Friday, July 29, 2016

Can a Woman Be President? Of Course!

I had the following conversation with my children over breakfast this morning . . .

Me: "Catherine, do you think that you could be president some day if you wanted?

Catherine: "Yeah. Sure."

Me: "Did you think that before yesterday?"

Catherine: "Ummm . . . yes. Why wouldn't I?"

Me: "Ian, do you believe a girl can grow up to be a president?"

Ian: "Yes! Of course!"

Me: "Have you always thought this?"

Ian: "Of course!"

Maybe I'm missing something, but I did not relate to the notion put forth last night that finally little girls can believe that they, too, can lead our country someday. I did not feel any particular excitement that a human of my gender was nominated by a major political party as its candidate for president. To paraphrase my son -- of course a woman can be president! Heck, I was born thirty years before my daughter and I never once thought I could not be president because I was a girl. I even did the math when I was nine years old to determine the election cycle in which I first would be eligible to run (for the record, it was 2012 . . . I never did file the papers, though).

But, I did not feel the need to sit with my children and watch Clinton's speech last night so that we could take in a moment in history together (to be fair, I haven't wanted to watch a minute of either convention . . . a first for me). My kids know the candidates who are running, including the third-party options, and we discuss each of them and what they believe. They know that all of the presidents up to this point have been men. Still, it has not struck them that there is a woman leading the way this time. It doesn't seem to matter one way or the other to them. And I like that.

It could be that I just take my equality for granted. If Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Eleanor Roosevelt or Shirley Chisholm, women about whom I do and will teach my children, were in the arena watching Hillary Clinton give her acceptance speech last night, I imagine they would have been overwhelmed by the fruits of their tireless years of work. Perhaps I need to stop and appreciate that notion. But any pause would be out of respect for their efforts, which is certainly worthy of such pause, and not anything that I personally feel about barriers being broken for me or the generations that follow.

That's not to say that I believe sexism no longer exists in politics and business and families and media and so on. Of course it does. There is still way too much attention paid to what every female politician wears and how she does her hair. There are still jokes about how a woman's menstrual cycle will affect her ability to make decisions. I remember having discussions with friends twenty years ago in our college dorm rooms about how there would be a man of color sitting in the Oval Office before a white woman because we, however unfair, seem to be more comfortable with the notion of a man being in charge. But seeing Clinton standing on stage last night did not make me think, "Oh, wow! It can actually happen!" I knew it would eventually.

I hope my lack of excitement over the "biggest glass ceiling ever" being shattered is not due to the fact that I do not support Clinton's candidacy (although between the two major party options, neither of whom will be receiving my vote, I do STRONGLY prefer her) and that I have become completely turned off by politics this year. Or that I'm frustrated that the past twenty-five years have brought us first father and son presidencies and now possibly husband and wife presidencies, showing that the ability to lead our country more often than not has much more to do with being in the appropriate class and political circles than it does with your gender.

Really, though, putting those opinions and that cynicism aside, I still think my reaction would have been the same. If a woman had taken to the stage last night who shared my political ideology and put forth a vision for our country that inspired me and accepted her party's nomination for president, I would be excited today to support her and would work intensely to do so. I still don't think it would have given me chills or hope for my daughter just because she was a woman.

So, tell me . . . what am I missing? If you were moved last night and felt like you were witnessing history, I would love to hear more about it. I kind of feel guilty that I don't have more of a reaction. But I just don't.