I’ve avoided as much political news as I could for the last few months, because, frankly, it makes me unhappy. But Michelle Obama gave an incredibly powerful speech this week, which I did watch – and even if you’re even more averse to this political cycle than I am, it’s worth listening to, particularly 27:00-33:33 of that link. Before and after that is pretty standard politicking.
Those six minutes are not. She’s talking about the startling, dizzying misogyny in this Presidential election.
One thing I found interesting was that she didn’t once say the name of the Republican candidate. Here are a few things she did say, though.
“Strong men – men who are truly role models – don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful. People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together.”
Yes. Yes. YES.
“The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls.”
I actually hate this. I wish it weren’t true. We shouldn’t have to say, “oooh, they value both halves of the species the same, well done them.” Yet we do. So I dislike it, but think it’s a tremendously important statement, because of how well it boils down the problem.
“We need someone who is a uniting force in this country.”
Yes. Do I think Hillary Clinton will do that? Nope. But do I think she’s the best option? Yes.
In every presidential election I’ve voted in, I think the candidates meant well. That’s not to say I liked or supported them. I think we’ve had plenty of dreadful options. But nothing… like this.
I think this election is highlighting some rotten, but true, things about what “normal” is for women.
In life, we see what we’re primed for. I’ll notice something more easily if I’ve seen it before, but if I’m ignorant I may miss noticing what pops up. For instance, after being diagnosed with cancer, I realized that cancer in fiction is everywhere. Now I really hate it being used a convenient plot device – but I never noticed it before.
Being female, you put up with stupid things because of your gender. I probably wouldn’t notice them if I were male because quite often they’re small. In high school my teacher made it clear that a girl didn’t belong in engineering drawing class, and I grew to expect scary shouts on the way to my after-school job, where I was told to leave boys’ work alone. I wrote about this sort of thing a couple of years ago when the #YesAllWomen discussion happened – read that post if you want to. Point is, that’s life; we accept it.
But this election seems to be asking us if that – the small moments of being dismissed, and the bad moments of harassment and discrimination and assault – if that is the status quo that we’re willing to not only accept, but elect. Is this what we want the rest of the world – and our kids here – to see?
I don’t believe Barack Obama would ever have joked about what you can do to women when you’re famous. That’s not a politically leaning statement. Nor do I think Mitt Romney, or John McCain, or George W. Bush, or John Kerry, or Al Gore, or Bob Dole, would have. Do I think Bill Clinton would have, back in the day? Actually, yeah, I do. He’s not running for office right now – but still, it’s one of the many reasons I’m not happy about this election. The “lesser of two evils” idiom has never felt more true.
But here’s another current quote, one way nerdier than Michelle Obama: “Rebellions are built on hope.”
I feel like the hopeful rebels that dreamed up our country, and the people who want to run it now, are pretty far apart. There’s no way for this election to fix that. But the hopeful rebels that got me the right to vote were victorious not even a hundred years ago. So maybe, overall, we have progress. Maybe we can get through this and keep, somehow, moving in the right direction – where we won’t have to be quite so ashamed of those who want to lead us.