A Post-Primary Letter To My Daughter

Wednesday, June 8, 2016   |   by Diana Ascher


Last night I tried to imagine the disappointment you might be feeling today in the aftermath of the primary elections. I reflect on the memory of my outraged cherub, strapped into her car seat for our trek to school, on the morning after the Al Gore debacle. I re-read with pride your articles in support of the Democratic ideals with which you (and I) were raised, reveling in your morality, passion, and skillful articulation of the need for disruption in our political system for a new generation of citizens. This new citizenry is unlike any other before it in terms of access to information, ability to interconnect and exchange knowledge in new ways, and a striking sense of the value of living in the moment and appreciating the beauty amidst the chaos and filth that seem to obfuscate life's simple pleasures.

My hope is that you, my intelligent, enlightened, talented, generous, and thoughtful daughter, can find ways to advance the vision that resonated so strongly with you and so many of your peers, yet celebrate the achievement of this day. Here's why: We will have a woman in the White House. Not as a "First Lady" with a pet cause (no disrespect intended to the work of First Ladies), but as the Leader of the Free World.

I don't normally publicize my political stances. Today I need to ensure you and your contemporaries understand the gravity of our situation in terms of gender and race equality. Hillary Clinton represents a rejection of the gender disparity that persists even in the most forward-thinking contexts. You've seen me smash my head against the glass ceiling of gender inequality, and you've even called attention to manifestations of sexism and racism I hadn't recognized. You've also seen me go head-to-head with people who perpetuate racism and sexism, with limited success. Women's right to vote is younger than you might realize. And progress is something that must be vigilantly maintained. Women lost the right to vote in the late 1700s and early 1800s in the United States. The Constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote wasn't ratified until 1920—less than a century ago.

I've always approached elections from the perspective that the Supreme Court, as our ultimate arbiter, should be the focus of primary concern. Supreme Court appointments have a direct and daily effect on every American. The fragility of women's authority to control our own bodies is real. An imbalance in Supreme Court representation of the populace is terrifying to me. It should be of concern to all of us.

Are there things about Hillary I dislike? Sure. Top of my list: She should have divorced her husband when he proved to be a philanderer of the most obnoxious sort. When I think about the evolution of women's opportunities since reclaiming the right to vote less than 100 years ago, however, I realize we wouldn't have a woman president if she had left him. Throughout history, women have relied on sacrifice, savvy, and biding time to circumvent sociopolitical constraints. The match up of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump underscores the astounding amount of bullshit women have endured (and continue to do so). It's actually kind of poetic justice to showcase the plight of today's American woman with this seemingly absurd contest. Women are supposed to be loving and nurturing, even when treated inequitably. We step up to ensure our families are safe, educated, and healthy. We comply with the machinations associated with a competition within our own ranks manufactured by the men who continue to value us more for tits, ass, and blow jobs than for intelligence, competence, and kindness. And when we rank high on all of these measures, we are perceived as a threat to the proper order of the universe.

Hillary had to tolerate her husband's humiliating behavior, and become a force to be reckoned with in order to be taken seriously as a politician in her own right. Of course, in so doing, she attracted critical characterizations ranging from "unlikable" to "crooked." She didn't have the luxury of simply being herself to gain public appeal, as men do, because the very essence of femininity runs counter to the notion of presidential strength and power. That's why Trump's misogyny is acceptable to his supporters. It reinforces their understanding of what "presidential" means.

But back to Hillary and Bernie. They have similar, but not identical, voting records on key issues. My sincere hope is that Sanders backers will channel their demands for change into support for Hillary Clinton. Hold her accountable for the decisions you feel do not represent American values—but recognize that politics is negotiation and compromise. Clinton, if she's as savvy as I believe her to be, will not disregard the salient calls for change that have rallied your generation. She was a successful civil rights activist as a teen in the 1960s, after all. She can relate to you, she just can't look like she does.

Calls for change in the electoral system usually trail off after the election, as people focus on other pressing issues. Don't let that happen. I hope you will continue to demand a more equitable society and press for the changes we so desperately need to build a political system that better captures the values of the society in which we live and the one you envision for the future. Sometimes we have to direct our efforts through the channels that exist as we simultaneously build new paths to a better world.

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