Last night, Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. I stayed up late to see her speech, and the one her daughter, Chelsea Clinton made introducing her.
It was one of those rare moments when it meant something that I have only sons, although I know that it is every bit as important that my boys bear witness to this moment. The way young men perceive women within our world is just as important as the way we see ourselves. My boys have grown up with a strong, working mother. For the last year, I've frequently traveled for work, and Mr. UnWired has been single-parenting. He is no less capable than I, and in many ways, more so. 'Bitches get shit done' is how my friend described the kind of women we are. My mom echoed that comment in her 5 second review of this moment in history. "Pushy broad" she said about Hillary, meaning it in a positive way, exactly as I've heard her describe herself, and me, her daughter.
It struck me that the comments Bill and Chelsea Clinton made in their speeches were designed to "humanize" Hillary. The Washington Post reported that Bill Clinton described his wife saying, "Hillary, first and foremost, was a mother." An accomplished, bright woman had to be described as a mom in order to project electability. Even today, a woman must balance work and family in order to be perceived as whole. So had Hillary been an imperfect parent to Chelsea while in pursuit of her legal career, she would, according to these perceptions, be undeserving of our vote for the presidency. That's a tough bar to reach, let alone surpass, and not one her husband Bill, nor any of his predecessors, was subjected to in any other presidential election.
Reading transcripts of the Trump family speeches at the RNC the previous week, there are glimpses of fatherhood. Ivanka played with Legos in her fathers office (not with her father, but on the floor of the office, while he worked) and Tiffany Trump mentioned her father's handwritten notes on her report cards. They were able to describe a father-figure, but not a dad. No bringing the kids to sports practice or dance lessons, and no references to dinnertime conversations and bedtime books. Clearly, Trump didn't have to be 'dad' to be a candidate for president. Yet Hillary had to pass the mom-test in order to be considered an electable women.
It's one more moment, one more image, one more symbol that demands actions from forward-thinking Americans. While political speeches are merely theater, it's clear that even as we boldly stride towards equality, there's a steep uphill climb for all women to truly advance, and plenty of backsliding comes with the territory. In 15-20 years, it is my hope that my boys can marry women who truly are considered, by law, custom, and paycheck, their equals in every way.
I'll gladly take two steps forward with Hillary, even if it means taking small steps back as well. As always, someone has to stop traffic so the rest can pass safely.