Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Hillary and Me: Why it really does matter that the next president of the United States is a woman


Pic: Gage Skidmore


‘And yes, she happens to be a woman’ said Michelle Obama after trumpeting  Hillary Clinton’s presidential CV in Winston-Salem, North Carolina last week.
I know what she meant…she’s brilliant by any standards, her gender does not come into things.
But at the same time, I am certain that it does, and it must. Any commentator who complains that Hillary has played the “female card” too much, or that journalists place too much emphasis on this “first female president of the United States" stuff is wrong.
We have not yet reached the utopian dream of gender being an irrelevance and the glass ceiling being made of low fat cream cheese. So if she wins the election in a week’s time this will be a huge, momentous thing for womankind and the world.
I will cry tears of joy if she is elected and I no doubt will erect a small shrine in her honour in a corner of the lounge.
Feminist champagne corks - or, more realistically, Prosecco corks - will be popping in my kitchen as they will in many others.
Many would celebrate simply because of the man she isn’t – Donald Trump. But I will be leaping around the streets of East London wrapped in a star spangled banner because there is a living, breathing female human leading the free world.
And yet it seems  foolish to even start to fantasise about the possibility of a Hillary win. Today, it seems like a beautiful dew-covered cobweb that could be destroyed with the swish of a stick (possibly wielded by the FBI). The polls, unfortunately, are not looking very encouraging at all.
Mrs Clinton has endured a steady stream of misogyny on the path to the White House. The descriptions of her as ‘weak’, because she had a cold, or ‘lacking warmth’ or “power hungry” would not be levelled against a man.
What presidential candidate could not be described as ‘power hungry’? Do you have any idea how hungry you have to be survive the campaign trail?
Importantly – since most of us will never meet Hillary if she becomes president – it is the symbolism of a Clinton presidency that will matter for many. You can be the most incredible First Lady in history, but no matter what you say or do, you are still an appendage.
My mixed-race son was born just days before Barack Obama was elected to the White House in 2008. He has spent the first eight years of his life absorbing countless images, TV speeches and conversations about a black man in charge of the world.
Now, as my little daughter turns two, I want her see that a woman can do the same.
She will learn that people who wear dresses (and natty trouser suits) can make big decisions. She will see that mums can run more than the PTA and grandmas can survive pneumonia on the campaign trail. Wow. It puts my role modelling (going to work a bit, doing a lot of household chores) to shame.
Of course, we already have Theresa May. When she was first appointed home secretary in 2010, I recall at least two male colleagues sucking their teeth and saying something about “lack of experience”. And they weren’t talking about her suitability for her additional role as minister for women and equalities.
Well, she’s experienced now and has made it to prime minister. And while I don’t agree with much of what she says, I can’t wait to see her on the White House lawn with Hillary.


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