So, it’s a historic moment in this country. The first woman to be nominated for President. Well, at least the first one in a political party anyone can take seriously. The first one with a real chance of becoming probably the most powerful person on the planet. Pretty heady stuff, historic even, as the Wall Street Journal acknowledges in its headline.
But, but. As a woman who pays attention to power and how it plays out, I see something here. Do you see something here too? Pay attention. Who’s photo is on the front page of the WSJ? On this amazing historic day? Is it the woman who won or the man who lost? But wait, there’s more. Check out the second headline, “Sanders Puts Rival Over Top in Landmark Moment.” Ah, I get it, we’re in the WSJ’s world, where the woman nominated for power got there thanks to the man who is really in charge.
Ladies and Gentlemen, once again a picture is worth a thousand words, but I will give you the thousand words anyway. This election is providing us with a microcosm of our world. Earlier this week thanks to the Republican convention it was racism at its most discouraging. Now let me introduce you to one of the ongoing battles half of the world faces, in case you haven’t noticed, the casual dismissal of half the world.
Are you maybe going to suggest that I am overreacting to this photo? After all, it is only one newspaper. The Wall Street Journal, to be sure, but still. Well, allow me to share another couple of examples with you. The Washington Post does include her first name, a distinct improvement. The Chicago Tribune doesn’t even do that. However the photos in both show her husband, because historically when a Presidential nominee is announced, the paper has a photo of the first lady, right?
I think it’s about time for another one of my little stories. Years ago, more years than I care to count, I was a reporter for a public radio station in Toledo Ohio. And one of my favorite interviews was with Gloria Steinem – yes, that one. It was the first time I’d heard her speak, and she said some extremely interesting things, things no one had ever explained to my 20 + self before. She actually explained why men held so tightly to their power.
You see, it’s actually about biology and property – a weird combination, I know, but think about it. Women always know that a child is theirs. No question. Simple. And before men made the connection between sex and children, they didn’t care what women did. It had nothing to do with them. But once they realized that a child could be their child, or not, it made a difference. They were willing to invest their time and energy, and leave their property, to their biological child, but not to another man’s. So in order to control where their property went… they had to control the mothers.
It’s the ultimate selfish act. Women’s bodies became an ownership issue. This is the underlying reason why the Republicans are so horrified by organizations such as Planned Parenthood. They actually don’t believe we own our own bodies. Amazing, but there it is. It goes back to prehistoric days, but then they sort of do too…
So, you say, what does this have to do with these newspapers? After all, we’re talking about a post-menopausal woman, a grandmother, former senator, former secretary of state. The last thing we’re really interested in here is her womb. But here’s the point. Once you hand a group power they are loathe to hand it back. And women made a deal with men lo those many years ago. We said, “OK, we will give you power over our bodies and any property we have if in exchange you will protect and support us and our children.” And in some cases that was a fair exchange, but in so many cases it really was a deal with the devil. But we’re not here to debate that today.
And the world has changed. Women can protect and support themselves. Women have been slowly taking that power back. From library cards and reading books to getting degrees from some of the best universities in the world to getting the vote – 100 years ago this year in the United States, by the way – to slowly getting closer to parity in wages. But for some men it’s not easy to let go of power. And whoever made the editorial decisions on these papers… and I can almost guarantee it was an older white man – just couldn’t do it.
Those editors didn’t have the… it wasn’t courage. Courage was the suffragettes who fought to get us the vote in the first place. Courage is Hillary Clinton who sat through a grueling abusive battle in the Senate to defend her behavior with Bengazi and came out clean and still is willing to face her detractors and run for President.
Those editors didn’t have the… it’s not grace, because grace implies that they are deigning to grant Hillary something, and that woman has earned the right to have her photo on the front page of their papers yesterday. It was a historic moment and they chose to put a loser and a husband there instead in a significantly graceless move, but putting Hillary on the cover wouldn’t have been about grace.
Grace was the amazing speech President Obama gave last night when he stated in no uncertain terms that no one is or has ever been more qualified to hold the highest office in the land than Hillary Clinton.
Those tired, scared old white men, holding with both hands to the last vestiges of their power, chose to put men on their newspaper covers instead of the woman who earned that position with over forty years of hard work, fighting and struggling to get there, because they didn’t have the balls to do it. And that’s just pitiful.