Last night, for the first time, a woman accepted a major party’s nomination for the presidency of the United States. (I know you all know this. I just wanted to say it again, because it qualifies as a genuine, 100% Big Deal. I only wish my mom had been here to see it.)
One of the most powerful moments of the evening came when Hillz and Chelsea embraced after Chelsea had introduced her mother. The glance that passed between them contained not just love—although there was obviously plenty of that (and how nice to see it on a convention stage, for a change)—but all the elements of what I have come to call the Knowing Look. That’s the one that women give each other that says, I understand. I understand what it’s like to be the smartest person in the class, and the least popular. I understand what it’s like to respond to unwanted attention with humor, because girls don’t get angry. I understand what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship and to be afraid to tell anyone. I understand what it’s like to like math, or science, and be told that’s not what girls do. I understand what it’s like to be so tired cleaning houses all day for other people that you fall asleep standing up on the subway. I understand what it’s like to have your PhD advisor, your boss, your mentor demand sexual favors in exchange for a recommendation. I understand what it’s like to work in an office where women’s clothes, hair, makeup, bodies are openly discussed, dissected, disrespected. I understand what it’s like to be left holding the bag, the debt, the children. I understand what it’s like to be barraged by idealized, retouched, Photoshopped images of women on the Internet 24/7/365 and feel like you have to measure up and you never will. I understand what it’s like not to be able to find toys for girls that aren’t pink. I understand what it’s like to be paid less than the men in your company and to have to suck it up because you need that job. I understand what it’s like to be date raped. I understand what it’s like to have three part-time jobs so you can support your two children as a single mother.
I understand how far we’ve come to be standing on this stage, tonight, mother and daughter, two women for once not in the service of men but in the service of the common good.
Earlier in the evening, I heard a caller on Brian Lehrer’s national call-in show say that he didn’t understand “the ballyhoo” over Hillary’s nomination. Behind the bravado in his voice, I heard fear. Fear that a woman might do the job as well as a man. Fear that he might lose the power to cajole, to control, to dominate. Well, to all the men out there who are threatened by Hillary Clinton because she’s brilliant and kind, strong and compassionate, a leader and an organizer of family movie night (obviously, supremely equipped to be the first multi-tasker-in-chief): She is so good at all these things because you made her that way. You made all of us that way. When we had to work our one, two, or three jobs and organize dinner every night, coordinate child care, serve as COO, CFO, CIO and CTO of the household, arrange the doctor’s visits and the birthday presents and the holiday cards and the travel arrangements and the veterinary care and the care for elderly parents (yours and ours), we had no choice but to become good at All The Things and, at the same time, to look inside ourselves and find the strength to carry on despite all the crap you put us through, whether you meant to, or not. We became not just able to function on missed meals, no exercise, little sleep, no sleep, but, in the words of Ernest Hemingway, “stronger at the broken places.” Or, more to the point—in the words of Mrs. Carter—“Smart enough to make these millions/Strong enough to bear the children/Then get back to bidness.”
Hear me, men of America: This nomination is not payback. We are not seeking revenge, or reparations. We are not putting you on trial for your past conduct. We just want someone in the White House who is capable of the Knowing Look and who might be able to get us a glass of wine and a few hours of time off (instead of what we’re told is time off, which is usually taken up with other people’s needs). We, all of us who support Hillary—little girls, young women, and older women like me—want her to be president because she is exactly like us. Showing up every day, doing the best she can, despite everything, all the time. In these United States, that’s something to celebrate. Balloons and all.
Now, back to bidness.