So many women I love and respect are despairing over Elizabeth Warren’s departure from the presidential race, but I’m not. The reason: my eighth-grade son’s basketball team.
Don’t get me wrong, no matter your political persuasion, it would be nice to finally see a woman sitting behind the Resolute Desk. And even though that won’t happen in January, I’m hopeful, even optimistic, that it will happen in my lifetime.
Just a couple of weeks ago, my teenaged son and some members of his basketball team crammed into my van for a twenty-minute ride. As kids get older, these moments come along less frequently, so I savored the chance to eavesdrop on their coming-of-age conversation. Among other things, they talked about who is the best at Surviv and who picked the hardest topic for a science project. I’ve thought of those chuckling boys often as I’ve read and heard so many women exclaim in effect: “If men in America won’t vote for Elizabeth Warren, then we have no hope of ever electing a female president!”
I don’t buy it. Because when those boys in my van become voting age, they will gladly vote for a woman as long as they believe she is the best candidate. I know because I asked them. “Forget the politics,” I said, “I’m just asking you if you think a woman could be a good president.” And they looked at me as if I had asked them if they wanted to drive through McDonald’s for milkshakes. “Duh, of course,” they said.
Those boys in my van are representative of a generation of young men who have strong, educated women in their lives. Some see their mothers lead organizations or offices, often as the family’s primary earner. One of the boys saw his sister graduate from college with honors while another saw his sister elected to student government—and that’s just what they see at home. They are reaching the age of reason and tuning into current events just as:
- More women are serving in Congress than ever before; nearly a quarter of the membership of the 116th Congress are women.
- The number of women serving in the highest ranks of the U.S. military has doubled in the past two decades.
- For the first time in history, women lead the law reviews at the nation’s most prestigious law schools.
- The majority of students enrolled at degree-granting institutions are women, and women are more likely than their male classmates to earn degrees.
- Of today’s stay-at-home parents, 17 percent are dads. When the Gen X parents of today’s adolescents were growing up, that number was three percent.
Young boys today see what’s happening around them, and they perceive girls as being capable leaders. It’s not an idea they must get used to as adults; for many of them, it’s already part of their organic belief systems. Think of how many millions of women have participated in organized marches for equality just since 2016. Surely, at least half of those women have a least one son. It seems safe to assume that those sons will grow up to consider women capable of being in charge. In fact, when they imagine “a person in charge,” most are unlikely not to think of a woman.
As the mother of two sons, I find myself a touch offended by all the pessimism about the future male citizens of the U.S. of A. Does the Twittersphere really think that those of us down here in the trenches rearing the next generation are looking to spawn a new patriarchy? Yes, my boys and their friends are members of a demographic who, in the not-so-distant-past, were often brought up to inherit the kingdom based on their gender, ancestry, and skin tone. I don’t think I’m alone when I say, “Not on my watch!”
Sure, there are still cesspools of misogyny and racism out there. I’m not naïve and Pollyanna, chirping that the battle is finished. I’m saying the world is changing and there is hope. Harvey Weinstein was convicted. Chris Matthews was fired. A very short time ago, we would have seen different outcomes in both of those situations.
Yes, change comes too slowly. That can be frustrating. As Martin Luther King Jr. said of the fight for civil rights, “…when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’—then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.” Women in this country have been ready to see one of our kind in the Oval Office for a long time. It’s hard to be patient waiting for the goofballs in the back of my van grow up to be tomorrow’s voters. But we’ll just keep teaching them and keep feeding them. Eventually, it will happen.
If you don’t believe me, please imagine the wrinkled brows and incredulous eyes of six 13-year-old boys when faced with the question, “Can a woman be in charge?” Their answer was almost in unison: “What a weird question. Of course!”
Granted, this evidence is anecdotal (and possibly motivated by self-interest), but I still think there is something to be gleaned from this small sampling. To be sure, there are plenty of male voters who probably cannot envision someone who looks and sounds like Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar or Kamala Harris as their commander in chief. But don’t count out the younger generations. For every little girl who got a pinky-swear from Elizabeth Warren, and who is dreaming of running for president someday, there is a little boy who is being raised to vote for her.