(WOMENSENEWS)—The Democratic National Convention this week has presented such a blur of female speakers and entertainers, proclaiming so many views and telling so many stories on such a range of issues, that at times I have enjoyed the luxury of glazing over and getting just a little bored.
This, after all, was not Geraldine Ferraro becoming the party’s first female vice presidential candidate in 1984. Nor was it Barbara Jordan delivering the convention’s keynote address in 1976, the first for an African American woman.
In 2016, with a woman at the top of the ticket, we don’t blink and risk missing the big female moment. Instead we are witnessing a projection of normalcy, with one woman in Philadelphia following another, facing the national television audience and stating their case.
This sudden display of female force has been almost overwhelming at times, producing the overstuffed and stupefied feeling of too much tryptophan after the turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.
Perhaps now, I am thinking, we will all take a nap and like Dorothy, wake up in the Technicolor land of Oz, unable to even fathom our long time in black and white.
But beyond media stagecraft, what will all of this mean?
The sheer display of our large, actual numbers, I think, can only help dismantle the narrow sets of options that surround women, such as “leaning in” or “opting out.” Because in the real world, of course, a woman can both leave her paid employment and still keep “leaning in” to whatever else she is trying to do with her life.
No actual woman lives within such strict notions, but these binaries can eclipse people who are not in charge of their own narratives. By contrast, big, out-loud statements of our own diversity clear the path to complexity and authenticity, to which everyone should be entitled.
Time to Move On
Women’s eNews has been publishing stories about gender stereotypes and restricted media imagery for many years and I will be happy to see us move on from the need for them.
Our correspondents have dutifully quoted scholars on the harmful effects of gender stereotyping and the omission of a diverse array of women from the big national scripts; movies, reportage, curricula, debates, TV.
For women over a certain age, this really wasn’t necessary. We knew it from our childhoods on the periphery of the culture, looking in.
Watching all those male Westerns as a kid, for instance, I found boring except when an actress sashayed her way onto the screen. (There she is!) All those men seemed really alien to me, so I tuned out.
American history in my grade school years, by the same token, offered women only a few cameo appearances by Betsy Ross and Harriet Tubman. Otherwise, though, it was about men. And that sent little girls the message that history neither included us nor belonged to us.
By contrast this convention in Philadelphia is not only loaded with women, the nominee herself directed an empowering message to little girls via satellite.
That means we can stop straining our eyes for images that might reflect our own potential and possibility.
As more women take over, we can yawn, relax, stretch and survey the banquet of options.
There have been numerous heroines at the Democrats’ gathering in Philadelphia. Just think of those “Mothers of the Movement” who spoke Tuesday night, black mothers whose children have been slain, mainly by police, who mastered their grief enough to call for gun control in the names of their lost children.
But the role modeling has been diverse, showing women as just about everything: surrogates, singers, survivors, jokers, politicians, pundits, power brokers and poets (in this case I am thinking of Sen. Cory Booker’s moving quotation of Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”).
The diversity has brought us women in the role of bad actors too. (We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, deposed head of the Democratic National Committee, has wound up in the role of villain for breaking the party’s obligation to support all its candidates equally.
But when Schultz fell from grace, there were so many women on hand that another one took her place.
Donna Brazile swiftly stepped in as interim chair of the committee and began making outreach calls to the aggrieved supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, calming the crowds and performing intense damage control. Miraculously, by Tuesday night, she dance-stepped her way onstage, gave a stirring speech, and looked fresh as a daisy.
Hillary Clinton, the party’s presidential nominee, is at the center of all this. Like any formidable figure, she projects an array of qualities, discernible from various points of view. Depending on how people hold her up to their own lights they see very different things.
And that is the big-picture point. When we enlarge the cast of women we also expand the canvas upon which we, as women and girls, see each other and ourselves. Each one of us gains the space, as a result, to be seen and understood in greater detail. Each one of us, after all, is something of a riddle.