Last night I sat transfixed by Ethel, a documentary on the life on Ethel Kennedy. Her strength was evident– Bobby would not have been able to accomplish the things he was able to, in his short life, without Ethel– she was clearly his rock. To watch her continue raising 10 children and give birth to their 11th, after his death, was nothing short of amazing. She raised 11 children, while continuing Bobby’s legacy of public service. And to say she continued a legacy really does not give her the credit she deserves– because she shaped her own legacy.
As I watched Ethel, I found myself thinking about my wife and how important she is in all the things I do. The last month I have been busier than normal at the office and my wife, Amy, has allowed it to happen. I had gone days without seeing the kids– which means without helping care for them– working Saturdays and Sundays leaving her alone with them.
Over this election cycle, we have heard a lot about the small business owner. As one, I can tell you that the engine that runs my business– although she is not on the payroll– is Amy. She works full time, yet still is the primary caretaker of two children under four. While I work nights and weekends, she makes certain our children are safe. There is food in the home for me and the kids. More importantly, when I am frustrated or anxious about work, I lay it out to her and she soothes and comforts and re-energies. She gives me the focus and confidence that things will work out. So far, she’s been right.
She does all that, all while being a leader in her own career.
Maybe that’s why I’ve been patently offended by the GOP and its treatment of women. And I shouldn’t just make this about Republicans, because both parties are guilty of pandering to women during elections.
But I am offended by the GOP inserting themselves in decisions my wife is strong enough to make on her own.
And then there is Mitt’s "binders full of women" comment. And although there was no mal intent by the comment, it shows a dated version of the way Mitt views women. In my mind’s eye, I see Mitt in a room similar to one from a Mad Men set. Mitt, in the center of the room, is asked to make a decision on a job opening when someone suggests– gasp!– maybe finding a woman for the position. A clearly frustrated Mitt, leans back, puts his hands over his eyes and moans: "I suppose you’re right. Get me the binders."
Whereas if I need a candidate for employment, I look around to people near me and ask for recommendations. Because women are my peers, it is just as likely a woman will get the job as a man.
If women are in the room, then you don’t need binders. If women are in the room, then they are making the decisions.
So the "binders" comment to me just solidifies a Republican theme: Men need to make decisions for women. For example: when a Republican subcommittee put together a hearing on women’s reproductive rights, only men testified.
Maybe its because I had strong women in my family. Maybe its because I have a strong woman for a wife. Maybe its because my friends are strong women, but it just doesn’t work that way. Amy is my partner. I would not be able to do the things I do without Amy’s love and support. But it's reciprocal: I’m no slouch. We support and love each other. I just get the better end of the deal.
And after watching Ethel last night, it seems like the same was true with Bobby.
Now, with my daughter, I have to continue the legacy of strength my grandmother started. And to do that, she deserves a world-view in the White House that has her in the room, rather than her name in a binder.