Ellie — I kept another blog for several years. Looking back over the hundreds of posts I wrote, I noticed the ones about politics didn’t age well. They were too tied to long-gone current events and seemed tired after a few years.
So, with my letters to you, I decided I wouldn’t write about politics.
Well, so much for good intentions. They’re made to be broken.
Right now, in the fall of 2016, we are drawing to the close of a political campaign for president that’s been vile, abusive, and vitriolic — the worst in our lifetimes, we all say. We can hardly wait till it’s over.
At the same time — beyond the hatred and gutter politics — something extraordinary is happening. We are about to elect the first woman president of the United States. (Or not. We may be returning to the Dark Ages.)
I hope you read the previous sentence several years from now and smile because it’s so quaint — since there have since been several women presidents by then, a female-dominated Senate and House of Representatives, and the notorious all-woman Supreme Court (who meet in a building renamed for Ruth Bader Ginsburg).
Anyway, let me dream. I’m old enough to know progress doesn’t usually happen that quickly or seamlessly.
But, Ellie! Think of what a long, painful slough it’s been, just in my 66 years. I grew up hearing that men were smarter than women. They were more important than us, interrupting us when they felt like it — since we women and girls were silly, high-pitched creatures governed by our roiling emotions and chaotic hormones. We were brought up to care mostly about being pretty and popular and finagling a way to marry well. Then we were supposed to start pumping out an appropriate number of babies till our expiration date of societal usefulness (i.e., menopause).
It’s tough to shake off that world and those voices when they’ve shaped you during your earliest years. It’s hard to trust and value yourself when you’ve been told you don’t matter.
And one of the most difficult things to face is ridicule. Women who want more have always been snickered at for being unfeminine, unattractive, humorless, emasculating harpies. When you’ve been brought up to please, that’s incredibly painful.
This presidential election, between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, has been rife with sexism and ridicule. We’ve seen real ugliness aimed at women who don’t know their place, who won’t sit down and shut up and smile placatingly. (And yes, there’s been much more, on both sides; these upheavals we call presidential elections are always staggeringly complicated. But this is my blog and I get to say what I want and feel.)
Anyway, I’m just writing to give you a moment in time — November 2, 2016, to be precise — when we don’t know what will happen.
The woman who’s running in this race is competent and experienced; the man is an intemperate lout and bigot. How can this race be close, given those circumstances? We don’t know. But it is, unnervingly so.
I hope you read this someday in the future and smile indulgently at all the emotional gyrations we’ve been through. I’m hoping your future will be better than our past. But right now, we simply don’t know. Love you so much, Coco
P.S. I wrote this, too, so you wouldn’t think I’d spent the year 2016 only writing and thinking about personal issues. Have I mentioned I’m a feminist, darlin’? As Caitlin Moran put it so memorably, I have a brain and a vagina — so what else would I be?
(Copyright 2016 by Ruth Pennebaker)