Let’s let go of gendered notions of strength ~ now!

President* Trump,

So I know that I’m probably supposed to want to focus on the wonderful, powerful parade of women last night during night 3 of the Democratic convention, from the domestic violence survivors who testified before Congress in 1990 ahead of the passage of the Violence Against Women Act to Harris herself throwing shade at you even as she shined a light on the path forward. There were some really great messages delivered by some really great women and I definitely relished eating them up, but quite unexpectedly (to me, anyway), it’s the material in what I thought was going to be a fluff piece about how Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff met that I want to highlight today (Lisa Bonos; https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/relationships/doug-emhoff-kamala-harris-husband/2020/08/18/a6c64db6-e15c-11ea-8181-606e603bb1c4_story.html). The article was in the Lifestyle section, for goodness sake.

The beginning of the article was sort of ho-hum; a sweet but not terribly out of the ordinary person-meets-person-and-they-hit-it-off story. In the article’s homestretch, though, when the story turns to the Democratic primary campaign trail and Chasten Buttigieg comes on the scene, it gets way more moving, at least to me. Buttigieg recalls how he and Emhoff bonded over being campaign husbands and he offers that Emhoff’s main job through the rest of the campaign and if (when!) Biden and Harris win will be to be Harris’s rock, to let her know that he’s got her no matter what.

It shouldn’t have caused a verklempt moment, just like seeing dads out alone with their young children shouldn’t be remarkable. Unfortunately, though, such counter-stereotypical displays of husbands supporting wives’ ambitions and dads stepping up in the care-taking department are still rare enough that they’re notable. Not to mention the truly revolutionary part about Pete Buttigieg and his husband (it may date me, but his husband!) 1) being on the campaign trail together, and 2) that this seemed to be no big deal in the WP piece – just another campaign husband….

Apropos to all of this (at least in my mind), Petula Dvorak made a similar point in her WP editorial earlier today when she said that Harris’s VP nomination really should be old news by now, that we should be way, way beyond such “firsts” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/another-night-of-women-making-history-when-it-should-be-old-news/2020/08/19/db48917e-e234-11ea-8181-606e603bb1c4_story.html).

I totally agree, but at least we’re finally having them.

Just after I finished reading the article about Harris and Emhoff, Laura read me a Tweet by a dad who said that ever since Elizabeth Warren withdrew from the Democratic primary race he tucks his three-year-old boy into bed and tells him to “dream big” and every night his son responds “and fight hard.”

Would it have been touching if it had been a mom with her daughter or a dad with his daughter who had posted this? Sure. Of course. It’s a beautiful little ritual no matter who’s participating in it. But there’s something extra-, extra-special and hopeful that there’s a dad and son out there who are keeping a strong woman’s political mantra going, who are keeping faith with her and the future like this.

I happen to be finishing this letter downtown in the cooperative art gallery where I have a monthly shift and in the middle of writing the paragraph above I paused for a sec and looked out the front windows just as a young man pushing a baby in a stroller walked by. It was definitely one of those ‘thank you universe’ moments.

May we all be safe to care for and support one another.
May we get to the point soon where it’s no biggie when men are solid caregivers and women are leaders.
May we keep pushing for a radical redo of our gendered notions of strength.
May we not accept incremental adjustments but instead blow it all open (because really, what do we have to lose at this point?).

Tracy Simpson

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