I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Tag: Ms. Magazine

Sacred Privilege

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Sacred Duty

This is me. At around 7:45 on the morning of November 8th. Exhilarated! I was so thrilled to have voted for Hillary Clinton, the woman I was so sure was going to be President that I insisted on documenting the historic event with a photo. I am wearing my most patriotic Clinton-esque red pantsuit jacket.

Quaint, eh? About as quaint as the Clinton-Kaine pin my daughter gave me to commemorate the occasion. I carry it around as a talisman, but I worry that it’s just a kitschy souvenir.

My hand is on my heart – pledging allegiance – and showing off the ring I am wearing. My mother’s ring. She was with me that day.

It is from my mother that I got my political grounding.

My mother was a Democrat. On Election Day, she would take me with her into the voting booth and show me how it worked. I felt very grown up, very excited, and very proud. It was a sacred privilege, voting.

My mother was the first feminist I knew. She was a charter subscriber to Ms. Magazine. Literally. She got every issue of the magazine as long as it existed. It’s one of many many magazines that I grew up with in a household where words mattered. No wonder I made a career in magazines.

My mother believed that women were equal to men (actually, I think she believed that women were better than men) and that I could be anything. ANYTHING! She encouraged me to go to Bryn Mawr College so that I would be with other intelligent and serious women who wanted to make a difference. We women wanted to matter. I wanted to matter. To make a difference. To contribute something important to the world.

Sometimes I feel like Hillary must feel. Hard-working, over-prepared, focused on the details, only to be bested by some guy who shoots from the hip. Haven’t we women all been there? When will it stop?

This election was the first election my mother was not alive and did not vote. It seemed fitting that it was the first election in which my daughter could and did vote. Continuing the democratic lineage. Excited and proud.

It is a sacred privilege, voting. Have we forgotten how fortunate we are to live in a democracy? Did we take voting for granted? Our vote does matter, doesn’t it?

Doesn’t it?

The shock that such a selfish and cavalier man could beat such an experienced and intelligent woman has left me with no words.

In the five weeks since, I have reflected on how I want to handle this mind-boggling reality. I alternate between outrage, fear, disbelief, and attempts at patience and optimism. A Democrat, like my mom, I tend to be pragmatic and centrist, always a diplomat, never particularly active. Careful to try to understand both sides and all points of view. Too conflict avoidant to be provocative.

When I am optimistic, I wonder if the outcome of this election is just what we needed to shake us all up. To create a constructive political movement that will lead to positive change.

The week of the election, the Dalai Lama appeared in my dream. He counseled me to distinguish between being concerned and being caring. It’s all about caring, he told me.

Wise words, don’t you think? Being concerned is intellectual and kind of negative and judgmental. Being caring is active and personal and hands on. Caring is positive. I think of that every day. How can I be positive, constructive and caring in an impactful way? What kind of example do I want to set for my children? What political legacy will I leave them?

For now, I have decided to choose and focus on a few issues that are meaningful to me and that honor my mother and her political legacy to me.

  • Women’s Rights. Particularly reproductive freedom. I am Pro Choice.
  • Freedom of the Press. I never thought I would feel the need to fight for the First Amendment.
  • The Environment. After all, if we destroy our world, then it doesn’t really matter who is President, does it?

I don’t quite know all the ways I will act to support these issues. I am not used to feeling that it is imperative that I act. I do know that I will keep caring, peace, and kindness top of mind – like the Dalai Lama.

And, I will not take our democracy for granted. Believing in democracy is not quaint. Voting is a sacred privilege. It is our sacred duty to protect our democracy, our right to vote.

Win Hillary Win!

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I Endorse Hillary Clinton for President

For me there is no other candidate. Win Hillary Win! My support comes from a deep-seated, intuitive place. I don’t have a bunch of statistics at my fingertips. I don’t know every bullet point on her platform. I’m educated and I read the news, but I’m not particularly political and I shy away from arguments, conflict avoidant, not trusting my knowledge of the issues to be better than my opponent’s. I usually rely on: “Because it’s the right thing to do!” Which doesn’t get me very far with someone who is more versed in the nuances…or more skilled at arguing. And with someone who is very persuasive, I can find myself seeing their point of view and shortchanging my point of view.

