Invest in Toothpaste

January 24, 2017

“Sometimes, when I’m in the midst of all this, I can hear my mother saying, ‘Democracy is just something you must do every day, like brushing your teeth.’

— Gloria Steinem, from My Life on the Road

I listened to Steinem’s memoir on Audible in the weeks after the election. This book truly was a balm to me, and I recommend it to anyone who found the marches on Saturday energizing. We can all learn a lot from Gloria Steinem.

Hermione and I have so much in common.

I’ve always been a fan, but she tells her story with such unpretentious candor you have to remind yourself just how bold and unconventional she was. She’s so open-minded, open-hearted, courageous, tenacious, and quiet. She must have been quiet all those years, because she was clearly listening carefully to everyone around her. The wisdom of her friends and her experiences spill onto these pages for all of us to lap up and take with us. By the time I was done with it, she felt like one of my super-intelligent aunts.

At points, Steinem might digress into minutiae about organizing the flight attendants, or maybe go too granular on the first nations (although I found that stuff fascinating), but overall I think this book is magnificent. The later chapters in particular, about political organizing, were astounding to me. With an almost parable-like structure, she uses the appointment of Clarence Thomas to clearly show how every single solitary vote counts.

Her observations about the response of other women to Hillary’s 2008 campaign could have easily been 2016. Her views on the importance of true change starting in someone’s living room is being played out right now as we soccer moms are morphing into activists.

I Hope the Future is Female

The marches were all peaceful and orderly. Gee, I wonder why? One friend said her bus driver said he’d never in all his years of driving a bus had a group all arrive back to the bus on time. Moms! Another friend saw the Bikers for Trump try to disrupt things midway through the march on Saturday, revving their engines into the crowd. The crowd responded by …. singing. Moms! Of course they didn’t engage — we are the ones who teach kindness to everybody else. Our sons and daughters were watching.

This election proved that women are not monolithic. A majority of white women voted for Trump — a staggering fact that so shows the patriarchy is alive and well. These women clearly don’t buy into any notion of sisterhood, and might not be feminists. Hell, some of the people who marched on Saturday might not have voted for Hillary.

Who cares, now? Really? Let’s make Trump’s election and his disturbing first few days in office our catalyst for a new sensibility.

Considering the actual popular vote, we don’t need to convince anyone to rethink the choice they made about Trump v. Clinton. We just need to all show up and vote. We lost that test on November 8. Let’s not lose it again. It’s time to brush our teeth.

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