If you went to the movies in the Filmore in San Francisco in the Nineties you might have seen my best friend and me in the front row in sunglasses. M insisted the color saturation was better behind shades. My friend also liked to point out, as we sat through the 15 previews before our movie, how many of the films we were being sold featured a bunch of old white men. “Why the hell do I care what they have to say,” she’d ask. She is black. I am not. Just about everything I know about the world from a non-white perspective is thanks to M.
In many ways we are the inverse of each other. When she had a broken family, mine was intact. When her mother was dis-enfranchised, mine worked for the poor. Her father was a pro football player, while mine was a painter. When she was an un-diagnosed dyslexic, I was a celebrated student. I’m still learning how much needs to change in society so these differences don’t matter. But in this presidential race, we have something distinctly in common.
We are both women a lot of kids. And we are both mothers of girls.
I love Bernie as much as the next liberal. I love his scruffy hair, his determined passion, and his New York accent. I love hearing the sound of the word Socialism uttered with pride and not disgust. Most importantly, I love what the Bern is doing to and for the Democratic Party. He’s reminding us of the values this party had when our parents voted for (or against) Jimmy Carter: prioritizing the needs of the poor over the wealthy, the sick over the healthy, the children over their keepers. We embrace difference, despise discrimination. We face and try to defeat racism. We vote to empower the people, not institutions. And we are feminists.
I know, it sounds simplistic to say that gender matters more than policy when you listen to the rallying cries of Bernie. I am madly in love with the words that man utters. But I have a couple of problems. He’s white. And he’s a straight man.
What do you think of when you hear “All the President’s Men?” What do you think of when you hear “All the President’s Women?” Who is making decisions and who is giving blow-jobs?
OK, I’m being crass but that is the reality for women seeking positions of power: it’s not expected at all. Look at this list of female heads of state. The map shows it best. The U.S. is right up there with Russia and the Middle East in not supporting gender equality in the top spots in government. Women’s rights are a huge aspect of the values of modern Western countries yet we have yet to elect one to the presidency. Isn’t now the best time to make it happen? Why not?
We have a supremely qualified woman running for the highest office in the land and liberals are dismissing her because…she’s not radical? First, please tell me the last time a radical liberal landed in the White House. Next, please tell me how Bernie will do what he intends to with a Congress that will laugh him back to the tofu aisle at the Brattleboro food co-op. Finally, there simply is no more radical or progressive candidate than Hillary. She is a woman, an accomplished woman who knows her shit. Hire her!
As women, we know when we are equally or more qualified than the man who is getting the job. We know when we are being subtlely harassed while our male peers are allowed to work unbothered. These are realities I know my three girls will encounter when they enter the workforce. But I want them to face these obstacles in a world that has already seen a female American president. Role models matter.
The significance of Barack Obama’s presidency as the first black commander in chief is not lost on any black mother, father, child, or citizen in this country. The problems of race and being black have not gone away, but their hope has a picture that looks like them in the frame. The significance of Hillary Clinton winning the election would not be lost on the women and girls in this country either. Studies show that female role models impact girls in a big way.
When I hear Bernie and the cries of his supporters I think of M saying, “Why would I want to listen to another white man who thinks he has all the answers?” Who knows, maybe she is voting for him. We haven’t discussed it. But I’m not.
The thing is, we have a very qualified person running for the highest office in the land. She knows government, she understands politics, she has women’s backs, and black folk like her. I don’t want to mess this up for my girls. I’m voting for Hillary because SHE is the radical vote.