It’s easy to wave the flag for Hillary with other women I know who support her.  But it’s more difficult to champion someone or something with an adversarial audience.  I tend to not speak or hide what I think.  So, at the risk of alienating my more progressive friends and readers and at the risk of alienating my more conservative friends and readers, it’s time I come out clear and strong, no hiding what I think: I support Hillary and can’t wait to vote for her.

They say women like me are part of Hillary’s core support: white and middle-aged. And it is said in a disparaging way. You know, like soccer moms. Yes. That’s me. White and middle-aged, and I’m still driving a mini-van. I support her. I’m right on trend. Right smack in the middle of my demographic. No apologies.

They say we support her because in our lifetime we’ve seen how hard women have had to struggle to make the gains we’ve made. Indeed. In my industry (the dying magazine industry), I see brilliant, hard-working women run magazines, brilliantly, at companies run by men. It’s discouraging.

They say younger women don’t consider themselves feminists. That the feminism of my day is an unnecessary and old cause. Hmmm. Let them work for a decade and get back to me. I am a feminist.

My mother was the first feminist I knew. She was a charter subscriber to Ms. Magazine in 1972, when I was 10. She encouraged me to be proud of being a woman and to think I was capable of doing anything I wanted. I dreamt of being President and couldn’t wait for a time when a woman was considered equal to or better than a man at being our Commander-in-Chief. I’m still dreaming and waiting, not convinced that time has come yet.

I plan to vote for Hillary. Because she is a woman. Apparently, it is anathema to support a woman just because she’s a woman. It discounts her credentials as an outstanding candidate. It’s the height of sexism. Nonsense. One reason I support Hillary is because she is a woman. She’s had to be more organized and better prepared and more experienced. She’s had to deal with the sexism, the barbs, the challenges, the defeats. She’s a mother and a wife. How can it not matter that she is woman?

She fights for issues I care about: women and children, reproductive rights, education, gun-control. She is the most experienced candidate at representing the United States internationally and nurturing international alliances. She is, dare I say it, pragmatic.  She will do a good job. She will bring a sense of mission to her role and, dare I say it, be a great President.

Oh, and her hair is looking good! Damn! You got this Hillary!

Photo Credit:  Doug Miller/The New York Times

Making Peace With Barbie

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Unapologetic

Barbie is polarizing.  In case you’re not aware of the current debate, Mattel is paying Sports Illustrated to be part of the magazine’s 50th Anniversary “Legends” issue, on sale today, by featuring 55-year-old Barbie in a promotional campaign named, “Unapologetic.”  Get it?  Both brands have banded together in an aggressively defensive posture, proudly asserting that their objectification of women has been good for women – that the famous SI Swimsuit cover models are now legends and successful businesswomen, just as Barbie has provided amazing leadership roles models for girls.  Hmmph.

I was not allowed to play with Barbie.  My mother, an early feminist and charter subscriber to Ms. Magazine, scoffed at Barbie.  Blonde, with a ridiculously unrealistic figure, she was deemed a too-sexy airhead and not a good role model for a serious, smart, ambitious brunette.  She arguably spawned a whole generation of dumb blonde party girl jokes, some clean and some not-so-clean, but all presenting blondes as superficial, like:

Blonde Barbie 1, standing across the street from Neiman-Marcus couldn’t figure out how to get across the street to go shopping.  She spies another blonde Barbie coming out of the store.

Blonde Barbie 1:  “Yoo-hoo!  Hi! How do I get to the other side of the street?”

Blonde Barbie 2:  “You ARE on the other side of the street!”

Ha, Ha.  Makes me laugh every time.

