“All the possibilities of your human destiny are asleep in your soul. You are here to realize and honor these possibilities.” — John O’Donohue
The other morning, I picked up a copy of my local newspaper and simply stopped and stared at the front page. Right there staring back at me were the pictures of multiple women running for president. The cover story was about how each of them is pursuing the highest office in their own way. But before I could even read the article, I had to pause and take in the historic nature of their photos.
As I stood there at my kitchen counter, I thought back to myself as a young girl. What would it have been like for me to see that photo back then? What must it be like for young girls to see that now? I also thought about my mother and all the women who blazed the trail that has allowed so many women to be taken seriously today. We owe them our gratitude.
Over the last few days, I’ve also been thinking about what it must be like for any young boy or girl or LGBTQ or person of color today to look at the field of candidates and see someone who looks like them? It’s really quite remarkable. We have the most diverse field of candidates ever (with Sen. Cory Booker being the latest to announce his run) and I, for one, think that is very exciting and promising.
These candidates are not only embracing the path to the presidency in their own way, but they are also entering the race with different backgrounds than what we have seen before. Most are married, but a few are not. Some have children, but not all. A few are divorced.
Just a few days ago, I watched the film “The Basis of Sex,” which tells the story of the relationship between Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband, Marty, and highlights the case they took on that changed the law regarding gender discrimination. They had one fascinating partnership.
Marty was a superstar in his field, but he was also a man who took extraordinary pride in his wife’s intelligence and drive. Not only was he not intimidated, but he pushed Ruth to realize her dreams and he stood proudly by her side when she ascended to our Supreme Court. His story reminded me of that of my own father, who achieved many great things during his time but also never stopped marveling at my mother’s power, drive, fierceness and tenacity. He also never stopped helping her change the world.
As I stood there the other morning, still looking at the photos of the women running for president, I also started to think about the gender stereotypes that exist. What does a candidate need from their partner? Do they need one at all? What does a woman running for president need from her family and from her partnerships and is it more complicated than what a man might need? I think the answer to that last question is “yes” in many ways. We have certain expectations for the role of wife and First Lady, but we don’t have clear expectations yet for what a First Man or Partner might mean.
The good news is that, just as there have been many strong women who have stood by their husbands’ sides, there are also many men like Marty Ginsburg and Sargent Shriver out there — men who have built partnerships grounded in mutual respect, mutual intelligence, mutual fire and mutual drive. I hope the men standing next to our future female leaders can support them in the ways they need. I also hope that we as a society can allow them to step into the role of First Man or First Partner and define how it works for them.
And, if our future president is gay or single, may we support their significant other as well, or simply let them stand strong on their own.
Overall, I am really hopeful that we as a culture and society can stop pigeon-holing politicians and their partners into preordained roles. I’m hopeful that we can see the women, gays and people of color who are running for office today as leaders who are capable of moving our country forward and representing us all, not simply as candidates who are chasing the votes of others like them.
I also hope that we can recognize their partners (or lack thereof) as individuals who are strong enough to stand by their sides and support them as they step into the arena.
Dear God, please keep me open to the possibilities that the future might hold. At times, things may feel uncertain or unknown, but help me remember that sometimes it is the discomfort in life that brings upon change. Amen.