Americans make a big deal about independence. Of course we do, our founding document has the word right there in its title. But American feminists, even more so. Independence is this thing that we all seem to look on as the ultimate in personhood. But I question the wisdom of this idea of independence at all cost.
The day my mom had a stroke I learned what it’s like to be enfolded in the supportive embrace of one small part of the Black American community. Two of mom’s dearest, closest, best friends – Dee and Brenda – are of African descent. They both flew (metaphorically speaking) to the hospital as soon as they heard my mom was there. We three mostly just sat around and kept the patient company – the stroke left little damage other than a bit of trouble with word recall – and tried to convince her that an overnight stay was not a bad idea. That my mom is a stubborn lady goes without saying.
When visiting hours ended, Brenda and Dee suggested we go for dinner. That’s when the magic happened. These ladies are incredibly openhearted and we sat for a delicious and long dinner talking about my mom’s strength, my fears, all of our fears, all of our strengths, loving each other, helping each other… Not to mention the stories that were told around that table. I depended on those two ladies to make the situation okay, in my heart-space and in my brain-space, that night.
Black American women have an interesting relationship with dependence vs. independence, I think,* because poverty, or living on the bare edge of it, makes you dependent on help from friends and strangers sometimes just to put food in your mouth. That’s a mean place to be, given the wrong mindset. Black women, the one’s I’ve been fortunate enough to know, make helping each other such an essential, natural part of community and friendship, though, that it’s impossible to tease it apart from the rest. You may as well tell a woman to stop breathing. That I was privy to such natural help changed the day my mom had a stroke from incredibly scary to manageable.
Mothers and daughters have this indescribable something between them. When faced with the first real demonstration that one day that relationship will change forever, it’s a heavy thing to accept. I’m lucky I didn’t have to do it alone. I had these two very special ladies to help me.
That’s the first time I questioned my need for independence.
Here’s the thing: I looked it up and Merriam Webster told me that dependence is the state of relying on or being controlled by someone or something else. Here I’d been operating under the misconception that the very reliance associated with dependence goes hand in hand with control. Not so?
Since that time a few years ago, I’ve become financially dependent on my fiance. The thoughts of controlled by him pop up in my psyche every now and then, but I’m always able to talk myself down off that ledge. We have a partnership, he and I. [Insert cheeky remark about me being the brains and him the brawn] Honestly, though, we naturally separate when it comes to our priorities in the relationship: His biggest concerns are taking care of us physically, financially, while mine are taking care of us emotionally, mentally. Only one of those concerns requires money, and the job that brings it.
I have an ulterior motive, too, though. Because of Steve, I am able to stay at home, keep the dogs company, run household errands, and write. I have this unrelenting desire to write for a living. The issue with that is the for a living part takes a while to get going. It’s a slow process…
…But I am making progress. Maybe one day my earnings as a writer will exceed Steve’s earnings. It’s not probably in today’s readers market, but it’s not altogether impossible. Either way, our relationship works, just as it exists. Plus, we’ve weathered a couple of life-altering storms over the past five years. We adapt.
But what, again, about that dependence thing? I’m going to say it right here, right now. I am BOLDLY dependent on my man. Forever it’s been anti-feminist to be dependent on a man, right? That’s the only reason I have to add the boldly part. If I’m going to go against the grain, I damn well better be bold about it, right? Yes. That’s right.
To end this post, I’d like to dedicate it to those wonderful ladies: Dee Sewell and Brenda Whitehurst. Thank you both for bringing me through that night. Even more, thank you for showing me that bold has many faces. I am forever in your debt.
*I am a white woman, so I can only describe how I see the Black American community from the outside in. Please excuse whatever misinterpretations that might come from that fact. Feel free, though, to correct me in the comments if my ignorance is crude or leads to blatantly wrong assumptions. I only know what I know from my personal experiences.
UPDATE: I originally wrote the post below right after the Iowa caucuses. I still feel pretty much the same, only now instead of having great misgivings about voting Hillary Clinton in the primary season, I’m facing the thought of having her and only her as the Democratic candidate in the general election. I’m torn and confused. And pretty pissed about the whole mess. I honestly don’t want to have to choose the lesser of two evils again.
Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate. I don’t know much about her. (BTW, you can click on her name and go to her candidacy page to learn more) I should, though, shouldn’t I? She’s another female candidate in the race for the seat behind that desk in the Oval Office. Here’s where I wish more than anything that we had fairer election laws and a better process so that anyone wanting a shot at the White House had access to a microphone loud enough to reach all the people with their message. We don’t have that. Because of that, among a couple of other things if I’m honest, I’m feeling caught with my pants down.
I’m still a Bernie supporter. Yes, I’ve gotten the emails: Hey, Becky! Take the unity pledge! Say you’re with her. I can’t, not yet. Maybe not ever. My biggest fear, though, is that unless Bernie Sanders joins Jill Stein’s ticket as her VP – which I think would be a huge waste – then a vote for the Green Party is nothing but a vote against the Democratic ticket. And regardless of who is on that ticket, I just can’t say I feel comfortable voting that way, given the possible alternative.
So, here I am. Here WE are. It’s only June. We have just under five months to go before Election Day 2016. A lot can happen in five months. But for now, I’m not feeling hopeful. And I hate when that happens.
