2.01.2016

if i had a daughter

I grew up a tomboy with four older brothers and a sister, all children of a strict, working father and a stay-at-home mom. Dad and Mom raised us all to be self-sufficient. There was no division of labor between boys and girls. We all ironed clothes, washed dishes and mowed the lawn. Dad spent hours under the hood of our cars showing us how to tend to an engine, change the oil, lube the bushings and change a tire. Dad taught me how to defend myself against would-be attackers, because he knew that women are targets. I wasn’t afraid of boys, and I held my own in playful brawls with my brother—my small size, speed and agility were to my advantage.

In junior high I was one of two or three girls in my science and shop classes, and I earned a varsity letter in swimming. In high school I managed the boy’s swim team, was a lifeguard and played on a co-ed water polo team as one of the faster swimmers. I became the head coach of a summer league swim team, taking it from the bottom of the league all the way to second place in the champs. The job paid well enough to enable me to put myself through college. After college I backpacked solo through Europe for seven months on a shoestring budget. I grew up feeling as though I could accomplish anything if I simply desired it enough and was willing to put in the hard work.

Then I entered the work force and, though I was eventually promoted from every starting position, I began to see inequity between the sexes. It was the first time I’d heard the sorry news that women made about seventy cents for every dollar a man took home. I worked in the garment business, and though it is an industry largely made up of women, most at the top are men. At one of my jobs I was privy to the company salary information, and I saw for myself the discrepancy in pay between my male and female colleagues, even though the company was owned and run by a woman.

I always dreamed that if I had a daughter, I’d raise her to be confident, assertive and strong and to defy the gender roles imposed on her by a patriarchal society. I’d show her how to stare down and boldly greet a row of lunching construction workers to best diffuse their hawkish glare and tendency to jeer. I’d encourage her to speak up for justice and not to act subordinate because of her gender. I’d tell her she is as capable as her brothers in most any situation and, likely, better in many. I’d teach her to be proud of her body and to call out those who would subjugate her because of her gender or the clothes she chooses to wear. I’d teach her the history of women’s suffrage and stress her right and her duty to vote. I'd tell her not to limit herself and to never give up on her dreams.

And if I had a son who could understand, I’d teach him all the same things. Alas, Calvin is incapable of such abstractions, but if he were, I’d like to think he’d be a feminist. Some of feminism’s best are progressive men.

I say all this because I think I did have a daughter for eight weeks or so until I miscarried, and if she had survived I’d be telling her why I hope a woman will be our next president.

Don’t get me wrong. I, too, feel the Bern, as Sander’s supporters like to say. He’s got a lot of bold notions and he's coming from the right place, it seems. But I can’t shake the feeling—not that I want to—that it’s time we finally have a woman leading our nation, as the face of the USA. Like I said, Bernie is fine and good, and the two have a lot of the same ideas and would likely accomplish similar things, but at this place and time when folks on the right want to take us backwards and rewrite history in so many ways—men trying to legislate women's bodies and limit our access to healthcare, for instance—I feel the need for us to crush that glass ceiling to smithereens. I mean, it’s 2016. C'mon people! Now is the time. Besides, we've clearly had our share of male presidents, some who've gotten things done, others not so much. Goddammit, for once lets show the world what a woman can do!

I've little doubt, coming from experience having been a girl and a woman all my life, that much of the hype, scandal and contempt against Hillary can be explained away as gross examples of misogyny, by men who fear and scorn her brilliance and power and by women who, perhaps, envy it. If you aren't sure, just watch an hour or two of the Benghazi hearings where lawmakers hazed the former Secretary of State for eleven hours, trying their best to wear her down and burn her at the stake. You will witness her formidable mind and resolve, her stamina, confidence and calm. In her you will see the makings of an amazing Commander in Chief.

In what some call a man's world, I'm tired of hearing assertive women described as bitches, sick of people like Donald Trump describing women's bodily functions as "disgusting" and other conservative politicians coining cruel terms like "legitimate rape." What the hell is that supposed to mean? I'm sickened by stories of women being abused in their homes, assaulted at work and attacked on the street, maligned by the sick likes of Rush Limbaugh, neglected by the work force, criticized for their attire, and of female geniuses lauded for their cooking rather than for their brains. I'm disgusted by male conservative politicians chipping away at women's access to birth control, cancer screening, family planning services and legal abortion when really, if men could get pregnant, it would be a completely different story. I'm so over the white male dominated film industry and the lack of important roles for women—and people of color, for that matter. I want the world to come into some sort of balance, and I begin to think it is possible when I hear people like Gloria Steinem speak. She says things like:

The more polarized the gender roles, the more violent the society.

And I see the gross level of violence in this country, and I ponder all the good that is possible simply by having a smart, amazingly qualified, determined woman at the helm.

As much as I like Bernie Sanders' idealism and passion, and for all that he may or may not be able to get done in Washington, he is yet another white male (not that there's anything innately wrong with that.) Consider, however, Ms. Clinton's wealth of experience with foreign policy and world advocacy for women and girls. All other things being equal, I believe Hillary will be able to accomplish as much, if not more, than Bernie, while at the same time being a beacon of what is possible for our daughters. She is strong, capable, brilliant and experienced.

If I had a daughter, she'd be about thirteen, and perhaps in a year she'd be looking at the President of the United States, seeing a face familiar in ways, and knowing—for real—that dream could one day be hers.

Hillary Rodham (Clinton)

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