"Nothing classy about Elizabeth Lauten’s criticism of the Obama girls" was the headline on a "She the People" blog post in the Washington Post.
I agreed with the author in just about every respect except one -- and it just happened to be the one sentence that was highlighted on Facebook, of course. (And since I am still a little hot under the collar a few days after reading this, here goes my rant.) ;)
After establishing her credentials as a mother ("Raising teenagers is hard. I know from experience..."), the author goes on to say:
"If Lauten were a mom, particularly of teen girls, she’d have a lot more empathy, I suspect, and she’d probably agree with me that kids in the White House should be off-limits to media scrutiny."Whoa!
I may not be a mom -- but I don't think you have to be a mom to recognize that it might not a good idea to publicly (and harshly) criticize the daughters of the President (who didn't ask to be dragged away from their schools & friends in Chicago and thrust into the limelight because of who their dad is). Most people who work in Washington recognize this -- most people who work in communications would certainly recognize this (which, to me -- as someone who worked in corporate communications until just recently -- makes this episode all the more bizarre) -- and those who break that unwritten rule regarding the children of presidents generally suffer as a result. (Including Lauten, who has apparently resigned.)
I may not be a mom -- but I was a teenager once, who certainly rolled her eyes at her parents more than a few times. (Fortunately for me, my dad wasn't president of the United States, and I wasn't on camera. And social media hadn't been invented yet.) And I know a lot of teenagers, and parents of teenagers. (In a different world, I would have been the parent of a teenager myself right now.) I've heard the stories. I've watched the eyerolls. I can easily imagine teenaged eyes being rolled in my direction. And I've seen many teenagers at the mall who dress far more provocatively than the Obama girls.
Empathy is not the sole preserve of people with children. You can be childless and extremely empathetic to others. (You may not know exactly what parents are going through, of course -- but that doesn't mean you don't know anything about kids or what they're like.) You can be a mom (or dad) and still show a lack of empathy when it comes to other people's kids. (And when it comes to writing about people who don't have kids.)
There may not have been anything classy about Lauten's words -- but I don't think attributing her lack of empathy in this case to her lack of children was particularly classy either.
(Vent over. ;) )