I grew up at a time when the only glass ceiling I ever heard about was in London’s Crystal Palace during the 1851 Great Exhibition. Women had a very specific place in the world and that place was in the home. Girls got engagement rings as their high school graduation present and no one thought they were too young to marry. When I graduated from college, getting your MRS was almost, if not more, important that getting your BS or BA.
I am well aware that there are people who view Hillary Clinton as the devil’s mistress. But how you feel about her is, at least momentarily, secondary to what she just did.
And what she just did is mind blowing for those of us of a certain age. So whether you like her or not, you can’t deny her achievement and how hard she had to fight and scrape to make it in the totally male dominated world of politics.
I grew up in Atlantic City and remember the first feminist protest of the Miss America pageant. I had watched that pageant my entire childhood. It happened just down the block from our family apartment. I’d sit in the living room in front of our little black and white TV and dream of one day floating in a gossamer gown down a runway while thousands of people acknowledged me as their beauty queen. As an overweight, highly allergic and slightly asthmatic being, this was not a dream likely to come true. Yet in that time and era, it was the ultimate dream little girls dreamed because the rest of the world was off limits.
There are so many things that have happened in my lifetime that I never thought I’d see. Most relate to issues I’d never heard about in my very conservative Catholic Italian childhood. Birth control? Good Catholic girls didn’t need it because we would never have sex outside of marriage and inside of marriage we would only do it to procreate. Gay rights? The gayest person I knew growing up was… no one. Pot? The only pot I knew was the one I dried after my mother scrubbed the Sunday sauce out of it.
Now I live in a world where gay people serve openly in the military and enjoy the same marriage fun as heterosexuals. Pot is not only legal in one form or another in multiple states and the District of Columbia, but has been proven to have many of the health benefits that the “fringe” has been proclaiming for years. In fact, a recent study found the only health issue related to long term pot use is gum disease because, let’s face it, once you’re stoned flossing just seems like too much trouble.
In my lifetime, women have gone from being secretaries to being Secretary of State. They have left the home for the workplace and I can’t imagine what it would take to try and again confine them in those homes. Women head major companies and are no longer viewed as an oddity if serving as a Congressperson or Senator. They have children at their discretion and on their time schedule thanks to that birth control that so twists Catholic theologians into a knot. African-Americans have gone from being Negroes to being president. My life has spanned the generations from when Doris Day played a housewife in pearls and heels while admitting she simply was too silly to be able to handle a checkbook to Tina Fay and Amy Pohler. That’s one heckuva ride.
So even though I know Hillary is not everyone’s favorite person, I reserve the right to step back from the politics for a moment and savor her achievement. When Geraldine Ferraro was selected as Walter Mondale’s vice presidential running mate in 1984, she shattered some of her own ceilings. But basically she was still just following a man. Hillary Clinton has stepped up into the big boy’s box. She is running for president, which means that in my lifetime I may see a female president.
That chubby little asthmatic girl sitting in front of the TV watching the Miss America Pageant would be happy to hear that before she died women would be acknowledged for something more than their looks and waist size, especially since her waist size was never her proudest moment.