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6 Unfortunate Life Lessons Our Kids May Learn from Trump’s Historic Win (If We Aren’t Careful)


A peaceful protest may help with closure for your older child or teen who mourns the loss of his or her chosen candidate. Photo Credit/Maury Feinsilber

Attending a peaceful protest may help with closure for your older child or teen who mourns the loss of his or her chosen candidate. Photo Credit/Maury Feinsilber

Upending conventional wisdom and pretty much all of the polls, Donald Trump coasted to an electoral college defeat of Hillary Clinton this past Tuesday, even as he lost to her in the popular vote.  Wednesday morning, many of us parents were not only shocked and dismayed (and sleep deprived), but also were wondering how could we could explain to our children what had happened.  After all, these were the same children who had watched us rally around the first major party female nominee for president, and had believed us when we said that Donald Trump did not represent American values of fundamental fairness and justice.   How to make sense of the loss?  What messages had been relayed to our impressionable children and teenagers in the process?  And how could we counter them before they did lasting damage?  Given that I wrote a piece entitled “7 Life Lessons Our Kids Can Learn from Hillary Clinton’s Historic Nomination,” it seemed only fitting that I take a stab at the life lessons our kids may now take away from Trump’s mind boggling win, as well as how we might counter and replace those lessons with healthier, more appropriate ones.  Here goes:

1. Bullying Rocks!/Nice Guys Finish Last

The Message:

That our children and citizenry have heard this message loud and clear can be seen by the alarming uptick in hate crimes and incidents being reported across the country. Some of these incidents appear to be perpetuated by our youth.   If our new leader can bully and get away with it, other bullies are bound to be emboldened and motivated to follow suit.

The Counter-Message:

Explain to your children that our new president ran a campaign based on hateful rhetoric, and by appealing to adults’ fears of the unknown. Tell them that as unfortunate as it may be, we are now seeing hateful responses by those who are ignorant and misguided. Emphasize that bullies are wrong regardless of what our new president may have done and said, that bullying is cruel and is never appropriate, and that ultimately it is up to all of us to point out when people—our friends, our classmates—are being bullied for their differences. Encourage them not to use labels to describe anyone else and explain how hateful names and labels and slurs can be hurtful even without accompanying physical harm.   Avoid using labels yourself, even to describe Donald Trump (easier said than done, but it helps to be consistent).  Explain to them the meaning of hate symbols and why such symbols are so cruel and harmful to others.

2. Never Apologize for Anything

The Message:

Trump ran a testosterone laden, alpha male campaign where he managed to get away with all sorts of bad behavior by deflecting to his less than perfect female opponent and her spouse. He also used the strategy of the non-apology apology (protesting that someone else did something even worse in the past) when he was caught on a hot mic bragging that he can sexually assault women and get away with it. In the meantime, Trump also managed to appeal to the baser instinct in us that wants our team to win at all costs and believes perhaps that apologizing only shows weakness that can be exploited.  Since Trump won, our kids might see this as a signal that they should dig their heels in when accused of something that they did wrong, rather than come clean and apologize to the person they have wronged.

The Counter-Message:

Remind your kids that it is not a sign of weakness for one to apologize when he or she is wrong.   It is better to do the right thing than to win in the end.  Set a good example by doing this yourself on occasion when they are watching.  Emphasize that it is not just women that are expected to say they are sorry–men must be willing to apologize and make amends as well.

3. Hard Work and Preparation Don’t Pay Off

The Message:

Donald Trump is the logical extreme of the neo-GOP anti-intellectual view that only nerds engage in preparation, reading, and studying. He famously avoided preparing for his debates and the lack of preparation was glaring relative to Clinton, who won all three debates handily. Indeed, Clinton is the quintessential policy wonk, who knows her stuff inside and out. Well, we saw how that ended up for her in the rust belt of this country, and she lost among the uneducated, including uneducated white women who we might have expected would want to help another woman get elected to the highest office in the land. Kids paying attention—especially those who are old enough to listen to commentary and watch the debates—might come away from all of this thinking that hard work and dedication are not virtues in the end.

The Counter-Message:

We must get the message across to our kids that hard work and preparation is a good thing worthy of their time and effort. Even if Hillary Clinton didn’t win the presidency in the end, she has accomplished so much over her lifetime, which is no easy feat as a woman, and that has been the result of all of her hard work and effort. Tell your kids that even Donald Trump had to work hard to get into an Ivy League college and build his business empire. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

4. Experience Means Nothing

The Message:

Donald Trump ran as an outsider and that meant that he has zero experience in either the government or the military. This is virtually unprecedented and yet lo and behold he got the job he was seeking. Some kids might view this as a sign that jobs grow on trees and experience is irrelevant if one is brash and bold and arrogant—like our new president.

The Counter-Message:

Tell your kids that Donald Trump is quite the exception to a general rule that employers require pertinent job experience. If he or she wants to succeed in life and grow up to become, let’s say, a scientist, he or she will need to study and get a degree and then get an internship working in a lab to gain experience. He or she will have to pay some dues. Trump is not the norm, in other words. The American public gave him a job for which he isn’t prepared.   We will now see how that works out for us all.

