Both my daughters will be voting in a presidential election for the first time this year, symbolic of their emerging adulthood. Perhaps more importantly, for the first time there may be a woman candidate for president of a major party, and, symbolic of the hope I have for my children’s futures, a female President of the United States.
I’m not in favor of voting for a candidate simply because of their sex, but in this case, Hillary Clinton’s gender is incredibly relevant. My girls, 18- and 20-years-old, are entering the work world, emerging as adults with increasing responsibilities and ambitions. Leaving a supportive home, the world around them is less likely to treat them equally, or even fairly, as women.
As young children on the playground, my ability to encourage them and help them handle new challenges and take risks was great. Letting them climb on the outside of the playground equipment with huge smiles on their faces, while fending off the criticism of other parents for allowing such risky behavior, or spotting them as they hung upside down on the monkey bars, at the same time shushing my wife’s nervous and cautioning utterances, these were experiences I could make possible for my girls.
They’ve had access to sports and a range of experiences, and I’m not saying my kids haven’t had role models. Starting with their successful mother, female teachers in all disciplines, relatives and mothers of friends, my daughters’ world is filled with smart, creative, successful women who have exciting, demanding careers. Still, I fear the glass ceiling awaits my girls.
The list of first accomplishments for women gets longer every year, accelerating as fewer positions and opportunities remain denied to my daughters. Still, there is the big one in the United States, that of president, leader of our country. Other countries of almost every type of government, religion, and region have elected female leaders, but my girls have yet to see a single woman be put forward as a candidate by either major political party. Plenty of women have run for president, from Victoria Woodhull on the Equal Rights Party (never heard of them, right?) in 1872 through Jill Stein for the Green Party in 2012 (who received about 470,000 — or .36 percent of votes cast), but none with a legitimate chance of winning.
Interested in the sciences and film, my daughters are entering fields notoriously unwelcoming to women. The promise of their childhood — being judged for their work and their ability — could be an empty pledge. The election of a qualified woman, and it is hard to say that Hillary Clinton isn’t more qualified than any other candidate in the field, to lead our country signals there are no limits to what my girls may strive for and achieve in their lives and that the time has come when they can expect the same chance to succeed as men in any field.
As with so many firsts, it is only important that a woman serves as president until it’s happened, then becoming an historical footnote like Kennedy being Catholic. It will be unimportant, I hope, to my granddaughters, but to my daughters, Hillary’s election is incredibly relevant to the rest of their lives.