When I first started thinking about a Democratic presidential nominee for 2008 (sometime after the weeping stopped in November 2004), my criterion was simple: not another white guy.
I have nothing against individual white guys, mind you. My charming husband happens to be one, and before long my 8-year-old son will be one too. But white guys are way too entrenched. They’ve been running things since the dawn of humanity, despite a handful of anthropological studies that show matriarchies did exist, before patriarchies squashed them like bugs (lady bugs).
So imagine my thrill when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama looked like my party’s choices for 2008. Joy! Rapture! Why, back in the old days of ought-seven, discussing the candidates was sheer pleasure. No one argued. Everyone gasped, oh my gosh, aren’t we lucky?
Then the calendar flipped to 2008. I wore my Hillary pin at the new Richfield SuperTarget and got looks as dirty as I’ve seen in any campaign season. I attributed this to suburban conservatism. Imagine my surprise when at my precinct caucus, deep in the heart of the People’s Republic of South Minneapolis, I felt the sting of being in the political minority. I haven’t had that experience since I wore my homemade “Dump Reagan” pin to my classes at Edina’s South View Junior High. Suddenly, political discussions were making my stomach ache.
Why? Was it so hard to have people not agree with me? What happened to the nicey-nice? Usually when I listen to Rush Limbaugh (for research, people), my heart sings when I hear a candidate like Obama labeled a “tax and spend liberal.” Why did I feel so disappointed by his success?
I realized that I wanted a woman to be the nominee much more than I thought. I wasn’t satisfied with Obama, who is not white. He’s still a guy, and I am sick of guys.
Yet when I announce this, I am accused of being not only sexist but racist. No, I don’t mean me personally, mostly because I am too mousy to stand up in the public square and talk about how sick I am of men in power (though my supportive husband encourages this). I should defer to the royal “we” here, because when Gloria Steinem wrote about the subject in a widely read opinion piece in the New York Times, you better believe my heart sang.
But many women writers in the blogosphere whom I respect and admire called the essay sexist. And racist. And they said very hateful things about women like me who support Hillary Clinton, including that they are sexist and racist. One blogger on Feministing.com called it “pro-vagina selfishness.” [CORRECTION BY EDITOR: This phrase comes from a comment and was NOT made by a blogger on Feministing.com. See comment below from Feministing.com.]
Oh, dear. No more nicey-nice.
My daughter Miriam will be 3 years old in May. Let’s imagine, shall we? Say Hillary Clinton is elected in 2008 (my best case), proves utterly ineffectual in office (worst case) and is defeated in 2012 by George P. Bush (whose mother is a native of Mexico). My daughter grows until adulthood with a woman president as historical fact, not a figment of her imagination. Any jerk messing with her self-esteem will get a sassy retort about President Hillary from my tough little girl, who is already known in her neighborhood for not playing princess. When my daughter puts on a tiara, she knows to be queen.
By all accounts, Barack Obama is almost as cool a guy as my husband and son. If he’s the Democratic Party nominee, I will happily support him. But these days when I see him on camera, I’m always peeking over his shoulder, thinking: Hmm, that Michelle Obama is one smart and accomplished woman. Why didn’t she run? Damn.
Is wanting a woman to run the show selfish? Yes. I acknowledge that it is. So is wanting 50 percent of the members of Congress and at least three more Supreme Court justices to be women. I also want 50 percent of the parents watching their kids at the park to be men. I want what any parent wants. I want a pro-vagina world for both of my children.
Perhaps the most important lesson of the campaign is that untangling gender, race, class and so many other of the big “-isms” is far more difficult than anyone thought. The shouters on both sides exhort us to vote blind to them all, to cast our ballots on issues alone. OK. I took one of those candidate surveys on the Internet and was given my perfect match: Dennis Kucinich.
Shannon Drury is a self-described radical housewife. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.