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Mom of the House: Politics and motherhood

What message does this U.S. election mean for my two little girls? What message does it send to them?
Mom of the House with Brianna Bell

The past year has been filled with a lot of divisive commentary around the world regarding politics.

Although I’m not a very political person, I have become really invested in the outcome of this year’s biggest and most talked about political event: the election of the next President of the United States.

The last few weeks the campaign has taken on a very personal and controversial turn. For me, it has become deeply troubling and equally engrossing. I have read political commentary, laughed along with political satire, and done my own research and investigation into allegations against both major candidates. It’s become an obsession for me, and I have wondered why over the past few days.

Why does the outcome matter to me? This isn’t even a country I am a citizen of.

I have come to one conclusion: whomever is elected as President will be the President my children grow up hearing and reading about.

That is no small thing.

I was three-years-old when President Bill Clinton was elected, and ten-years-old when he left office. I grew up with Clinton as President. Although I am Canadian, I remember much more about the President than I did about my Prime Minister (I’m not saying that’s a positive thing, but that was the reality of my experience).

I remember my childhood as a peaceful time, both personally and politically. I don’t remember feeling fear until September 11, 2001, and by then Clinton was gone and there was a new President. And yes, I felt lots of fear throughout that presidency.

I was also old enough when the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal broke to understand a bit about what was happening. I remember the message I received as a young girl at the time. Presidents, and men in power, they can do what they want. Women, even smart women who work in the White House, will be subject to sexualisation. I’m sure I couldn’t have put it into words at the time, but that was the impression that I received.

Today, it’s 2016, and the Lewinsky scandal seems PG compared to the media coverage during this election campaign. I will never turn on the news with my children in the room. I will never expose them to this campaign, and I am thankful they are young enough to avoid the exposure.

What terrifies me is not knowing what happens if a misogynistic, racist, and fear mongering man becomes President.

What will that mean for my two little girls? What message does that send to them?

When I hear leaked tapes, and watch circus-like debates, and hear the fear and hatred in Trump’s speeches, I want to cover my children’s ears today, tomorrow, and for the rest of the time.

I am invested in the outcome of this campaign because my children will be growing up either in a world where a powerful, educated, and strong woman is elected to run arguably the most powerful country in the world, or a predator is elected. And it’s not lost on me, the powerful message that will be sent to my children, if the latter is chosen over the former.

When I was a young girl, I watched a young woman get blamed and made a laughing stock over a sexual relationship with a powerful man, and it sent me a clear message about my power and my worth. Today, I watch as that same man’s actions are blamed on his wife, as his wife becomes vilified and made into a menacing caricature, while another abusive man gets lauded as a free spirit and a history maker.

Whatever the outcome, it’s my duty as a mother to be active in all of this. To use my voice to speak against predatory behaviour and injustice, and to tell my children that this is not the world that they deserve. We can do better.

“If all of this is painful to us as grown women, what do you think this is doing to our children? What messages are our little girls hearing about who they should look like, how they should act? What lessons are they learning about their value as professionals, as human beings? About their dreams and aspirations? And we simply cannot endure this, or expose our children to this, any longer. Not for another minute, let alone for four years.” - From Michelle Obama’s New Hampshire speech, on October 13