Another small musing on Hillary Clinton’s candidacy

When we had the little dude, I started to notice among new friends and acquaintances an assumption that my husband was “the career one”. People hadn’t assumed that previously. We’d gone through law school together, and at law school no-one would have seen him as out front of me academically.

I was at his work function, pregnant with the little dude, making awkward chitchat with one of his new colleagues, and this guy said “so you went to law school to find a guy who’d earn lots of money one day so you could stay at home and have babies?”

Tight smile. Game face. Composure. False laugh.

“Not quite, I went to law school because I didn’t think my philosophy degree would lead to a stable job.”

Feel pleased at coming up with a light, slightly snarky retort, one that would hopefully put him in his place a bit, but in a non-confrontational way.

Tight smile.

The more successful a man becomes, the more people assume that his wife (if he has one), is there to bask in his glow. If she is also successful in her own right, that garners him extra kudos, because the assumption is that in a hetero relationship the man will be the more professionally accomplished person.

If a woman, like my mother, has times in her career when her job is clearly higher status and higher earning, it will be spoken of as “role reversal”. I remember my dad being asked how he felt about it. Like he might be cowed and unmanned. Like she was lucky to find a guy who felt ok with it.

She tells a story of her priest, back when she was a Catholic teenager, instructing the girls that men were rightfully the heads of household, and that they must find a man they were willing to follow, a man who was their intellectual better.

When I saw Hillary Clinton say “standing here as my mother’s daughter, and my daughter’s mother, I’m so happy this day has come”, I thought of my mother. I thought of her outrage when we were travelling around Europe when I was ten and a British tourist at a cafe in Italy leaned over and asked my dad “what do you do for a crust to be able to swan about with the family like this?”

Like I’ve said before, Hillary isn’t my ideal candidate. My ideal candidate would never win a US election though. A candidate who is critical of the very idea of military supremacy and harbours open socialist leanings and sees climate change as a more significant challenge than terrorism would come in with maybe 5% of the vote, so it’s pointless to discuss that alternative. I see criticising Hillary for being a hawk and a capitalist as akin to criticising a National Party politician for supporting the dairy industry. Like, well, yeah? And? Par for the course, moving on? Let’s bundle together all the criticisms that are generic to the political environment, put them aside to tackle at a cultural and systemic level, and focus on the person running and what it means that she’s standing at that podium. It shouldn’t mean anything to me – I’m in a different country, a country that’s already had a woman head of state. Yet it does, it means something really significant. It would be deeply heartening to have someone in that job who knows that personhood doesn’t stop when motherhood starts.

 

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