Balancing Act: Round of applause for Wisconsin governor candidate who breastfed her baby during campaign ad

  • Mar. 12, 2018 3:22 p.m.

The year is young, but Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Kelda Roys breastfeeding her 4-month-old daughter in the middle of her own campaign ad is my favorite part of 2018.

It’s like women looked at the current landscape — riddled as it is with pay disparity, environmental abuse, health care inequity, gun violence, presidential hush payments to a porn actress, rampant sexual harassment across industries — and went: Oh, it’s on.

We will march in your streets, America. We will run for all the offices. We will breastfeed our babies in clear sight of TV cameras and we will not be shamed.

Roys, a Democratic state lawmaker from 2009 to 2013, is pushing for universal paid family and sick leave, a $15 minimum wage and equal pay for women. If she wins the Democratic primary in August, she’ll face Republican incumbent Scott Walker.

In her commercial, Roys talks about the dangers of bisphenol A, or BPA, an industrial chemical used to line consumer packaging and products, and her efforts to make Wisconsin the first state to ban BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups.

While she’s talking, the camera cuts to her husband consoling their crying daughter before he walks the baby over to Roys, who starts to discreetly breastfeed her on camera.

Roys told Today she initially didn’t plan to release that part of the video.

“I thought we could re-shoot this part or maybe they will use the audio,” she said.

I’m glad she decided otherwise. We keep hearing about the record number of women running for office. The ad is a look at what goes on behind the statistics.

At least 80 women are running for governor in 2018, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. (The record number of women serving as governor simultaneously in the United States is 9, according to the group’s data.)

Emily’s List, a political action committee that recruits and trains pro-abortion rights Democratic women, says 26,000 women have contacted them about running for elected office in 2018. During the 2016 election cycle, a total of 920 women ran.

Many of those candidates, like Roys, have young kids.

Alexandra Eidenberg, a Democratic candidate for state representative in Illinois’ 17th District, often campaigns wearing Jack, the youngest of her four children, in a sling.

In Massachusetts, Alexandra Chandler, who served for 12 years in Naval Intelligence, is running for Congress. She told Romper, about her two kids:

“Just looking at their faces at night, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘You know you have something to give, and yet you’re afraid.’

“I don’t have the luxury of being afraid,” she said, “because I have a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old, and this is the only country they will ever have. So they really made the decision for me.”

A few years ago I heard foreign policy analyst and author Anne-Marie Slaughter speak at a Chicago Foundation for Women luncheon. She encouraged the women in attendance to think of our careers as lifelong endeavors — not chapters that are limited to specific decades.

Look at Hillary Clinton, Slaughter said. She ran for U.S. Senate twice, served as secretary of state for four years, and ran for president twice, all after her daughter left for college.

There’s plenty of time to do it all, Slaughter told us.

I remember taking a lot of comfort in that. I still do. But I’m inspired beyond measure by the women who look around and go, “I’m not waiting another minute to fix this mess.”

Even if that means juggling the incredibly complicated demands of mothering young kids. Even if that means long hours on the road and a bunch of nights away from home. Even if that means breastfeeding your baby during a campaign ad.

They’re running to change the world for all of us. For all of our kids. For their own families and for ours.

I salute them. And I can’t wait to see what happens when they’re running this joint.

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