My teenage daughter was really ticking me off last week.
She had no sense of the glory and gravitas of the United States f-i-n-a-l-ly having a female presidential candidate on a major political party’s ticket. It’s not like I expected her to be a suffragette for Halloween or anything (but seriously, what a fantastic costume idea). What I did expect was for her to understand why it’s such a big freaking deal and show some excitement.
I’m now taking a pause in my story because I don’t want to have to deal with emails from Hillary haters. So here I go. Whether or not you like Hillary Clinton, having a female presidential candidate is still HUGE.
Yes, I know many folks are “why her?” But logically there is no way the entire nation would ever be in agreement and holding hands while singing Kumbaya over a woman (or any) presidential candidate.
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For instance, you could take some universally beloved female figure, like say, the Tooth Fairy, and have her run for president (yes, I know she’s mythical and probably not a U.S. citizen, but work with me, people). One would think that because she travels the globe every night bestowing joy on children this would ensure her the total gratitude of the world forever.
Yet, I bet you a wisdom tooth extraction that a percentage of Americans would think the Tooth Fairy is suspicious and untrustworthy because of her nocturnal expeditions. And then there would be the conspiracy theory that she’s sneaking into kids’ rooms, without the benefit of a parent or guardian in attendance, so she can secretly vaccinate children in their sleep.
Bottom line: There is no female candidate everyone was going to be head over heels in love with.
Now back to my daughter. I didn’t even get a lower-case “wow” from her or a lone yippee about the historic milestone of having a woman getting mighty close to the Oval Office. Thus, it left this mama no choice but to sit her child down for a come-to-Jesus talk. I started out with a story about her beloved grandmother, who was, in a word — remarkable.
My brilliant mother was told, starting at a very young age, that she was “too pretty for school.” In high school she was repeatedly told that she was “wasting her time studying because pretty girls don’t need to be smart” and that it was “unladylike.”
She was encouraged by her teachers to not apply to a university because “good looking girls don’t go to college because they can get husbands.” Then when my mom gave the 1950s version of screw you, which I’m thinking was a mildly raised eyebrow, and enrolled in college, she was presented with two choices: nurse or teacher. That’s it. She picked nurse and then was patted on the back for that decision because it “increased her chances of marrying a doctor.”
I could tell that the story of her grandma’s intelligence being browbeaten, dismissed and disrespected was making some headway with my daughter. So I continued on with a story about me.
Just a mere couple of decades ago, I shared, when I was graduating college and ready to launch my career and take on the world, I was told one thing over and over again: If I was going to be a success I needed to “be like a man.”
My initial thought was “um, yeah, no thanks.” Because quite frankly I thought I was better than a lot of men. Why would I want to lower my standards?
The whole “be like a man” propaganda was all about hiding any trait that could be considered feminine and therefore a weakness.
“Don’t you get it?” I asked while looking at my daughter. “Being a woman meant you were flawed, you were less than any man solely because you were born a girl and this was not that long ago!”
“Well,” my daughter said, “if someone said that to me, you would probably punch them in the face?”
“Why yes, I would, so thank you for that, but here’s the deal, my love — this is big. The possibility that a woman might be president means parity. It took years and years of hard work and people like your grandmother and your great grandmother telling their daughters that they can do anything no matter what anyone else says.
You need to celebrate and cherish this moment because, thanks to the work of past generations of women, no one is ever going to tell you to think like a man or that getting an education is unladylike, or that no girl can grow up to be president.”
And then I said “mic drop” and left the room. I’m positive my daughter got my point even if I didn’t hear a yippee.