Two years ago, my husband bought our daughter a T-shirt depicting a female president. It was much too large at the time, but as luck (fate?) would have it, the shirt fit her perfectly on the day Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.
To say I was ecstatic about the nomination is an understatement. We are witnessing history—feminist history—in the making. If Hillary ends up in the Oval Office this November, she will be America’s first female president. But equally important, she will be our first openly and unapologetically feminist president.
A Hillary Clinton presidency couldn’t come at a better time for women and families. As reproductive rights, LGBT rights, affirmative action and immigration reform continue to face attacks on the streets and in our courts, we need a leader who will stand strong for equality and help ensure that democracy works for everyone, not just the elite.
To this end, I took my children to vote with me in my state’s primary election. Because so much of parenting is leading and teaching by example, I’ve always hauled my kids with me to vote on election days. I want them to learn from the outset that voting should never be taken for granted, because women, people of color, and other disenfranchised individuals fought—and even died—for this right. And for many, this fight continues today.
Inside the voting booth, I tried to explain to my daughter what a “vote” is, why it’s critical that every eligible person vote, and why I was casting my ballot for Hillary. She’s been parroting me for months, chanting “I’m with her,” but I wanted her to truly understand the significance of the moment. It is a moment I never thought I would live to see, let alone share with my daughter.
She nodded as she listened to me drone on about “picking America’s new line leader” (I had to use terms a preschooler relates to!) and how important it is that the new leader could be a girl, like me and her. To be clear, it’s not that I merely want a woman president; I want a feminist woman president, someone who will prioritize, protect, and promote women’s rights. (If there’s one thing Sarah Palin has taught us, it’s that feminist and female can, in fact, be mutually exclusive). But as far as my three-year-old is concerned, being a girl is good enough.
I knew my mini-lecture had left an impression on her when, on the ride home, she said, “if a girl can be America’s line leader, then I can be too, when I’m a grown up!” I was floored—and more convinced than ever of the power of representation. You really can’t make this stuff up.
The fact is, I can talk to my daughter for hours about her future possibilities, but seeing is believing. She suddenly has a blueprint, a vision of what can be. And boys will benefit, too; seeing women in positions of power will teach them that their sisters, mothers, aunts, and friends are capable of great things, too.
My kids are still too young to grasp the full weight of this moment in history. But in some ways, the timing couldn’t be better. For them, diversity won’t be revolutionary; it will be the norm.
We’re making progress, albeit slowly, on this front. As of January 2015, a record number of women, African-Americans, and Hispanics are serving in the 114th Congress. And thanks to president Obama—a history maker himself—our Supreme Court, and his Cabinet, is more diverse than ever before. We’re no Canada, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get there.
If Hillary Clinton wins the 2016 general election, my children’s first presidents will be an African-American community organizer and a woman. That’s the America I want them to see and believe in; a place where no matter your skin color or gender—or sexuality or physical ability, for that matter—you can achieve success. In a perfect world, they’ll know nothing different.