Barbara Kingsolver writes: When I was a girl of 11 I had an argument with my father that left my psyche maimed. It was about whether a woman could be the president of the US.
How did it even start? I was no feminist prodigy, just a shy kid who preferred reading to talking; politics weren’t my destiny. Probably, I was trying to work out what was possible for my category of person – legally, logistically – as one might ask which kinds of terrain are navigable for a newly purchased bicycle. Up until then, gender hadn’t darkened my mental doorway as I followed my older brother into our daily adventures wearing hand-me-down jeans.
But in adolescence it dawned on me I’d be spending my future as a woman, and when I looked around, alarm bells rang. My mother was a capable, intelligent, deeply unhappy woman who aspired to fulfilment as a housewife but clearly disliked the job. I saw most of my friends’ mothers packed into that same dreary boat. My father was a country physician, admired and rewarded for work he loved. In my primordial search for a life coach, he was the natural choice.
I probably started by asking him if girls could go to college, have jobs, be doctors, tentatively working my way up the ladder. His answers grew more equivocal until finally we faced off, Dad saying, “No” and me saying, “But why not?” A female president would be dangerous. His reasons vaguely referenced menstruation and emotional instability, innate female attraction to maternity and aversion to power, and a general implied ickyness that was beneath polite conversation.
I ended that evening curled in bed with my fingernails digging into my palms and a silent howl tearing through me that lasted hours and left me numb. [Continue reading…]