5. It’s Bad to Be Different

The Message:

Trump campaigned on a highly divisive, racially charged platform where he mocked a disabled reporter, called Mexicans immigrants rapists and drug dealers, threatened to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, and singled out “my African American” at one of his rallies. His “build a wall” battle cry and threats of mass deportation reeked of xenophobic nationalism. Trump also surrounded himself with some pretty racist characters, such as Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon, who is his brand-new Chief Strategist. Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate and our new Vice President, is a man who believes that homosexuals choose to be gay and can benefit from cruel and discredited conversion therapy.   But guess what? He won the campaign despite all of this, so what child wouldn’t be thinking it is a bad thing to be anything other than a straight white Christian male.

The Counter-Message:

It is super important that we tell our kids that it is ok to be different and we need to be supportive of our friends and neighbors who are. Wear safety pins and explain to your child the symbolic nature of the gesture.   Encourage them to read books and watch movies that stress messages of acceptance and tolerance.

6. Women Are Not Worthy of Respect (Boys Will Be Boys)

The Message:

Our children have heard throughout the campaign Donald Trump say mean, vile things about women. He has said things about his own wives and daughters that show he views them primarily as objects or possessions. Older kids have likely seen or heard the infamous videotape where Donald Trump brags he can grab women by the pussy and move in on a married woman like a bitch. They may have heard reports of the more than 14 women who claim Trump had sexually assaulted them. They may have even listened to the Howard Stern shows where Trump rated women on a scale from 1 to 10 or heard that Trump called a former Miss Universe—the most beautiful woman in the world—“Miss Piggy.” All of this together showed a staggering degree of misogyny and disrespect for women—both those he knows and total strangers. Despite all of this, Trump is now our leader. What girl or boy wouldn’t be thinking that women in this country are second-class citizens and not worthy of respect?

The Counter-Message:

It is critically important that we treat women in our lives with respect. Set a good  example by refraining from making comments about other women’s appearance or even your own figure flaws. Avoid using the term “bitch” or similar words with negative connotations about women.   Do your best to raise your sons to respect girls’ and women’s personal space and explain to them that there are no blurred lines when it comes to sexual consent. Tell your daughter that she is valuable because of who she is and what she does and not because of her body or appearance. Make sure she understands that she is in charge of her body and it is her decision completely about whether she will allow another person to touch her. If your son does something wrong in this regard, do not dismiss it as “boys will be boys”—make sure there are consequences.


Why I Trust Hillary (& Why All Women/Moms Should Too)


 The media keeps reporting polls that show Hillary Clinton has a
trustworthiness problem. I personally don’t get this. To me, trustworthiness in a candidate means that if elected he or she will follow through and keep as many campaign promises as possible. I think that voters may be confusing trustworthiness with transparency. Yes, some politicians—especially those who have been burned for being frank and blunt—may tend to keep things closer to the vest. Hillary Clinton in particular has been in public spotlight at least since 1992 when her husband ran for the presidency. A trailblazer on many levels, she was often scrutinized in a particularly harsh and unfair light and many people hated her for rebelling against the status quo while First Lady. As a result, it really isn’t so surprising that she has strived to keep an element of privacy in her life, as difficult as that may be. Now this has prompted charges that she is not as transparent as people would like. I would argue, however, that when it comes to her trustworthiness to serve the American public, superficial transparency is largely beside the point. Why? Again, what I look for in a candidate for president is whether he or she will strive to fulfill his/her promises and get things accomplished. In this sense of the word, there can be no question but that Hillary is “trustworthy.
Women and moms should examine Clinton in this light when deciding whether to vote for her and, also, must scrutinize her trustworthiness as compared to her opponent, Donald Trump. In other words, how consistent has Clinton been over the years in making promises to get things done and then at least striving to get those things accomplished? How consistent have her positions on policy stayed over her years in the public spotlight? Is she more trustworthy than Donald Trump when it comes to many, many issues of import to women and moms? I think it is crystal clear that she is more worthy of women/moms’ trust, and here are six reasons why:

1. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Keep Us All Safe

Hillary Clinton knows a great deal about foreign affairs and is respected at home and abroad for her work as Secretary of State under the Obama administration. She has made crucial decisions under great pressure and our country stayed safe during her tenure. Among her successes as our Secretary of State, Clinton restored our reputation in the world after George W. Bush’s presidency, championed the rights of women and girls around the globe, negotiated the toughest sanctions ever against Iran, negotiated a cease fire between Hamas and Israel, stood up for worldwide LGBT rights, reinvigorated American diplomacy with Asia, and took on the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Clinton’s stated policies on national security are designed with the primary goal of keeping us all safe.

