Today, I went paintballing for the first time. It is one of Aj’s favorite pastimes, so I gave it a try today. While I was a bit disappointed, I will be anxious to try it again. As the only woman anywhere in sight, I felt I represented women and our plight.
I beat my first boy when I was four years old. And, I liked it. I broke my first bones to a boy when I was eight years old. And, I felt tougher. I was beaten by my first boy when I was ten years old. And, I was humiliated.
For over 30 years, I separated myself from boys. As a runner, I competed in girls’ divisions. When I became a district technology director, I applauded myself for being a woman in a “man’s world.” But, it wasn’t until I reached 30 years old that I stopped competing against “boys” and distinguishing myself from them.
I’ve thought of myself feminist all my life. And, many of my friends and colleagues will disagree with me for the words that follow, but I urge you to listen and listen carefully.
Last night, I watched as the Democratic National Committee nominated Hilary Clinton as their nominee for the 2016 presidency. It was and will always be a historical moment. However, it was the video and words that followed that aggravated my feminist thoughts.
As a struggling candidate in a struggling election season, Mrs. Clinton’s team has struggled to find ways to make her more appealing. That was…until last night. Immediately, social media lit up with pictures, quotes, and videos highlighting Hilary as a woman. “We should vote for her because she is the first woman” were both words written and implied messages.
But, stop right there.
We want to vote for Mrs. Clinton because she is a woman? Just as, we want to vote for Mr. Trump because he is a white man (with hair that has its own personality). Is it not the same rationale?
When President Obama was elected, many turned out to vote because it was historical…because he was the first African American to potentially take office.
The historical benefits must be a bonus, not the reason for voting.
Mrs. Clinton has been critiqued and nominated as a woman since she first hit the spotlight.
As a child, I watched as her appearance was mocked and insulted while she served as First Lady. When President B. Clinton’s cheating scandals came into view, she was further insulted – as a woman not able to to “keep her man.”
Now, when she moves into her own leadership role, she is reduced to being a woman again. We can make her a mark of achievement for our children. We can aspire to produce more girls in positions of leadership. We can continue to raise that “glass ceiling.” But, we cannot make her being a woman another reason for voting. Will she be a role model for our girls? Perhaps. But, that is not the reason for voting for her. An argument could be made that a white father could be a role model for our boys, but that, too, is not a reason for voting.
We also cannot reduce women’s issues to just abortion. Women’s issues are more than just abortion. Likewise, abortion should not be a “you’re with us or you’re against us” issue. This is a multifaceted issue. We should not scrutinize women for being against abortion just as we do not need to criticize a mother for being for abortion. We reduce women to stand-alone issues when we do this. We distinguish them. We separate them.
Let’s unit women around all issues – not just the ones we think pertain to women or the ones we think a woman should vote for in a certain way. To say a woman can only vote one way for an issue is an insult to the diversity that is womanhood.
We also need not vote for a candidate solely on an issue that we think pertains to women. Just as we should not vote for any candidate based upon a single issue that we think pertains to our gender, sexuality, race, religion, and so forth. Let’s vote united. Let’s be united.
Women are more than abortion and child care. They are leaders. They are mothers. They are artists. They are friends. They are us. But, being a woman is not qualification enough. It’s what you do with your womanhood.
Let’s rejoice that the “glass ceiling” has been raised (it’s not fully lifted), but let’s move forward. Let’s not lower the glass ceiling by reducing Mrs. Clinton’s qualifications for presidency to being a woman. Being a woman, being African American, being White, being Christian, etc. are not qualifications. Let’s celebrate her in the way we would celebrate a typical white male presidency candidate.
I continue to work for women, for girls, to break the glass ceiling. I continue to fight to get more women into tech fields. But, being a woman is never enough qualification just as being a man is not enough. It’s who you are.
Someday, I hope Martin Luther King Jr.’s words will ring true: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”
So, too, I hope women will not be judged by their gender, but by the content of their character. Gender will no longer be a voting factor or an exclusive club.