Terrance and I - like many Americans (I hope!) had a heated discussion regarding the primary elections.
As we have both lived in New Hampshire for several election cycles, we are intimately familiar with the primary process. We have gone to private house meetings for chats with candidates. We have attended rallies and speeches. We giggle to see people we know extremely well show up on CNN for sound bites about the New Hampshire primary.
I am registered as a Democrat. Terrance? One of those New Hampshire "Independents" that you hear so much about. Truth is, I don't think he could register as a socialist so he chose the next best thing.
While I have been a life long, faithful Democrat, that doesn't mean I always support the presumptive nominee. I voted for Howard Dean in the last primary - and Bill Bradley before that. Neither got the party nomination, but I voted my conscious.
We are both excited to watch this primary. Regardless of whether you support one candidate or another, it seems for the first time in a long time that we have got several well qualified people from which to choose. Bill Richardson? Love him. Kucinich? Really love him. Barack? Like him well enough, and Hillary.
Hillary is where Terrance and I had the bulk of our discussion.
Terrance wondered if the "likeability" factor that has been discussed so frequently is truly a factor, or if this is simply a veiled way of saying something else. Of course, we both worry that white American won't bring themselves to truly vote for a black man...and if they do, they will feel that it wipes the slate of long standing racial inequities clean. As in "Hey, look - I voted for a black guy - See! No racism here!"
The thing that we diverged on was the expectation of women. I contend that Hillary is being held to a vastly different standard because she is a woman. I contend that I understand her tenuous position because I have walked that path, albeit in a less high profile way.
Woman, you see, should both be warm and nurturing - and a hard decision maker.
Women should be friendly, but not too friendly.
Women should be smart - but not intimidatingly smart.
Women should be ambitious - but not so much as a man.
Women should be mothers - but they shouldn't be missing work for reasons around their kids.
My husband looked at me and said "Really? You really think so?"
Good Lord. Has he lived with me at all for the past 17 years? Has he not seen me struggle with the opposing roles that I try to play to the extreme cost of my inner self?
And the answer? Of course he has. He has seen it all. The difference is the lens that he brings to thinking about the issue. He objectifies some of my experiences as a result of my "personality" or "competence". Which, perhaps in some way, they may be related - but not entirely.
There is a much deeper issue. One that the new feminists need to find a way to talk about more completely, with the nuance of life experiences. In one of my last classes of 80 students, only two stood up when asked who identified themselves as a feminist. Two young women at university!
Hillary has the qualifications to be president. She has the experience. She has the intelligence and the energy.
But she won't be president. Americans are more comfortable talking about how NOT racist they are rather than dually address the issue of the unfair double standard to which most professional women are held. Amazingly, they are more comfortable grabbing the third rail of racism than to have a true discussion about the role and value of women in American society.
Barack Obama may be black, but he's still a man.