For Women

At the risk of losing my audience, I will confess that I do not particularly care for Daniel Tosh. Or more precisely, it’s the role he assumes as prankster-in-chief on Tosh.0 that I dislike. Perhaps I’m just too old. Perhaps I just don’t get the joke.

Whatev.

But on the stage, Tosh transforms from tall, lanky prankster to a thing of sly, sarcastic beauty. He is a master of stand-up, or as he calls it, the last pure profession. From plastic surgery to religion, abortion, or ugly girls at the bar, Tosh is entrancing as he skillfully masks his throw before skewering some hapless creature on the point of his barbed cultural observations.

Like the time he leads his congregants into savoring the proposition that should they be forced to resort to cannibalism, perhaps they would find that Mexicans are “spicy”. Or that Chinese are “not-quite-filling”. And of course, wait for it, blacks would taste like chicken. Smirking his way through the delivery, saying “all’s fair, all’s fair”, he promises that everyone will get a turn.

Then, in a moment of pure comedic malice, he gives his primarily white audience the side-eye and says, “White people.” “I’m sorry, you don’t eat white people. I don’t make the rules”.

Hilarious.

Still hilarious as he mocks the imaginary woman too weak to perform even the one pull-up required to lift her own body weight out of the path of marauding zombies and hide out in a cave eating bats with Tosh and Bear Grylls. Literally unable to save her own life.

As the crowd groans, he offers a seeming caution to anyone who may be unfamiliar with his style while delivering his actual punchline.

“I’ve got a gender-specific slant that I ride pretty hard. If I were a woman, I would be telling different jokes, only to a smaller crowd. Because let’s face it ladies, you don’t support your own.”

Boom.

— —

It takes a special kind of woman to be a Hillary Clinton.

To endure the derision both of men and your own sex. To be held accountable not only for Benghazi, but also for your husband’s infidelity. To be called a liar, over and over, like a rape victim. Although when pressed, no one is ever quite sure why or when.

To know that to stop smiling is to lose before the votes are even cast. Yet to keep smiling is to seem inauthentic. Fake, plastic, like a politician.

But I don’t believe for even a moment that I can convince you to feel sorry for Hillary Clinton. Or to imagine yourself in her skin. So let me offer you something different.

— —

Imagine if you will, that no one recognized the significance of Rosa Parks’ arrest.

Imagine, if Dr. King had had no black domestics or farmhands willing to boycott. Or perhaps, had only been able to enlist an army of only half of Montgomery’s black residents, while the other half continued riding the bus. Or that the sit-ins and marches and boycotts had been publicly opposed by fully one half, or even one third, the population of southern blacks.

Imagine the difference in history, if at this moment, blacks had been unable, or unwilling, to unite in their demand for justice.

Imagine that in 2008, blacks had turned out to vote. For anyone but Barack Obama.

Imagine, if after almost three hundred years of enduring various oppressions, almost half of American blacks had lent their support to #NeverBarack. If they had ignored years of rampant economic, educational and legal discrimination, and at this, their moment history, fully half of them had invoked the right to exercise their political will and voted thanks, but no thanks.

Imagine.

— —

American blacks supported Dr. King and voted overwhelmingly for President Obama because they understood via a shared history of struggle, persecution and overcoming that symbols matter. And that at the end of the day, you may have only one moment to bend the arc of history. And that this moment can be seized today or regretted in hindsight.

So to those women, young and old, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, whatever, who think that Hillary Clinton is flawed, or that perhaps, she is only the first of many, so you can afford to take a pass. You should ask yourself what it means when freed black men were granted the right to vote fifty years before white women. Women who by virtue of their birth had always been ‘free’.

You should ask what yourself what it means when in 2008, the Democrats nominated Barack Obama, an almost unknown, as their candidate, over Hillary Clinton. You should ask why Clinton is being abandoned by many of the white male voters of her party. The old ones to Trump, and the young ones to Bernie Sanders, and now perhaps, Gary Johnson.

You should ask yourself why a Bernie Sanders would run now, this year. At a time when the economy has actually improved and unemployment has declined significantly. For one to believe that after twenty-six years in the Senate, that this was all about revolution, and not the least bit about opportunity is to strain credulity. Senator Sanders, a political player every bit as canny as Trump, understood that America is still very ambivalent about women. Their place. Their role. Their purpose.

— —

Men did not champion giving women the right to vote. Nor did they lead the charge to ensure that we, or our daughters, would have access to education. Or that our daughters could play soccer. Or tennis. Or serve in the military. Or pursue any other aspiration besides motherhood.

Violence against women, did not decrease because men woke up suddenly feeling less entitled and more benevolent. No. It was us. We did it.

And today women in the West enjoy unprecedented legal, economic and reproductive freedoms. But these are not written on tablets of stone nor should we confuse shifts in legal precedent with some biological modification of the male identity.

In a time where women must re-litigate battles fought and won, it would not do to become complacent. Or to assume that issues which frame the very possibilities of a woman’s life, are nearly as important to the men in our lives.

In fact, I am weary with such self-delusion. We have not come so far in a country where one in five women will be sexually assaulted, many before the age of their majority. We have not come so far in a country where one in three women will suffer violence in her home. The idea that women in this country are in such a good place that we can and should ignore this opportunity is a fantasy.

Blacks could easily imagine the significance of a Barack Obama in the lives of their children and we as citizens could imagine his impact on America’s global stature as we sought to live our best ideals. Why does it seem to be so difficult to imagine the impact that the election of a Hillary Clinton would have on our lives and fortunes, and those of women around the world?

If we, the women of America, do not have the will when the opportunity is so close at hand, then what should we expect men to do for us?

Why should they fight for equal rights, equal pay, equal education, or equal access, if we ourselves will not fight?

— —

To all of the conservative women who claim surprise at the lack of fidelity displayed by the men of the Republican party.

Really?

What should you expect from a party that votes vociferously against equal pay? Votes against the expansion of family-focused policies, with the clear understanding that these are policies which would be of significant benefit to the women who have the primary responsibility for many of these thankless and unpaid tasks. What would you expect from a party which has not parted ways with the idea that women, although to be “championed and revered” still should occupy a certain ‘place’?

Women are too often and too easily convinced that there is nothing to see here. Nothing to find behind the curtain. So perhaps it’s true, and you were shocked.

But the facts are these, men benefit when they and their offspring become and remain the center of a woman’s focus and attention. Historically, women do not. Unless you consider eating and having a roof over one’s head to be the only benefit a woman should expect from said alliance. But I believe that to be a very low bar.

Think about this before you vote for Trump, a man who has done nothing more this election season than to take advantage of the conventional male antipathy toward having any woman out of her place.

That’s what his foul comments signify. They were not a mistake, nor is the Republican party’s continued support for this nominee.

— —

To younger women, I say this. And I say it at great risk of being accused of smug condescension.

You do not yet know how tough your life will be. There are things that you will understand at my age, forty-one, that frankly, you simply cannot at eighteen. Or twenty-five. Or maybe even thirty.

You do not yet understand, what it will be like to live your life in a country where our very economic policies are designed to keep you poor and dependent. Without equal pay. With no child care. With inadequate maternity and paternity leave. Almost nonexistent sick leave. Or that even with all of your education and aspiration, it will be probably be you who will make the sacrifices needed to raise a family. Not your husband.

So yes, participation is meaningful, but not every choice is equally valid. And in this election, the choice is stark.

— —

To all women, we have often voted with our husbands. We have voted for our families. We have voted as wives and mothers. But let us just this once, vote for our daughters.

Vote for Hillary Clinton.