My grandmother, Evelyn Luella Agor, the daughter of a farmer from Mahopac Falls, NY graduated from Cornell University in 1942. She, along with her two older brothers, attended Cornell’s agriculture school.
My grandmother going to college was hardly a regular topic of conversation in our family. But it was something I carried around with me. Like a little wrapped up jewel box. She was mom to four children, cooker of endless meals, chair of countless fundraisers for local charities and politicians, teacher of home economics and my grandmother. The women who could do anything and believed that I could too.
I thought of her as I watched the inauguration of President Obama. And I realized that along with deep feelings of hope and pride, I was also frustrated and sad. At what didn’t happen this election season for women.
The country finally put aside racial stereotypes and decided it was time to abandon fear, to believe in something—someone—different. But somehow in the midst of one of our shining hours as a country, we were barely able to tolerate, yet alone elect, a woman.
Hillary Clinton, despite her overwhelming qualifications, was mostly dismissed as shrill and unlikable. In debates she received the lion’s share of difficult questions and then when she didn’t answer in pithy, upbeat sound bites was mocked for going on and on about things like healthcare and free trade. Her physical traits were open season. How many more jokes can we take about her ankles and pant suits?
But she lost, fair and square. To someone who didn’t listen to the critics who said it wasn’t his time. That he was too junior or inexperienced. Barack Obama believed it was his time and then made it his time.
And then, along came Sarah Palin. The, at first, hero of the Republican party breathing new life into the tired McCain campaign and showing America what a hockey mom, governor, mother-of-five, almost grandmother, from Alaska looked and sounded like. And almost immediately after her podium was hauled back to Hollywood, she was written off. Too sexy—a light weight, not worthy of the office.
When will the country be comfortable with what women look like? Women of all shapes and sizes, political stripes and clothing styles. Because we come from all corners of this great country, sometimes sounding like citizens of Cambridge, Massachusetts and sometimes with a small town twang. Some of us have big hair and wear too much lipstick and others wear pantsuits that aren’t flattering but keep us warm. And like the many men with bad hair pieces and bulging middles who’ve come before us, what we have to offer is not about how we look or sound, but about the life experiences we’ve dared to embrace.
We are wives, daughters, sisters, girlfriends, mothers and grandmothers—and we make up more than half the population in this great land. I believe it is time for us to recognize the power in ourselves and each other. Time to believe in exactly who we are and who we’ve chosen not to be. Time to stop listening to the critics and lead. It is time, to make it our time.