At an early age, my daughter declared she wanted to become the first woman president. When we asked her why, she exclaimed, "because my face would be on money!"
Fast forward to Hillary Clinton running against Barack Obama to become the Democratic presidential nominee in the 2008 primaries. My daughter's dreams were dashed with the potential that someone else beat her to it.
"She may not win," I told my then, 11 year old.
She didn't believe me and let go of her dream knowing that a woman becoming president before she turned 35 was inevitable. I had hoped so, although I still believed it would be several more election cycles before American citizens would accept a woman leading their country.
While I was literally waiting for the day to see this, and hoping it was in my lifetime, a woman who would be able to make it that far would have to have some pretty outstanding qualities (and I'm not even talking about political experience).
Said candidate, I thought, would have to be conservative and come from the south to appeal to a good chunk of our nation. They would have to be not only Christian, but known for their faith and dedication to it. They would have to be a mother and wife, married for many years to show the conservative base that they strongly believe in family. Her temperament would have to be steady, calm and collected. They would also have to be made of steel. Why steel? They would have to be able to withstand every piece of judgment and slander a candidate would endure, and then more so, simply because they are a woman.
For decades women have focused feminism on the horrifying fact that women still make less than their male counterparts in the workforce. Men and the general female populous have seemingly ignored this fact. Women meanwhile have somehow magically balanced working, raising children, being a wife, daughter, aunt and friend, while doing (in some households) all of the household chores. Women don't get adequate time off after giving birth. Nursing is still a taboo to do in public or discuss. Women secretly talk about menstruation, orgasms, menopause, GYN appointments, and hysterectomies in hushed tones. Pregnancy and labor are rarely discussed openly. And everywhere women turn, their bodies, fashion and makeup are plastered all over magazines, television, online and in stores. And this culture of what a woman should be like, act like and do has been so soaked into our consciousness (for men and women) that it has become almost ingrained in our DNA like the instinct to hunt and gather. One wonders if centuries of oppression has literally changed our instincts.
With those instincts comes the inevitable fact that women unconsciously attack one another before turning on a man. They hold women more accountable for their actions than men. As my husband pointed out, "Men know this secret. And if women could undo how they treat one another, men wouldn't stand a chance."
Excuse after excuse is permitted for misogyny, fair pay, equality in relationships (therefore household chores and child rearing). It's accepted because we have been told a lie. Women have been told for centuries that our looks and behavior are responsible for seducing men, and sadly, is responsible for having them sexually assault, rape and hoot and holler at us from cars passing on the streets.
However, how often do you read about, hear or experience women being arrested for rape, sexual assault, child pornography, and hooting and hollering at men when they cross the street? "1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime," according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
What makes it O.K. for men to be unable to control their thoughts and actions? When you see report after report lately of children and literally a baby, being raped, how do we as a society justify that as "men being men." How do children and babies egg on the sexual desires of men?
Sexual aggression is simply not acceptable. If animal instincts were acceptable in modern society, and we decided everything that's natural should be permitted, I think we'd all be belching, passing gas, propagating like animals, rolling out of bed for work without showering or changing, throwing trash everywhere, screaming and physically assaulting everyone any time we loose our temper. But, we don't. We have societal rules. We aim to live in union with one another and not to hurt or offend each other. We opted for peace.
Somewhere along the line, the gift of giving life to another human being, and menstruation that enables a woman's body to do so, became "dirty." In many cultures, women were considered "unclean," and during some cultures and times, removed from the general household during said periods of time. As human beings go, what we don't understand we ostracize. Men, not having the ability to give birth, no experience with menstruation, and the inability to nurse, shunned this integral part of a woman's life. We went into the closet, so to speak.
We have been told that our looks, ability to keep a tidy house, to raise good children and be a good wife, dictate who we are as women. When we enter a family's home, the wife is judged for how her home is decorated and cleaned. She is judged by the behavior of her children. She is even judged by what she is wearing when she opens the door, along with her manners during said encounter. But if a man opens the door in a ripped t-shirt,dirt covered jeans, leaves to watch television and the kids are running around screaming, we feel sympathy for him for having to listen to screaming kids. A woman? She's certainly a bad mother who doesn't know how to discipline her children.
So, when said candidate for office is a "she," she has to watch not only what she wears, but even the colors of her outfits to not somehow offer the unconscious impression of desire, power and naivety. She has to watch the words she uses so she doesn't come off as "too smart" and "too emboldened." She has to politely wait her turn to speak, hoping her words don't fall on deaf ears because she is a woman. For many, sadly today in this country, there is the belief that women should be in the home providing for her family and only there.
Years ago, I ran for Pennsylvania State Senate. Like all candidates, I went door to door. I made phone calls. I went to events. And many times, during the 2008 election cycle, when Hillary was giving it her go, and I was giving it mine, I was told by men (and women), they could never vote for a woman.
Misogyny is real. It's not propaganda pushed by women. It's a worldwide sickness that stems back for who knows how long. This year's candidate for office, Hillary Clinton, has withstood brutal words and judgement for not just being a candidate with her past being hung out to dry. She has been called a nasty woman, cold, bitch, sneaky, ambitious, devious. Her opponent's followers have shouted, worn shirts and carried signs and littered social media with threats to jail or kill her. Her husband's affair has been used as a tool to describe why she is not suitable for office. People have questioned her negligence in being a grandmother because she is running for office.
People will tell you that they can't vote for Hillary for president because of her email scandal. People will tell you that she is more of the same establishment not moving towards a progressive platform to equalize all Americans, the economy and environmental protection. However, I do wonder how much of our biast is unconscious misogyny and how much of it is thorough research we have done to eliminate her as a potential candidate. Maybe we are not ready to come out of the closet and are unable to recognize our own discrimination against women.
Will she win? Only if the people who go behind the voter screen can consciously vote for a woman. I know I will, happily, and with pride for my gender. My daughter may not have made it to the White House first, but I'm happy to know this woman of steel, with endless experience, not only survived this election cycle with grace, but inspired millions of other girls to one day try to attain the highest office in our land. She's not perfect. No one is. Why should I expect more perfection from her than another candidate? Because she is a woman? I know, and have known for sometime, that I'm with HER.
Photo Credit: wikipedia.org
Susan Kiskis is the publisher for Freedom Journal and author of memoir, Born Fire Dragon. Her second book, Let Me Carry You Home, is due out in 2017. She has a deeply seeded case of wanderlust.