There are so many important social issues that are on the cusp of BIG change right now. If we don’t have good leadership to direct that change we’re likely going to miss the moment and have to wait another 50 years all while watching ourselves sink into the pit of filth and despair, which is the current direction people who like to call themselves “pure” capitalists are pointing us.
What to do? I don’t know. I’m giving myself some time to think on it. I don’t think Hillary would be disastrous as a president. I also don’t think she’ll get much, if anything, done in the way of social changes we desperately need in America. Benghazi and all the crap with her email server? I honestly think it’s overblown the entire Republican Party hates the Clintons BS. Could both situations have been handled better? Of course. But I don’t believe for a second the mistakes were made with malice, shortsightedness, or bad judgment. I think they were honest mistakes made by a human being who is just as mistake-prone as the rest of us. Maybe new information will come out to change my mind about this, but I haven’t seen it yet. So, no. I don’t hate Hillary. I don’t think she’d be the worst thing that could happen to the US. I trust her intelligence and judgment better than I did George W. which is not saying a lot, but it’s something…
I could go on and on about this because my brain’s in a right jumble at the moment. I guess, for now, I’ll just say I will continue to hope for the best and leave it at that. Just for now, though. Probably, I’ll make another update to this post as Election Day draws nearer. Look for it in the coming months!
BEGIN ORIGINAL POST: Let me start by defending myself right off the bat: GAL? Isn’t it a little demeaning to call a 68 year-old woman gal? Yeah, no, I don’t think so. I think that’s the vibe she’s going for, honestly. But she can’t quite pull it off. She pulls off gal in 2016 as well as I used to pull off sista in the early 2000s, which is not at all.
And that’s the first reason I could never vote for Hillary in the primaries: she tries too damn hard to be something she’s not. She tries to work a room like Bill could, but she doesn’t come close. Put aside his politics (if you need to) and his philandering (ditto that), but that man can work a room like nobody’s business. He’s naturally charming. He’s naturally comfortable with people. Somehow those readers he wears now don’t look quite as frumpy on him as they do on everyone else. Hillary, though? She has none of that.
And maybe this sounds as dumb an argument as complaining about her hairstyle or her clothes, but I’m going out on a limb here to say, you’re wrong about that. If I want anything from my politicians the very first thing I want is for them to be genuine. George W. Bush was genuine. He was genuinely ineffective as president, but he was genuinely Dubya. I used to have a happy list of the idiotic things he said on my desk. He was definitely entertaining; I always gave him that much. But I don’t want to be entertained by my president.
I don’t get the same feeling of genuine from Hillary. She doesn’t feel that way, to me, at all. And here’s the thing, when I meet someone like that, someone who feels so fake? I am consumed with wondering what, exactly, is so bad it needs hiding. I don’t want that from my president, either.
Number two on my list: she calls herself a progressive. She said it in her Iowa caucus “victory” speech last night. But I believe it as much as I believed Ben Carson last night when he said any American who thinks there should be a separation of church and state in the US is schizophrenic.
Way back in the 90s, when Hillary Clinton was First Lady, she was tasked to head up the fight for Universal Healthcare. THAT was progressive. But that was also more than 20 years ago. That was before I had a cell phone, when recording a clever outgoing message on your answering machine was all the rage, and fax machines were the handiest way to transmit information (and they also used thermal paper). Yeah, that’s when Hillary was progressive. But let’s be for real. If she was like the average 68 year-old, we’d be giggling at her emails, right now, every time they arrived from her AOL account.
Here’s number three: She’s a feminist. This one I buy. She grew up knowing what it was like to be told “don’t worry your pretty little head about it.” She grew up in a time that even when her ideas where the smartest in the room, they were ignored because they came out of a carefully lipsticked mouth. That is absolutely true. But as far as my feminist ideals go, I can’t stand on that issue, and that issue alone, and vote for her. That would be the antithesis of an intelligent feminist’s decision.
It’s not that I don’t get how all these women out there are planning to vote exactly that way; just because of what she’s got, or rather hasn’t got, dangling between her legs. There was a cohort of black voters that voted for Barack Obama because he was black. I get it. If all things were equal, you’re damn right I’d be supporting Hillary Clinton in the primaries. But they’re not. So I won’t.
Onto number four: Hillary’s platform makes the claim that she’s fighting for the people. How can she make that claim, honestly, when she’s backed by big monied corporations? Or the .00001% of the population? Politics don’t play out that way.
We know darn well that, in every situation, if you get a favor (money) you owe one back. And the favor (legislation or a big contract, maybe) you owe is payable upon request. Period. In politics you can’t be beholden to big money contributors and the little people at the same time. They’re too often, like almost always, on the opposite sides of the table. Hillary’s smart enough to know that. And I honestly find it a little disgusting that she’s banking on her constituents to not be.
After all that, here’s my conundrum: what happens if my worst case scenario comes about, and Hillary is the Democratic nominee? Will I eat my words?
To tell you the real, honest truth? I don’t want to think about that now. I’m 50 and I’ve already cast too many votes in my lifetime for the lesser of two evils. Please, I don’t want to have to do that this year.