As a Kid, I Didn’t Think a Woman Could Be President
How and why I changed that little girl’s mindset.
I was in six grade when Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro as a running mate in the 1984 election. I lived in a pretty white bread, middle class, suburban neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona.
When my grade did a mock election, only one kid in the entire sixth grade voted for Mondale. Our political beliefs mirrored our parents’.
I distinctly remember listening to men talk about Ferraro in terms of coming to power as President should anything happen to Mondale.
It’s interesting to me that I never remember there being discussion of a woman actually running for President. It just seemed absurd to think that would happen.
No, if Ferraro was to be President, it would be handed to her by virtue of succession.
I never took the idea of having a female president seriously. I remember hearing a lot of back patio talk and words said by man and boys around me.
Women are too sensitive. Women aren’t a tough enough. Women are too emotional. What she going to do? Wage a war and hit a big red button every month when she gets her period?
I bought into all of that bullshit. When I was growing up I felt like men’s concern over the ramifications of having a menstruating woman in office were valid. Somewhere in my head. Somewhere deep. Ironically, I didn’t even understand what this meant. I hadn’t even gotten my period.
It’s now ironic to me that people used menstruation as a means of talking down Ferraro, who was most likely past menopause. The same was said about Hillary Clinton, who was well past menopause.
Of course, as I am heading toward menopause, I am certain there are days I could defeat a Dothraki army with my hormones alone. But, I don’t because I have a brain that presides over my hormones. As do all women, whether they are the President or not.
As a kid, I accepted realities with which I was presented. I held the belief that my own gender was not equal to men. Dealing with cognitive dissonance as a kid it not easy. I knew girls were treated differently than boys. I knew I didn’t like it. I couldn’t figure out why and I had no idea what to do about it.
Being a little girl in the 80’s isn’t like it is now. We didn’t have girl power. I was still steeped in “boys are stronger/smarter/better than girls.” If I was going to get my mind aligned with what I knew to be truth, that we are equal, I had to reprogram myself.
Being a feminist is not something that has come easy to me. When I think about things from a feminist perspective my brain pokes back. “But, Vanessa….”
As Democratic candidates started to emerge for the next election, my brain kept poking. Even as a firm feminist and supporter of women’s rights, figuring out who to support in this presidential race has been incredibly difficult.
I am still fighting this deeply ingrained idea that I should support a man. I told a friend of mine that I would be thrilled with a Biden/O’Rourke ticket. I love Joe Biden. I love Beto O’Rourke. It just seemed natural for me to support men.
But they’re not it for me. It has nothing to do with the fact that they have a Y chromosome. Period. They just don’t work for me.
I am a researcher. I read. I study. I don’t throw my support somewhere without careful consideration. In doing this, I kept going back to one idea but that nagging pin prick in my brain was STILL there.
Can I throw away everything that I been programmed to believe and really support a female candidate? Hell yes, I can. And I will.
I like Elizabeth Warren. I like how it feels to support her. Even though I love the idea of breaking through the glass ceiling and finally having a woman in our top position of power, it’s not why I support her. It’s not a single focused choice because I am a feminist and only want to support a female candidate.
She’s strong. She’s fierce. She’s smart. She’s real.
It makes me wonder how many other people are out there that would support a strong female candidate like Warren but just don’t for inexplicable reasons. Some weird innate and conditioned idea that they should support Biden because Warren is, well, a woman.
I didn’t grow up with the strength I have now. I learned that years after that sixth grade mock election.
I didn’t grow up thinking that women could be whatever the hell they wanted, certainly not President of the United States.
I’m glad our daughters have it better. I’m glad that they have strong women with a solid presence in American politics, like Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They’re paving the way so that no child ever thinks that having a female president is impossible.
It’s going to be a rough road for all female presidential candidates. If it was this difficult for me to come to terms with my ideas of feminism and truly embrace a female candidate, I can only imagine how hard it will be to convince others. To fight a deeply ingrained belief that makes no sense.
The beauty of it is that it’s possible. And it’s time.