Jewfem Blog

Hillary Clinton is forcing some of us to face our own ideologies

Hillary Clinton is forcing some of us to face our own ideologies

Some days I think, all am I doing in life is unlearning all the wrong things I was taught growing up. So much of what I was taught -- about people, about women, about relationships, about money, about being Jewish, about Israel, about race, about motherhood, about sex, about how to live my life, about what is really important -- turned out to be profoundly wrong. I think I've spent the past 25 years reteaching myself how to live.

This is okay when the process is spread out over a few decades. After all, change is hard, so doing it gradually can be better than ripping the bandaid right off. But  I think that the election is particularly painful because it is about this, about realizing that so much of what we thought was correct was really not correct at all. That maybe the American version of freedom and democracy has not turned out to be the greatest one on earth in practice. Income inequality, gender inequality, racism, verbal violence, physical violence, sexual violence -- these are some big stains on American culture. America really is not doing so well in a lot of ways, and in fact has a poor record on lots of vital issues: America is the only western country not to have parental leave, it is one of the few that has still never had a woman president, and in fact it comes 97th in world in terms of representation of women in the legislature. 97th in the world! And look how hard it is to advance women -- as I read this week, one of the most qualified candidates ever to run is running against one of the most unqualified candidates ever to run, and the race is close! So this election is forcing a lot of Americans to face the fact that the "great America" of the past may have been a myth. Like Happy Days, it never really existed. That is a tough reality to stomach. And the realization that so much of what we were brought up on to believe to be true was actually racist, sexist and xenophobic. At least the way I was brought up.

I think about this so often vis a vis Hillary Clinton. She was completely vilified in my house when she came into the public eye in the early 90s. She was proof that working women were a plague on American culture. She was held up as the model of the cold, heartless, selfish, ugly, bad mother. She was that ridiculous feminist trying to be a man. Why can't these women just accept their own difference, I would hear. (Which was a euphemism for, why can't women be satisfied as unpaid, unfulfilled housewives?) You don't have to be a man to be equal, we heard. You can be equal and different. This, as I listened to members of my family describe how a woman cannot be a lawyer because she is too emotional, or how a woman cannot be an obstetrician because it is just too weird. Certainly not president -- after all, who would look after her children? Ambitious women make bad mothers, I was taught incessantly. It took me such a long time to unpack these ideas and decide for myself what I think a woman can or ought to be in this world. And I'm still doing it. In fact, it wasn't until last week when I listened to Chelsea Clinton's speech that I finally let go, for the last time, of the unhelpful idea that a working mother is going to be, by definition, a worse mother. Actually, the truth might be exactly the opposite -- that a good mother is one who is happy and fulfilled because she is participating in society and actualizing herself.

Anyway, this is a hard process. And I can see how it is ripping apart America in some ways, making some people REALLY angry and perhaps a bit off the wall. It is hard to change. And it is really hard to realize that the ideas and cultures you held up as ideals and truths might not be so ideal. That they may be rooted in sexism, misogyny, racism, or a perpetual misunderstanding of other human beings. That is hard to realize. But it seems to me that with all the ugliness that Trump is bringing out, it is forcing some Americans to do some real reckoning. I could be wrong about this, but it feels like there is something shifting deep within the collective consciousness.

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