I nearly jumped off the couch and cheered the other night when Louis C.K. shared why he is voting for Hillary Clinton on “Conan”: “A mother, she’s got it… A mother just does it. She feeds you and teaches you, she protects you. She takes care of shit.”
While it’s fair to criticize this sentiment as an example of benevolent sexism, as a new mom struggling every day to “take care of shit,” I feel Louis. And as a mom to a Mexican-Jewish son, I’m reminded more than ever why having a woman (and mother and grandmother) as president is so necessary for his future.
The vitriolic rhetoric against Mexican immigrants, along with a rise in anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism, during this presidential campaign has shaken me. While my husband and son are both U.S. citizens born in this country, my husband’s abuela is a Mexican immigrant who made a better life for her family here. And she’s not just any immigrant. She was a single mom to five children. She supported them on her own as a seamstress in a clothing factory. And she has even raised some of her own grandchildren and great-grandchildren for a few years at a time when their parents were unable to.
When Louis C.K. said of Clinton, “She’s a tough mother who nobody likes,” I thought of our abuela (because she’s my abuela now, too). Though, of course, we love her, the collective abuelas of this country are not liked, and are in fact derided and dehumanized, by those who speak disrespectfully of Mexican immigrants.
Women like our abuela, who struggled in ways I’ve never known in my privileged life, are examples of the true strength of mothers. I do not believe a woman needs to be a mother to access her own deepest reservoirs of power, or that women should be made to feel, as they often are, that becoming a mother is a fulfillment of her womanhood. Women must be valued on their own terms as human beings.
At the same time, we can hold up and praise the awesome power that is unleashed through the experience of motherhood. Giving birth is insane. When Louis said of Clinton, “She’s been taking it and taking it,” I remembered taking those contractions, taking the epidural, taking the knife of the C-section. I conjured days and nights of squeezing in work, breastfeeding, trying to feed myself along with my child, to keep my head above water. And simultaneously trying to act like everything is totally normal.
But whether or not we are moms, whether or not we are privileged, women have been “taking it” for centuries. And even as we praise moms for the great job they do trying manage it all, we still ask more from them: more favors, more advice, more tasks to add to their collapsing pile. Our abuela never complained as she took on one more child to raise and one more again. She did what she had to do and what she knew was right. I recently asked her why she thought some men in their family did not stick around to help raise their children, and she said, without an ounce of bitterness: “Because they have no heart.”
We have witnessed an election campaign that in so many ways reveals the broken heart of this country, and for many folks the lack of heart. I want my son to see a woman and a mother in the White House who has heart, who defends children and families, who stands up for immigrants and minorities. I believe Hillary Clinton will be that president. The suspicions that have been laid on her for possible wrongdoing have not been proven to be valid, and unfortunately I have never expected any politician to be 100% pure. I trust that she will make good on the promises she has made, and I know her supporters will hold her accountable.
Our abuela has never before voted in an election, but she made it clear that she is voting today, for the first time in her life, for Hillary Clinton, because, she said, this election really matters.