We now have two “presumptive” nominees for president. So, here’s what I’m thinking about today.
I won’t waste any more verbiage on Trump. I can’t take him seriously as a human being, much less a candidate. I don’t know how anyone could consider him to be qualified to be president. It just boggles the mind.
So, now that’s out of the way…
Eight years ago, I voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary. However, when Barack Obama won the nomination, fair and square. I didn’t hold it against him. Like many women my age and younger, I thought, OK, we need a woman president, but it doesn’t have to be this woman. I thought that we could afford to wait.
Though Obama isn’t a woman, I could identify with him in other ways: as a person of my generation, as a person who had lived overseas, and as a person who was not a white male. In short, I thought that the main principle at work was that it was time for a change.
So, I happily volunteered for the Obama campaign and was thrilled to see him elected. I believe that while not perfect, he has been a great president—especially considering the non-stop obstructionist temper tantrum that the conservative white male establishment has been throwing ever since.
Obama’s election was a tremendously emotional moment for black Americans. Though, being white, I can never truly understand what it meant, I can nevertheless appreciate what it meant. There were older black women in the northern Virginia campaign office who could remember segregation. Who could remember separate schools, bathrooms, and water fountains. Who could remember fire hoses, tear gas, beatings, and maybe even lynchings. I have no doubt that they shed tears of joy on election night. Of course they did!
I am a different color from those women, but also a different generation. There’s a lot of stuff I’ve been spared thanks to those who came before me. I can’t remember the bad old days of Jim Crow, nor can I remember a time when women couldn’t vote or serve in the military. I should also note, given what I am about to say, that I have never been the victim of a violent sexual assault. I am lucky that way. Very, very lucky. But I do remember a few things from my half-century on the planet as a female.
I remember the guys who flashed me on several occasions as I was walking home from school. It was always the same—pathetic guy of any age or color is parked by the sidewalk, or pulls over to “ask for directions,” and gee whiz, his pants are down. Super impressive.
This creepy behavior is not about sex. It’s about power. It’s about the power to embarrass or scare a preteen or teenage girl who dares to walk alone.
I remember all the guys—hundreds of them!—who cat-called me on the streets. On a good day, they just told me to smile. Like that was any of their business. On a bad day, the comments ranged from obnoxious to just plain nasty. Because I dared to walk alone.
I remember all the guys who “accidentally” rubbed up against me on buses, in checkout lines, and in the workplace. Including a couple of bosses. Just to show me who was in charge.
Later on, I remember my own daughter being sexually harassed on a school bus. And having to explain to her that these things will happen. And that they were not her fault. And that it is not OK. And knowing as I did so, that this conversation was absolutely inevitable. How sad is that?
Again, this behavior is not about sex. It is about the power to make women feel uncomfortable and/or frightened. It is about putting us in our place. (News flash: the Taliban is way into this stuff.)
Of course, not all guys are weirdos. Not even most of them. It’s just that enough of them are. Enough so that every single woman on the planet has had these experiences. Every. Single. One. And that is the way that it is. Do you think that doesn’t have an effect on our behavior? Ideally, it would not. But inevitably, it does.
There are many other, more subtle ways of putting us in our place. I do think things are getting better, but here are just a few of my own experiences from not so very long ago (I could get into the experiences of my mother and grandmother, but this little blog post would quickly become a treatise!)
I remember the priest who was my academic advisor in college in the 1980s (just a few years after women had first been admitted to my Catholic university) being so clearly uncomfortable with a young woman in his office that he shuttled me out as quickly as possible. So, I never made another appointment with him.
I remember the guys who were upset that I made better grades than they did. So, I learned to keep my accomplishments under wraps. Because we are the peacemakers, right?
I remember being told that I was “brusque” or “pushy” when I was in fact, demonstrating intelligence and leadership characteristics.
I remember being told to “calm down” when I was upset about something that was important to me as a woman—so of course it couldn’t be actually, objectively important, right?
I remember the days when American diplomatic spouses—who were virtually all women—were actually required to attend official Embassy events such as the Fourth of July and to formally socialize along with paid Foreign Service officers. Quite often spouses were under considerable pressure to donate their unpaid time to help set up the event and clean up afterwards as well. Just about 25 years ago.
Funny how once more women entered the Foreign Service, bringing their male spouses along, these “traditions” fell by the wayside, isn’t it? Go figure.
So, here’s the thing about Hillary Clinton. She’s not perfect. No candidate is. She’s done some dumb things with her email. She voted for a stupid war. Policy-wise, Obama is more my speed. Bernie Sanders says a few things I agree with as well. I respect the guy—though I think he’s starting to believe his own myth and is currently in need of a reality check.
But, everything that Hillary has accomplished—which is a hell of a lot—she did while dealing with all of the above. Being twenty years older than I am and playing in the big leagues, I have no doubt she put up with much, much more. That, I can both appreciate, and understand. It means a great deal to me. More than I thought it would eight years ago, as a matter of fact.
Meanwhile, the Republican party—not just Trump—is “tired of all the political correctness.” They want to “make America great again.” To take us back to “traditional values.” I don’t think I need to decode that here. Suffice it to say, this plan is not likely to be good for women—or minorities, or really, anyone who isn’t straight, white and male.
I support Hillary Clinton not just because she is undeniably smart, capable, and experienced. I trust her, as I did Obama, to have some understanding of what it is like for everyone else. I feel I can count on her to defend my rights as a woman. I believe she will do everything she can to keep the Republican party from dragging us back into the 1950s.
I believe we need a woman president not eventually, but right now. Hillary has worked her butt off to be that woman. I will happily vote for her.
And you know what? On election night, when (barring disaster), she takes that oath of office, I will probably shed a few tears of joy. Washed down with champagne, of course.