I’m with her.
That’s one of the more popular hashtags propagated by the Hillary Clinton campaign during this seemingly interminable election cycle. But I’m not just saying it randomly here, I really mean it: #ImWithHer.
Yes, I – who once despised the Clintons years ago – have become a strong supporter of Secretary Clinton and will happily vote for her, either during early voting or on November 8. It will not at all be a “lesser of two evils” vote for me; I will do it enthusiastically.
I’m not going to attempt to give all the reasons here, and I’m not going to cite much evidence for my reasons, either. That’s not to say that such evidence doesn’t exist; I believe it does. But this is not that kind of piece. This is a simple bit of commentary on WordPress, not Meet the Press.
I’ll just explain my support this way: I’m voting for Secretary Clinton in large part because I am both a feminist dad and an Asian dad.
#ImWithHer Because I’m a Feminist Dad
In the excellent documentary Miss Representation, my friend Dr. Caroline Heldman, a professor at Occidental College in the Los Angeles area, says:
Little boys and little girls when they’re seven years old – an equal number want to be president of the United States when they grow up. But then you ask the same question when they’re 15, and you see this massive gap emerging.
I believe that one of the reasons this is true is that girls, as they grow up, never see a female president of the United States, whether in the news or in history books. I clearly remember, on the walls of my childhood classrooms, posters showing all the past presidents. And of course, every single one was a white male. Even posters updated for the present time only show male presidents.
This is just one more subtle message to girls that says women can’t excel in leadership like men can – not just in politics, but in life, all across the board. It’s not an intentional message on the part of the poster makers. After all, they’re just showing the reality that every POTUS has been a man. But research demonstrates that people are more likely to believe they can do something when they see someone like them doing it. As the saying goes, representation matters.
I am not okay with my daughters ever feeling like men and boys can do things better than women and girls can. I take every chance I get to tell my girls when a glass ceiling has been shattered. It’s not a random thing that one of their Beanie Baby-style bears, one that has the NASA logo on it, was given the name Sally Ride.
I want my girls to grow up in classrooms that display not only male presidents, but female presidents, too. (Yes, I use the plural intentionally.) I want them to know that there’s no job they can’t do because boys and men are supposedly better than they are. I want them to have the confidence that they’re not limited to anything by their gender.
That’s my feminist father reason for supporting Hillary Clinton.
That’s not to say, though, that I’m voting for her just because she’s a woman. She does have a résumé that’s second to none among recent candidates for the presidency. The fact that she is a woman is definitely part of why #ImWithHer, but not the only reason. She’s also immensely qualified.
As a male feminist, and as a father of daughters, #ImWithHer!
#ImWithHer Because I’m an Asian Dad
I’m also supporting Hillary Clinton because I’m an Asian dad. My family’s recent trip to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim provided an illustration for this. While we were there, my seven-year-old daughter sang a line that presumably she learned at school:
What’s more American than corn flakes, the Fourth of July, and Uncle Sam?
That sounded pleasant to my ears, especially given that we were looking out over that most American of landscapes in northern Arizona. But what she said next quickly shattered the moment.
“I’m not full American because I’m not white; I’m Chinese.”
My heart sank. I knew this moment would come at some point in her life. It does for so many of us Americans of color, and it is painful. But I didn’t expect it to come so early for her.
“Did someone say that to you?” I asked.
“No,” she said, her eyes beginning to fill with tears.
I proceeded to explain the difference between nationality and ethnicity, and that while she was ethnically Chinese, she was just as American as anyone else.
“I already know that, Daddy,” she sniffled.
I put my arm around her and wondered, if no one said it to her, how did she get that idea at such a young age? I could only imagine that it came from books and media she’d seen, where the vast majority of American heroes, heroines, and average Joes and Janes are white.
But that still didn’t make sense! My wife and I have flooded our home with books that have ethnically diverse characters, especially Asian ones. And we go to some lengths every year to celebrate Independence Day in a bicultural way, inspired by author Janet S. Wong’s and illustrator Margaret Chodos-Irvine’s terrific kids’ book, Apple Pie 4th of July. For four years running now, we’ve celebrated the Fourth by eating Chinese food, watching fireworks, and enjoying apple pie.
But I’ve concluded that all of our efforts are not enough:
- All our diverse books
- Our annual celebration of the Fourth of July
- The appreciation we’ve often expressed for being Americans
- The daily Pledge of Allegiance the girls recite at school
- My periodic attempts to channel Lee Greenwood by singing “God Bless the U.S.A.” (known more popularly as “I’m Proud to Be an American”)
- The stories we’ve told them about the time I sang the National Anthem at a minor league baseball game in Texas
All of it is still not enough for my wife and I to inoculate our girls from the subtle yet powerful social message that to be fully American, you have to be white.
Why do I enthusiastically support Hillary Clinton for president? Because I want a president who doesn’t make my girls feel any less of an American because they’re Asian. I want one that sets an optimistic tone for our society with regard to race and ethnicity. I want my girls to have a president who will remind them and all Americans that no matter the color of their skin, they are greatly valued in the American family and are just as much Americans as everyone else.
And I believe Secretary Clinton has done, and will continue to do, a strong job in that regard.
So #ImWithHer. And I can’t wait to take my girls to the voting booth with me as I cast my seventh general election ballot for president, my first for a woman.
Time to help make history!
Or, as many have tweeted this year, #herstory!