Potential Space

by Alexandra Guhde, PsyD
It was the little girl's passion--to be a pterodactyl for Halloween. It’s refreshing--still--to see a girl surrounded by endless Elsas and Belles make a choice that isn't "just for girls." The girl's mother, a friend of mine, agreed. She bought the girl a Cretaceous-green costume with oh-so-even ridges down the spine; a beak like a Venetian Carnival mask; and, of course, wings--those most vital appendages--cut just-so from cloth the color of a gingko leaf in autumn. But, despite the costume's store-bought perfection, the girl's mother preferred--and I agreed--the "practice pterodactyl" her daughter made herself: no more than paper wings strapped to arms with yarn and covered in all the available colors of glitter on earth. Leaving a coruscating trail, the girl flapped around her living room--exalted--soaring above eons.
This memory-image of my friend's daughter and her practice wings came to me while reading that there's "a special place in hell for women who don't help each other." This warning threat, aimed at young women voters, was made by Madeleine Albright during a speech on behalf of Hillary Clinton. The women Albright hoped to reach--millennials, mostly--have a more fluid notion of gender than any other generation to date.[1] Feminism, for them, has become an altogether more complex, far-ranging creature. Albright's comment made her sound like a dinosaur, and not the nice kind.
Yet, writing from just left of "millennial" on the generational timeline--in-between the grandmothers and their (relatively) privileged granddaughters--I agree with grandmother this time. Not about hell's special places--the inability to unite in support of each other is an indicator of oppression, not the cause of it. But bodies are still necessary for balancing power on the gender spectrum. I wouldn't vote for Clinton simply because she's a woman. But, simply that she's a woman is vitally important. Women make up 50.8% of the U.S. population.[2] Of the 43 presidents in the history books, 0% are women.
Clinton might appear to be a stiff, store-bought politician compared with her idealistic opponent, but she is a woman, making a run at president. For a second time. If that's not earnestly passionate--idealistic, even--I don't know what is. And if she can pull it off, she will show a new generation of women--the ones practicing on paper wings--that it's possible, with time and effort, to soar above history.

[1] Almost three-fourths of millennials support same-sex marriage, and 50% believe gender is a spectrum.
[2] Still, women make up only 19.4% of Congress and a mere 4% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies.