To the boomer women who profoundly shaped our lives:
I first got scolded by one of you on my second birthday, when my glass-ceiling shattering, bank vice president aunt carried in an easel box twice my size. Words on the box warned “assembly required.”
“But we have to wait for Daddy to get home to put it together,” I mumbled, disappointed.
“Oh, no we don’t,” my aunt self-assuredly replied before putting it together.
That was my first lesson in gender politics. Since then, like other female millennials, I have subconsciously taken for granted everything boomer feminists have helped build for us. We play any sport we want because of Title IX. We can vote and fight in the military. We go to great coed colleges, work in previously male-dominated professions and control our finances. We do so without seemingly considering these privileges weren’t always available to our gender.
Now, at 28, I’m still scolded by my aunt (and others of your cohort I respect, like Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem) for my generation’s apparent lackluster view of Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.
Many of us want to be more excited about a potential first female president. Hear us out.
We’re not the united force you were at our age and still are. The sexist obstacles you faced in life, education and careers cemented your politics. The absence of this crusade makes our views less in sync.
Half of millennials are political independents, according to Pew Research Center. Scroll down our Facebook feeds and you’ll see a college acquaintance who wants to “Make America great again,” a co-worker preaching, “I’m with her,” and a chunk of our peers not chiming in at all.
You judge us for not caring enough that there are far fewer female chief executives, when we’re worried about keeping our entry- to midlevel jobs. You want us to “lean in” and stand up for more equal pay, when we’re worried about how to pay off crippling college debt. You revel in the fact that women can be breadwinners, when we can’t see a future in which our spouses and we won’t have to work full time to stay afloat.
While you take our lack of enthusiasm personally, this in some ways has nothing to do with Clinton but with our disappointment in the establishment politics and how disconnected it is from our reality. Conservative female millennials (yes, they exist) weren’t excited about Carly Fiorina’s campaign, either.
Many of us feel guilty for feeling this way, summed up well in this Onion headline: “Female presidential candidate who was United States Senator, Secretary of State told to be more inspiring by millennials.”
Ouch. Obviously, Clinton’s ascent is an inspiration. But maybe it’s a clue that even with that incredible resume, she still has to resort to emoji tweets, Snapchats and Lena Dunham endorsements to get our attention. There’s a gap between our female generations, and Clinton has not bridged it. See, it comes back to what you built for us. With your actions, you’ve given us choice. Because of you, we can choose to play sports or to duck behind the boys in gym class volleyball. We can choose to be chief executives or work-from-home moms. And we can choose to vote for Clinton in November, or not.
I recently bought shelves for my apartment; they came in a box just as big as that easel 26 years ago. I have no doubt I can put them together and hang them, but I still had my dad do it (measuring requires patience I don’t have).
Just because we can doesn’t mean we choose to. Right?
The daughters, nieces and employees you helped us be.
Amanda Fiscina is a Web producer for Newsday Opinion.