“Because it shows a woman can do the same things a man can do. And it’s square.”
For the last several months I have been asking people informally what they thought about a woman being the Presidential nominee of a major political party. Most of the responses have been in the nature of, “Well, I guess it’s significant. But women are already in important positions—governors, legislators, CEOs of large companies—and women have been the leaders of a lot of other countries.” So when I got an unqualified good backed by two succinct reasons, I took note.
The good came from one of my grandsons, a ten-year old. His eight-year old brother agreed (they don’t always). By “square” I knew they meant “fair, right.” I knew I would get an unqualified good from my mother (pictured above) as well. She’s eighty-nine and fought for equal rights throughout her life. Once she asked a school official why women teachers were not paid the same as men teachers and, when told that men got more because they were the heads of households, she pointed out several women teachers who were the heads of their households but still were not paid as much as the men, even the single men with no dependents. As a teacher during a time when there was no teacher due process law in the Kansas statute books (a time which has returned under Sam Brownback’s administration), she could have lost her job for such a question. But she had the courage to challenge unfairness over and over again.
I am amazed that the younger and the older understand the symbolism and fairness of Hillary Clinton being the Democratic nominee for President, while so many of the in-between—those in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and even 60’s—seem nonchalant. Often, women in these in-between age groups add that they, themselves, never had to face discrimination. But when I press further, asking questions based on what I know about them and their jobs, they invariably come up with one or two instances of unfair treatment. I have wondered if their hesitancy in admitting they had incurred discrimination is grounded in the same emotion voiced by a boy around the age of my grandsons in a 1968 CBS television broadcast. He was standing at the rear of a school cafeteria because he had no sack lunch and no money for the hot lunch due to poverty. When asked how he felt watching other children eat lunches, he lowered his head and replied, “I’m ashamed.”
I fall within the “nonchalant” group but I am beginning to get the symbolism and fairness my grandsons and mother understand so well. Hillary Clinton impressed my mother long before 1995. However, the speech Hillary made in Beijing that year at the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women in which she stated, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights,” cemented my mother’s view of Hillary as a compassionate, discerning leader not afraid to speak out against injustice and unfairness.
The anti-Hillary rhetoric I have been hearing is much too much the rhetoric used against women in the past—characterizing women as weak and evasive. The word weak comes to mind when I think of Donald Trump sneaking a political speech into a church in Flint, Michigan, being stopped by the minister, then the next day, behind the skirts of “Fox and Friends,” claiming the minister was so nervous, she was shaking. The word strong comes to mind when I think of Hillary making that speech in Beijing. The word stamina comes to mind when I remember the 11-hour day of questioning Hillary handled last October before a House Select Committee. I would have been tempted to launch into several of the members of that committee for their policies of cut cut cut government until it can’t handle what we expect it to handle. But Hillary stayed calm throughout the day.
The word evasive should come to every voter’s mind when thinking of Trump’s refusal to disclose his tax returns. The word unfair comes to my mind whenever I read a Facebook post, editorial cartoon, or newspaper article or hear a radio talk host or television commentator claiming Hillary has a “truthfulness” problem when Donald Trump has been identified by Politi-Fact as the least truthful national politician (the same independent fact-checking website identified President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Jeb Bush as the most truthful of the current national politicians). Are we giving Donald a pass for his untruthfulness and other bad behavior because he is a businessman, not a politician? Sounds strangely like the “head of household’ justification my mother was given for why women got paid less than men—not based on reason but, instead, rooted in prejudice.
At times I have felt that the anti-Hillary rhetoric is aimed at making us, as women, feel shame, as if this is the emotion that will keep us from voting for Hillary or supporting her with enthusiasm. Don’t let them shame us. They are not being square.
Feel good about Hillary running for President. It’s only right to give her the same opportunity you would give a man to win your vote. Study her economic program. The program she has presented is more specific and more economically viable than any of the other candidates’ economic programs. Listen to what people from other countries say about her leadership. I do not have many international contacts, but this past year I have talked to two young ladies from South American countries, a married couple from France (the day after the Paris shootings), and a man from England, all of whom said Hillary is well respected abroad. Listen to the New Yorkers who repeatedly chose Hillary to represent them in Congress. Listen to my mother, who knows discrimination is real.
And listen to my grandsons. Be square.