway.