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We’re watching the Republican National Convention on the night of Donald Trump’s big acceptance speech. We’re into politics, our family. We watch the debates, the big speeches, the inaugurations. We talk about policy and campaigns at the dinner table, especially this year. It’s difficult not to.
The speech is, to be sure, one of the meanest, angriest, most vile political speeches I’ve witnessed. It feels as if America is under attack, under threat of imminent doom, as if all those school-time, crawl-under-your-desk-and-cover-your-head drills are about to come in handy.
I’ll always remember the feeling of … fear.
So I’m sitting there, listening, thinking that for a country up to its Wal-Marts in guns and ammo, for a country nursed on out-dated, apocryphal tales of John Wayne-esque manliness and swagger, we sure do scare easily.
We’re scared of brown people slipping over borders, of brown babies risking boats and high seas for the very freedom our families — most of ours, anyway — once sought. We’re scared of people different from us, living among us, quietly biding their time for … what?
This is not the America I know, I’m thinking.
For a country up to its Wal-Marts in guns and ammo, for a country nursed on out-dated, apocryphal tales of John Wayne-esque manliness and swagger, we sure do scare easily.
Then I look at my daughter.
She’s 10. She’s curled on a couch, literally recoiling away from the TV. Her hands are practically covering her eyes, the way you might while watching a scary movie.
I hit the pause button.
“Listen,” I tell her, desperately trying to remember a quote from that Aaron Sorkin American President movie. It’s truly the only thing I can think of, and it occurs to me suddenly exactly how much sense it makes.
“He’s just trying to scare you, OK?” I say, “The easiest way to win an election is to tell people all the things they have to fear, and then say you’re the only solution.”
She nods. She gets it.
Literally moments later, the man bellowing on TV says he’s the only solution, and my daughter looks at me, finally, as if I know what the hell I’m talking about. (Dad win!)
Still, how many times have I had to consider turning off the TV because a political speech was too scary? Is that what we want in a president? Someone who will preach hatred, fear, racism, misogyny, xenophobia? Isn’t just one of those things disqualifying, let alone all of them?
To see my daughter’s face, wide-eyed and hopeful, as if the next president is actually talking to her, it’s a moment I won’t soon forget.
Where’d my hope and change go?
Then, fortunately, thankfully, the inverse happens. A few days later, it’s Hillary Clinton’s turn.
Watching my daughter’s face as Clinton “breaks” that digital glass ceiling the night before her own big speech, and telling little girls across the land that they, too, can be president … I admit, it gets me. It gets me big time. I’m practically a puddle.
To see my daughter’s face, wide-eyed and hopeful, as if the next president is actually talking to her, it’s a moment I won’t soon forget. It’s like Rey Force-grabbing the veto stamp.
That’s what I want in a president. Because when it comes down to it, representation matters.
I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I trust her. Completely. Sure, she’s had the same mess-ups your average politicians is going to have, but she also has a track record stretching back for decades of doing good work along the way — whether it’s standing up for the rights of disabled children, fighting against housing discrimination, winning health coverage for kids, ensuring the world sees women’s rights as human rights, and working on behalf of 9/11 survivors and first-responders, she has answered the call over and over again.
Just 6 out of 50 states have women governors.
This isn’t a protest vote against the racist landlord who has taken over the Republican Party. Looking at Clinton’s track record of good works makes me genuinely excited to cast my ballot for her. She does her homework, she has earned the experience, and she has the knowledge to keep us from slipping into another Great Recession or stumbling into a nuclear war over whether another country puts out a red carpet at the airport.
But you can’t overlook how important it is to have a woman in the Oval Office. Like I said, representation matters. The Geena Davis Institute On Gender And Media does a great job in highlighting exactly how much.
In government, women hold just 19 percent of the seats in the House, and 20 percent in the Senate, with women of color making up even less than that. Just 6 out of 50 states have women governors.
In business, women make up roughly 50 percent of the workforce, but just 20 CEO positions in the Top 500 companies.
Not 20 percent: 20.
When it comes to percentages, they make up just 20 percent of board positions in those businesses.
In media, men are represented 2-1 for lead roles and 8-1 for directors; male characters receive two times the screen time in movies, and have two times the dialogue. (Oddly, films led by women actually earn more — 15.8 percent more, in fact.)
In pay, women still earn on average 79 cents for every dollar a man makes, with women of color earning even less.
Women make up 51 percent of our population, yet in every segment of society, they are seen as second class citizens.
It’s not important to fill these roles with women just for the sake of parity. It’s important for the sake of bringing more experiences to the table, voices that heretofore have been drowned out by people who look like me: middle age white dudes.
“And what happens when girls see more roles open up to them? They take them, of course.”
And what happens when girls see more roles open up to them? They take them, of course. The Geena Davis Institute found that after several movies showed female lead characters with archery skills (Brave, Hunger Games) that participation in archery among girls rose 105 percent.
It’s a small community, archers, but it shows that representation matters. When girls have role models, they believe they, too, can do it.
And it’s not just girls who need strong, ambitious, experienced women in powerful roles. Boys need to see women in those roles — young boys and big trust fund man babies alike.
I grew up in the 80s, thinking you had to be a white grandpa to be president. My daughter, and millions of her peers across the country — boys and girls — will come into political awakening thinking the president can be a black man or a white lady.
The America I want to live in is a place where kids aren’t just told that truly anyone can rise to the top. It’s a place that shows them.
Mike Adamick is a San Francisco stay-at-home dad and writer whose book about gender bias in childhood, Your Daughter Is Awesome, debuts in the spring of 2017. Dad’s Book Of Awesome Science Experiments, Dad’s Book Of Awesome Projects, and The Adventures Of Crash Adams are available now.
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