Tuesday 2 August 2016
Over the past month, Americans have seen history made over and over again: Hillary Clinton became the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. We watched as a 102-year-old woman from Arizona – born before women had the right to vote – cast her state’s votes for Clinton. And we now live in a time when some young women have never voted in an election where both candidates were white men. All of these things are remarkable and – regardless of your political leanings – cause for celebration.
Why, then, does it feel like any time a woman points out the objectively important political and cultural moment at hand, someone else feels the need to jump in to tell her why she’s wrong? I’ve heard it from my female friends, seen it on social media and experienced it myself: if you dare to express overwhelm or joy at the prospect of a female president, or the strides women’s rights have made this year, you are promptly shot down by a special brand of misogynist killjoy.
They point out Clinton’s imperfections, or that women have run as third-party candidates before, to make the case that our happiness is misplaced. They say it’s not really an important moment. That our feelings are wrong. As if any celebration needs to be papered over with caveats and “actuallys”.
But here’s the thing: men, it’s not your moment, and the irony of lecturing over our happiness at this particular historical milestone is not lost on us. We have heard this kind of hectoring before; in fact, we’ve heard it most of our lives. (There is a reason the term “mansplaining” took off the way it did!)
It is not that we think your opinion is unimportant – we just think that it can wait. Or that you don’t need to give it at every possible turn, especially if we’re taking the rare moment that women see progress to breathe a sigh of happiness. As Michelle Obama pointed out in her epic speech at the DNC, this is bigger than any one person’s “desires or disappointments”.
Trust me, those who are celebrating the possibility of a female president – or the fact that the Democratic nominee is a woman – fully understand that the moment, and the candidate, are not perfect. But name me a hurdle jumped that is. Instead of talking over women who may be celebrating, try asking us why we are doing so.
Ask us about what it feels like to never have seen ourselves represented at the highest level of government. Ask what it’s like to grow up with people constantly undervaluing your opinion, or ignoring your intelligence. Ask us what kind of world we imagine when we take a minute, just a minute, to consider how political parity might change things.