Are You a Soccer Mom or a Waitress Mom? Because You're Definitely a Mom.

What Women Really Think
Oct. 26 2012 11:58 AM

Are You a Soccer Mom or a Waitress Mom? Because You're Definitely a Mom.

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The decider.

Photo by Hector Mata/AFP/Getty Images.

The election is days away. If you are an American political journalist, it is now your job to find the slowest decision makers in the swing states, track them down, and characterize them in a catchy, generally demeaning way. Men get to be men, as in “angry white.” Any group of voting nonsenior  women, on the other hand, will be known as “moms.” Perhaps they’re van-driving soccer moms. Perhaps they’re terrorist fearing, TSA-checkpoint loving “security moms.” But today New York magazine and the New York Times and National Journal want to talk about “waitress moms,” specifically Midwestern waitress moms, in whose tray-toting hands our fate apparently rests.

“Waitress mom” refers to any woman who is white, doesn’t make much, and never went to college. “Not all waitress moms are waitresses,” the New York Times informs us, “nor are they all mothers.” She may not be a waitress or a mother, but she is definitely “consumed by worry” and “barely scraping by.” She is, in other words, an object of pity—harried, overwhelmed, and apparently hoping for help from the next president of the United States.

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Here’s an article about a class of men who tend not to vote for Obama: blue-collar white men. Note the catchy term we have found for them: “blue-collar white men.” Presumably many of them have fathered children, and yet they are not “spot-welder dads,” which would presume that they view every complex issue through the narrow lens of fatherhood and/or spot welding. Male, white, blue-collar voters, while often stereotyped as angry and racist, are people with multiple identities. Women voters are either mothers, potential mothers, or so old they missed the boat on motherhood. Every opinion is taken to spring forth from the capacity to bear children. What do I think about the Libya attacks? Excuse me while I consult my ova.

Then again, waitress moms are apparently invested with incredible power. “It’s actually waitress moms who will decide this election,” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who coined the term, told USA Today. That was in 1998. The term has been around since 1996. We have been living under the tyranny of waitresses since the time when people actually said “waitress.” Tip well, or they will punish us all.

Kerry Howley's work has appeared in the Paris Review, Bookforum, and the New York Times Magazine. She is currently finishing a book about consensual violence, ecstatic experience, and the body.

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