Mark Sherman believes that if Chelsea Clinton has another baby, its gender could make a big difference for boys and men in America.
When I read Frank Bruni’s op-ed column in a recent New York Times Sunday Review, titled “Hillary 2.0 Would Be Hillary XX”, I’m sure I had a different take on it than most readers.
Bruni’s main point is that rather than trying to downplay her gender, as she did in her run for the Democratic nomination in 2008, Hillary Clinton should this time focus on it — assuming, as everyone is, that she will go for the nomination again. He writes, “In a speech at Georgetown University last week, she said: ‘We know when women contribute in making and keeping peace, entire societies enjoy better outcomes. Women leaders, it has been found, are good at building coalitions across ethnic and sectarian lines and speaking up for other marginalized groups.’”
Sounds good, yes, but there is, not quite hidden in these words, the idea that women do better at leadership than men. And in today’s society, where young women are outpacing young men in nearly every area, what message does this send to our sons and grandsons? Is it that your time has come and gone?
Why is my take different from most readers? It’s because my main contribution to, and concern for, the American future — my children and especially my grandchildren — are male, all seven of them. To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Bruni has no children of his own, but has written frequently of women’s issues, where he has mentioned his younger sister and his nieces (“I have seven nieces whose dreams matter to me.”)
I don’t have a sister or nieces either. Yes, I have a wife of more than 44 years, whom I adore, and I have three daughters-in-law, whom I love, but, like any loving parent and grandparent, my biggest concern is my children and grandchildren, and their future. My three sons, and especially my four grandsons, serve as a constant reminder that America’s boys and young men need every bit as much attention as our girls and young women.
When I first heard that Chelsea Clinton was pregnant, I hoped — prayed is more like it — that she would have a boy. With Hillary so committed to women’s issues, I couldn’t think of any better way to help remind her that boys were important too than for her to have one in her life that she would love beyond measure. Many women I know with sons and/or grandsons, including those who identify strongly with feminism, seem much more likely to care about what happens to American males than those without such a deep and loving connection.. So I must admit I was disappointed to hear the news that Chelsea had given birth to a daughter.
Dottie Lamm, a leading feminist in her home state of Colorado, and a strong advocate for a Hillary Clinton presidency, is the grandmother of three grandsons (and one granddaughter). In a recent oped piece in the Denver Post, reprinted on the Good Men Project, Lamm quotes Clinton as saying this upon the birth of her granddaughter in September: “My granddaughter has just as much God-given potential as a boy born in that hospital today…I just believe that; that’s just how I was raised.”
Lamm writes, “…if raised with the message that ‘the world is open to your talents’ as Hillary Clinton was, and not ‘spoiled’ by being the latest addition to America’s most prominent public family, Charlotte will thrive”; but then she adds, “Right now I have another concern. Let’s focus on that little boy ‘born in the hospital’ that day. Let’s say he is an average little boy from a working- or middle-class family. What are his chances of living out his God-given potential? Not as good as Charlotte’s, even if she had been born in his humble circumstances. For in childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, our boys are now at greater risk than our girls.”
It would be very exciting for our country to elect its first woman president. And I don’t think it’s necessary for someone to have a child or grandchild who is not their same gender in order to appreciate the problems children of the other gender face. But whether or not Hillary Clinton heeds the advice of Frank Bruni (and no doubt others) and focuses on the needs of women in order to get elected, I sincerely hope that if she does become our 45th president, she will focus at least as much on the problems of boys (and men) as she does on those of women (and girls).
This really is crucial. In a New York Times oped piece in January 2008, supporting the Democratic candidacy of Barack Obama (vs. Hillary Clinton), the distinguished writer Lorrie Moore wrote, “The political moment for feminine role models, arguably, has passed us by. The children who are suffering in this country, who are having trouble in school, and for whom the murder and suicide rates and economic dropout rates are high, are boys — especially boys of color, for whom the whole educational system, starting in kindergarten, often feels a form of exile, a system designed by and for white girls.” Moore, who is white, has an adopted son who is African-American, which may have been at least part of the reason that she was supporting Obama; and one could certainly argue with her comment about “the political moment for feminine role models” even now, let alone in 2008; nonetheless, what she says about which children are truly suffering most in our country is no less true today than it was then (and for boys of color, recent events have tragically highlighted this).
So I very much hope that if and when Chelsea Clinton has another child, it is a boy. It has been more than 22 years since we’ve had a president with a male descendant. All of us who do have sons and/or grandsons know in our hearts as well as our minds that they need our love, attention, and support at least as much as our daughters and granddaughters do. It would be great to have a president who heard this heart song too.
This is a very slightly edited version of a post that recently appeared on my Psychology Today blog.
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