IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT HILLARY

The six of us sat in the Thai restaurant eating dinner while discussing our current book selection “My Name is Mary Sutter” by Robin Oliveira. It is a well researched fiction about a young midwife determined to break the barrier against women in medicine. During the Civil War she practiced as a doctor and you should read this passionate, riveting novel. I don’t want to give it away.

Eating seafood pumpkin curry and about six other scrumptious dishes, we discussed highlights of the book. Each one of us contributed something about the passion and dedication Mary Sutter possessed to be who she was and who she became. We recognized the sacrifices experienced to learn her craft, and her passion for healing.

It is refreshing to speak with this group of educated, articulate women. All of us are or have been successful career women. Many of us are mothers. I enjoy this monthly meeting, sharing viewpoints, and I usually depart with more knowledge than when I arrived.

However, this particular evening was different. It went something like this:

Book Club Question: “Women’s rights have greatly expanded since Mary’s time, but do you believe that women are still limited by prejudice as to what they can or should do professionally? Do you believe men and women should have different roles or responsibilities within society? “

“What women in today’s world can compare to Mary Sutter?”

Silently we sat, sipping water (some of us drank wine), looking at each other as we searched our brains for an answer.

“Of course, we shouldn’t have different roles,” firmly stated the woman seated at my left. “Indira Gandhi. Gawd that was one ugly lady” another stated.

Cringe: The first and only female Prime Minister of India and that’s all that can be said. But while I know she overcame many obstacles and eventually died for them, I could not recall any of her accomplishments.

“Mother Theresa” the sweetest woman in the club said. We all folded our hands and nodded in agreement.

Lastly, and the point of this article, one of us asked: “What about Hillary Clinton.”

“Have you seen her lately? She looks tired,” blurted the woman on the right end of the table.

“Uglier than Indira?” (I kept that remark to myself.)

“She is the most traveled political figure. She recently had a health scare….”

“She looks old and tired. She should really do something,” wink, wink.

Here, where least expected, women were evaluating a strong female political figure on her looks. If Hillary is going to be judged, let it not be on her age, looks, and wrinkles; and let us not forget her hairstyle. It must be on her experience, achievements, ethics and tenacity; the same yardstick we use to measure her male counterparts. “Negative stereotypes are devices for saving a biased person the trouble of learning.”

Disturbed by my silence and inaction, I immediately set upon researching everything Hillary. This was not only about Hillary; it was about stereotyping a woman who has earned the right to be remembered for more than her looks.

Hillary has been involved in politics as early as 1964 when she campaigned for Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater. She was inspired to become more involved with public service after hearing a speech by Rev Martin Luther King. She became a democrat in 1968. From that time on she has worked on committees with then Senator Walter Mondale; campaigned for George McGovern. She was a member of an impeachment inquiry during the Watergate Scandal. She has relentlessly pursued human rights, women’s rights, health care reform. This “It Takes a Village” author is a passionate children’s advocate.

My panties get twisted when I hear she is too old. Ten men were in their 60s when they were President of United States. Vice President, Joe Biden, is 70. World leaders such as the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh and Raul Castro, President of Cuba are in their 70s. Again, disagree with their politics if you please, but discrediting them because of age is discrimination.

Along with age comes experience. Hillary is the only political figure that can claim she was First Lady (1993-2001), US Senator (New York 2001-2009), Secretary of State (2009-2013).

Impressive resume, don’t you think?

She is not without controversy. Name any government figure with 45 years experience that is not. It cost $60 million to investigate Whitewater. Riddled with conflicted information and intense media coverage, Ken Starr and his counsel could not find sufficient evidence linking the Clintons with criminal intent, therefore, they escaped formal charges. The year was 1998 and the name Lewinsky changed politics and cigars forever. I do not condone affairs, but what presidents and their families have paid this high price for having affairs while in office? Unfortunately, we all know at least one woman whose husband has had an affair. However, I cannot name one that has been so criticized for “standing by her man”. Eleanor Roosevelt and Jackie Kennedy come to mind. Like our heroine and protagonist, Mary Sutter, Hillary has dared to breach the political barrier and shatter the glass ceiling.

Listening, while eating my dinner, could be perceived as acceptance. I firmly believe negative stereotyping such as this was is ignorant and damaging. Like the N word, which is the apex of hatred and ignorance, these words are not acceptable.

So what do I do now? I take my pen in hand to spread the word and make a personal vow not to be so passive in the future. I (we) don’t need to get on a pedestal with fire and brimstone. Neither, do I (we) need to accept this injurious banter.

Data from bio.true story, “Hillary’s Choice” by Gail Sheehy, Wikipedia

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NOW I UNDERSTAND

lushI am thinking of taking a part of this essay and adding to a short story I am writing. Please leave your constructive criticisms and advise. It would be greatly appreciated and will be paid forward.

Sada glances at the blank page on her lap. Pen to paper she is thinking about the story she has to write for the next day’s assignment. 

Her mind empty as the document that lay before her, she quickly looks at the baseball game on TV.  Score is 0 to 1; third inning; San Francisco Giants against Colorado Rockies.  Favor Giants, Aaron Rowand up, no one on base. What is up with Brian Wilson and that beard? The hum of the clothes dryer can be heard in the background.

“What do I have to say” she thinks with opened eyes and wrinkled forehead as she sits in the overstuffed chair, wrapped in a blanket hoping for the epiphany to arrive.  She notices the shadow of her pen in hand as it skates across the lined tablet.  Written words make little sense but could be the birth of a new person or split personality. She rereads the assigned chapter “Juggling” for inspiration.  Jerome Stern, the author advises “use actions you can describe authoritatively”.  She outlines a list of her specialties.  Long career in stocks and bonds; motherhood; spouse; divorce; fencing; racket ball, now golf and other usual life experiences. Oh, the disappointment this essay is not flowing with words and ideas, vivid descriptions, detailed and deep expressions that all would enjoy reading.  Pamela Houston, a recent speaker in the class, emphasized writing is not easy, it is incredibly hard.  Sada smiles at that thought because Pam is a talented, experienced awarded writer, and she has the same issues.  What would Amy Tan do?

“Buster Posey up at bat, bottom of fourth, no one on base” screeches the TV announcer.

Frustration increases, distress increases.  Her stomach muscles tighten.  Her throat becomes parched.  She is on the third bowl of stoned ground white tortilla chips.  She pauses for the right theme to race from her brain to her hand and onto that lined tablet.   Every topic that comes to mind simply does not make sense and is not good enough.  The sound of the clock ticks a second, a minute, an hour has passed. Sada closes her eyes, holds her head in her hands and tries to visualize the story. 

She sees a scared little girl sitting in the second seat, third row in the large Catholic city school classroom.  The black board walls and tin lockers surround the 60 little girls dressed in the same navy blue plaid jumpers over white blouses with puffy sleeves.  The eight year old students stare at a large crucifix that hangs on the wall they face daily.  There is a man’s figure suspended on a cross.  He is scantily dressed with blood on his body and thorns crowning his head.  There are nails in his hands and feet supporting him on the cross.  All the eyes are down and hands folded neatly on their desks.  Sister Mary Margaret, dressed in the Sister of Charity habit, stands before the class.  Her fingers fondle one of the large rosary beads wrapped around her waist.  The nun’s eyes scan the classroom back and forth looking for the unfortunate child to answer the question.  Please, dear God, don’t let it be me.  No matter what answer I give, it simply won’t be good enough.

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