This morning Isabel, one of my six year old daughters, asked me if she had to take down her Hillary for President sign that she hung on her bedroom door 8 months ago. I told her that it was her choice. She thought about it for a minute and then decided that she should take it down and save it to copy when she runs for President some day. Now, I think a lot of kids say they would like to grow up and be President. My daughter would also like to be an astronaut, a ballet dancer and an American Idol. But, unlike all of those career options, until this presidential campaign she did not have a concrete example of a woman running for the highest office in the land.
Isabel became a Hillary supporter early on. We were watching clips from the Iowa debate one Sunday morning and she asked why there was only one girl on the stage. We explained to her that Hillary was the only woman in the race and that there had never been a female president. Well, that was it for her. “I want the girl to win,” she proclaimed. And when your daughter unknowingly declares herself a feminist at five years old you do what you need to do to support it. An on-line shopping trip to the Hillary2008 store ensued. My daughter wore her “Hillary Cares About Me” shirt to school the day of the primary when voters were traipsing in and out of her school cafeteria. She got into a war of words with a classmate who told her that Hillary was horrible and only Obama was good. (We had to explain to her that both candidates would be good options and that Obama wouldn’t like his supporters calling other kids stupid heads.)
Isabel is too young, thankfully, to understand or grasp the media misogyny that so gleefully played itself out during Hillary’s campaign. But, she encountered her own gender politics and struggles this year in, of all places, kindergarten. For the first time in her school experience the boys and girls separated and segregated during free play and work time in a way that I wouldn’t expect in 2008. Isabel often came home upset because she was the only girl at the block building area, or the only girl at the math skills table. The other girls tended to choose drawing and the pretend area, leaving her as the sole girl among boys who recently discovered that teasing can be a team sport. This is something that shook her up to the point where she did not want to go to school. When we spoke to her teachers about this – and these are very progressive teachers mind you – they told us that that is typical kindergarten boy behavior and that they try to help but Isabel is just in that situation because she enjoys the more “boy” stuff. Really.
So, here is where Hillary comes in, and here is why no matter what her mistakes and foibles are – and yes I know there are many – I will be grateful that she put herself out there in a way no woman has before. Hillary toughed it out. Not always well, not always fairly, and probably for too long, but that kind of tenaciousness and endurance is not something that is taught to little girls. Not even now. Little boys are told to suck it up and get back on the bike, dust themselves off and stick up for themselves. Little girls are told to find another thing to play, or to find other girls to play with rather than deal with bullies. Isabel rode that roller coaster campaign right along with Hillary. She witnessed those bitter defeats and subsequent triumphs, and ultimate loss. But, more importantly, she saw Hillary on stage with men, holding her own. For a six year old trying to figure out her own place as a “girl” in her small world Hillary was an enormous source of inspiration and validation.
When Hillary finally conceded and we told Isabel that it was over she was resigned, but happy that Obama would be the first black man to run for President. Having a “first” seemed important to her in some way. “Don’t worry mom,” she told me as she looked up at me with those earnest big brown eyes,”Now I can be first woman President and you can vote for me.” I can’t wait.
This is an original post to New York City Moms Blog.
This post was nationally syndicated by McClatchy/Tribune