While my mother’s judgment and scorn of Barbie seeped into my thinking, one of my favorite memories was playing with Barbie at a neighbor’s house.  There were a lot of kids in the family, a lot of built in playmates, and the girls had multiple Barbies and all the accessories:  a lot of cheap, pink, plastic stuff which I coveted.  Or maybe it was the built in playmates I coveted.  Even though Mattel dutifully introduced lots of alternative dolls who were not blonde, we all wanted to be the main event, the popular center of attention, the blonde Barbie who got Ken.  At least that’s what I remember wanting and squabbling over:  to be the popular girl who gets the boy.

So when my daughter was a little girl and wanted Barbie dolls, I paused.  The judgmental voice was still inside me.  Barbie!  What a misogynistic toy.  No way!  But there was another voice inside me.  I don’t want my daughter to feel embarrassed or ashamed for wanting to fit in with other girls, the way I felt ashamed.  Barbie is, at least potentially, a strong woman and embodies the imagination and the dreams of the girl who is playing with her.  Barbie is a way for a girl to imagine being a woman.  What do girls want to be?  Well, aside from princesses who rule, they want to be women, like their moms and the other grown women they see.  What better way to play out the kind of women they want to be than through play-acting scenarios with dolls and other girls?  The best part of playing with Barbie was styling her hair and changing her outfits.  Because what better way to play out the kind of woman you want to be than by trying on different outfits, different personas?  It’s how we learn, imagine, and grow.  And Ken?  Well, he’s a sexless accessory – very safe for a young girl.  You know there’s going to be men in your life, but you don’t quite know what their role will be.  It’s all about you and your Barbie avatar, represented by your hair and clothing and overall style.  Like the prom, it’s about the girl and her dress not the guy.  He comes later, or should come later, after she figures out more about who she is and who she wants to be.

Still, when we tackled a construction project on our house which required my daughter to move out of her room, I was not sorry to pack up a variety of partially clothed Barbies with tangled hairstyles into a bin and stick it in the attic.  When the construction project was over and she got her own room, she was not interested in her naked Barbies any more.  Or maybe she was, but I was happy to encourage her to forget about them and leave them languishing in the attic.  Several years later, she begged me for a baby doll, a real baby doll that drank a bottle, wet her diaper, and cried.  I was stunned.  Who is this girly girl of mine?  I tried to honor who she is and searched for the perfect baby doll.  But it was too late.  It was not the perfect baby doll she envisioned, she was now a teenager, and my judgmental voice had been too dominant. 

Around this time, my daughter and I watched Legally Blonde, the romantic comedy where blonde California girl Elle Woods shows up her superficial boyfriend and his more seemingly appropriate fiancé, the elite prep school East Coast brunette, Vivian, by using her life experience and her knowledge and intuition for a big courtroom win.  Blondes Have More Fun; They Have More Friends; And They Are Smart and Win!  I loved the movie.  Maybe you can be fun-loving and smart?  It softened my judgmental voice.

When I heard about the marketing campaign for Barbie within the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, the judgmental voice kicked in, aghast.  And then I realized that it’s not Barbie I object to.  I’ve made my peace with Barbie.  In fact, I admire Barbie.  She is adorable and accomplished and has created many hours of imaginary play for girls everywhere who deserve more credit for knowing that success is not just about unrealistic physical measurements and a come hither stance.  What I object to is that Mattel thinks that Barbie needs to pose for the SI Swimsuit issue, a magazine for men not for young girls, in order to gain publicity for the doll and presumably to sell more dolls.  Are these men going to buy Barbie dolls?  Barbie the lawyer, doctor, astronaut, teacher, corporate executive, artist, politician doesn’t need to model in a sex-lite magazine for men.  She is better than that.  Hey, what I’d really like to see is 55-year-old Barbie embarking on her meaningful midlife encore career while on her meaningful midlife spiritual journey for enlightenment, discovering that loving others is more fun than desperately seeking love from others.  I guess that wouldn’t sell very well.

Image shows the cover-wrap of Sports Illustrated magazine’s 50th anniversary annual swimsuit issue. (AP Photo/Sports Illustrated)

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