Politically speaking, you could say the last two weeks for our country have been a bit of a circus, a bona fide Barnum and Bailey production. Luckily for me, the back-to-back RNC and DNC came at just right the time as I spent a week and a half driving from Alabama to Ohio and then all across the state. While I didn’t get to watch much of it live, the XM Radio play-by-play was enough to keep me awake and going without having to down obscene amounts of coffee.
There was the regular rhetoric laced stories of inspiration from both sides, which probably did wonders for the idealists in the crowd. As a black and white realist, I was unimpressed by messages of hope, change, forward, backward, sideward, afterward, and any other “ward” direction an over-ambitious speechwriter can dream up. *Yawn* In a word, I was bored.
When the confetti settled on the conventions, and I finally had a moment to mentally process the messages delivered, I had a winning moment–not for democrats or for republicans, or any side of the political barbwire fence. As I listened to the playbacks of all the speeches and read the bios of the keynotes, there was a winning moment; both in Charlotte and in Tampa: for women. Women, as one cohesive group, were a recurring theme and presence at both podiums. Even in mainstream media chatter, there was the constant question of how important are women, what role do they play in the election, what role will they play in the White House?
Awesome, right? Yea, I thought so. But as it typically plays out, the media, political professionals, and women themselves started throwing stones at arguably the two most powerful women in America today, First Lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney, her political opponent. We stopped discussing what sets them apart politically and critiqued their clothes, their hair, the cost of their clothes and shoes, their makeup, and then we stood back and decided to judge their life paths.
The first debate I heard was all about how Ann Romney can’t possibly level with the American people because she was a stay-at-home-mom who never did a thing in her life. I assume because she stayed home and raised five boys, women think she is incapable of understanding what “real women” go through.
Second, another side argued that Michelle Obama was an absent parent because she worked full-time.
Now, this isn’t a commentary on whether you should vote Republican or Democrat, because I know where I stand and I don’t necessarily have to put my political platform on parade. It is, however, a discussion about what we see as important for women in our country and how we’ve let our expectations of women sort of spiral out of control. Do we want a perfect June Cleaver mother figure or do we want the jet-setting career woman? Or a combination of both? Well, as American women, I’d say we are a little bit fickle about our answer.
I feel like I’ve sort of sat in the Ann Romney and Michelle Obama chair lately. Certainly not on their levels, but I can respect both lifestyle choices. I worked crazy hours, I chased a career, I still do. And I know first hand the sacrifices I asked of my family and my extended family. Now, in my little career rut, I am at home with my 3-year pistol everyday trying to juggle my dreams and make sure she can chase hers all at the same time. There are days I’d suit up in an office just to get away. There are days I see something from her I would’ve probably missed had I been elsewhere and I remember that I am right where I need to be when I need to be there. It all comes back around to the Marissa Mayer argument about what exactly do we think women should be doing with their lives.
As women, we have the propensity to sympathize, empathize, and understand things on many different levels; we are beautiful creatures in ways, I would argue, men are not capable of.
If we want to continue to get ahead in this world, women have to manage their expectations of each other. Otherwise, we may always see a First Lady and never a Commander-in-Chief.
Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/newshour/7947621758/