Life in the Boomer Lane would like to take credit for the term “this new orange era,” but it goes, instead, to one of her loyal readers, MaryN. Throughout the next four years, LBL will occasionally be subjecting her readers to posts relating to our new orange reality. She has already accumulated a mental backlog of such topics: Steve Bannon and the rise of the alt-right, how to make gobs of money now by investing in Russian stock, why mainstream journalism is now in the cross-hairs, nepotism, how to be an activist with artificial knees and hips, the climate doesn’t care, the rise and power of millennials.
For several reasons, she will start with sex, and several words starting with the letters s-e-x. This is partly because the divide between people over anything sex-related is as great a gulf as the divide between open carry and gun control. We have made strides in this country lately, regarding LGBTQ rights. But we have made little regarding the most fundamental issue: how men (and women, themselves) see women.
To explore the history of sexism, one must go back to approximately 7 million BC (or, if one is so inclined, to go back to the other date many use for the beginning-of-time: 8,000 BC). The dialogue would have been slightly different, but the end result the same:
7 million years BC: Ethel, I swear every time you open your mouth with a suggestion, I wish we were still apes, like our parents.
8,000 years BC: Ethel, if you think you are such a hot-shot to be in charge here, you can start by getting this frickin’ dinosaur off the lawn. If not, just clam up.
When Obama was running, one would have been hard-pressed to find an African-American person who would have said, “Man, a black guy can’t be president. He’s not as qualified. Uh uh, no way, nix that.” But women across the country did feel that way about Hillary. While many women were counting the minutes until the first female president would be elected, many others were standing firmly in their belief that no woman, no matter what her qualifications, could do the job.
Did sexism influence the election? Yes, along with a host of other factors. Would another female candidate have fared better than Hillary? In retrospect, quite possibly. But any female candidate, no matter how beloved, would have run into the same wall of opposition that Hillary did, from people who truly believe that women don’t have what it takes to be the president. The bottom line for many is that it’s OK to grab pussy or certainly to talk about it or to admire it, but it’s another thing entirely to vote for it.
So, along with a host of other issues that have gob-smacked us in the face as the result of this election, we have to look at why the US is so low down on female participation in the political arena.
It turns out, much of the responsibility lies with women, themselves. Research has shown that men, when contemplating running for political office, have a list of up to five characteristics they believe they must have in order to run (or, as in the case of our president-elect, one qualification: Me want that.) Women have about 20, a daunting proposition. So, the bottom line is that women eliminate themselves from consideration because they believe they don’t have what it takes. The sad part is that when women do run, they have the same success rate as men.
It was clear to LBL that the Obamas had to be better than all previous occupants of the White House, in order to be seen as equal. They had to be perfect, and, in most ways, they were. It’s very much the same with women. In order to play the political game as equals to men, women feel they must be better (or perfect).
So, LBL has made a personal declaration. She will actively support millennial groups and will actively support women entering political office. And she will start with her grandchildren. She will do whatever she can to show her grandsons that women have the same goals and capabilities as they do. She will do whatever she can to show her granddaughters that nobody but themselves should ever decide what they can do.
LBL’s three-year-old granddaughter already has the grey matter and the attitude that could propel her into the White House. She seems to innately know that her place in life is wherever she decides it will be. And her parents applaud and support that. They give her books in which the princess saves herself and then ditches the prince. LBL trusts that some day, she will not ditch the prince. But she will always know that she can save herself.
This holiday season, LBL will add to that with books about female engineers, scientists, and politicians. She will give her two puzzles, one of the US and another of a construction site with all female workers. She will give her Legos. Of course, there will also be tee shirts and hair clips with penguins (her current obsession). The penguin obsession will, most likely, be replaced ultimately with others. But, if her family has anything to do with this, her sense of personal power will not.
She will set her goals in life, goals that will be difficult to achieve. She will fail with some and succeed with others. But she will never wait to be saved. She will know that it will be far more satsfying (and efficient) to save herself.
Next up in the Orange series: Who are the people who voted for Trump? (Hint: they aren’t the depleted gene pool, as many would have us believe. Instead, they are us.)