 On the other hand, Donald Trump has no experience in foreign affairs. He has shown himself to not have a firm grasp on the details of foreign policy, has unnecessarily inflamed our relations with countries such as Mexico, and has criticized our nation’s able generals. He lacks the steady judgment and temperament necessary to be commander in chief over the U.S. and the free world. Don’t believe me? Well, then take it from the GOP experts, such as
Michael Hayden (former CIA director under George W. Bush), who have said the same thing, despite the political ramifications. Indeed, 50 GOP national security officials signed on to a damning letter stating that Trump would be “the most reckless president in American history.” Trump’s statements about getting rid of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an alliance of nations that helps us avoid nuclear war, are also very troubling. Former Special Forces and CIA Operations Officer Michael Vickers, former GOP Senator Larry Pressler, Bush Administration vets John Stubbs and Ricardo Reyes, GOP foreign policy advisor Brent Scowcroft, and Bush Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, have all said that it is Hillary Clinton, hands down, who will be more likely to keep us safe in a dangerous world.

 2. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Fight for Equal Rights for All Americans, Including Women

Hillary Clinton has been fighting for the rights of women and minorities her entire adult life. She believes that women should make an equal amount of money as do men for the same job. She went to a conference in China 21 years ago, and boldly proclaimed that women’s rights are human rights. She has fought for a woman’s right to choose throughout her years in public service. Hillary believes that we are a great country that will become greater still if we treat all of our citizenry equally.

 Donald Trump? He has become the
darling of white supremacists, a fact that he was very slow to acknowledge or denounce. He demeans women at every turn and has said creepy, offensive things even about his own daughter. He has also said racist things about Muslims, Mexicans, an American judge, and our own President. In fact, here are 13 prime examples of Trump being racist.  

3. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Help the Sick, Disabled, and Downtrodden in Our Society

In the early 1970s, Hillary Clinton sought to ferret out segregation and discrimination against African American schoolchildren by posing as a housewife. She fought for the laws that now require public education for disabled children. Today, Clinton has concrete proposals on how to help the disabled in this country, including autistic kids. Clinton also has proposals to assist the mentally ill and Alzheimer’s patients, as well as stop the Zika virus.

 Donald Trump? In the early 1970s, Donald Trump’s father and he were refusing to
rent housing to African Americans in violation of the Fair Housing Act. He mocks the disabled and seeks an end to “political correctness” (aka civility) as we know it in this country. Trump has also been sued multiple times for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, including a variety of accessibility issues at his Atlantic City casino, Taj Mahal, which recently shut its doors after filing for bankruptcy. Trump has no concrete plans to help the sick, disabled, and downtrodden in our country.

 4. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Reduce Gun Violence in This Country

As a corollary to #1 above, Hillary Clinton has been an ardent supporter for common sense gun safety laws. Her critics say, without any evidence whatsoever, that she aims to take away guns or abolish the Second Amendment but, in fact, she just wants enactment of laws that will operate to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, the severely mentally ill, domestic abusers, and convicted felons. Not only is this reasonable, it’s essential to protect Americans from mass shootings and other fatalities due to gun violence. Her goal of expanding background checks is supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners.

 Donald Trump? He has been
endorsed by the National Rifle Association for his views on guns, including the elimination of gun-free zones at schools. He also likes to tell jokes about gun violence, which really are not funny. At all.

 5. Women/Moms Should Trust HIllary More Than Trump to Help Families, Children, and Young Adults

Hillary Clinton has policies on K-12 education in this country that will ultimately benefit all of us. She wants to make pre-Kindergarten universal for all children, and has a plan for debt-free college. She is committed to fighting for paid family leave, and has done so both as First Lady and as a United States Senator. Starting with her work on the Children’s Defense Fund, Hillary has made children’s rights a priority. Also, most everyone knows that Hillary unsuccessfully fought for universal health care before it was Obamacare, but did you know that she helped pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which today insures millions of American children? She gave an interview to Parents Magazine in which she promised to help families and provided specifics.

 Donald Trump? As a lifelong businessman and entrepreneur, he is a relative newcomer to the question of education in our country and, since announcing his candidacy, has offered little to no specifics regarding how he would address or tackle the problems we face today. Most recently, his proposals to focus more resources on charter schools and voucher programs
seem likely to weaken or even gut our current public school system. When Parents Magazine reached out to ask Trump the same questions about families as were posed to Hillary, he declined to be interviewed.  Just this past Tuesday, he finally elaborated on his proposed childcare and maternity leave policies with daughter, Ivanka, standing beside him.   The maternity leave policy has already been criticized for being 50% shorter than Clinton’s proposal (six weeks vs. twelve weeks) and sexist as well (Clinton’s plan includes paternity leave for fathers; Trump’s is solely for working moms).  Trump’s childcare plan calls for a tax deduction that would benefit wealthy working mothers but not the average working mom who is struggling to make ends meet.

 6. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Protect Our Environment

The graphic below makes clear that when it comes to protecting the environment for our kids and grandkids, there is no comparison between Clinton and Trump. Hillary understands the dangers of climate change and will work to protect our planet while creating jobs. And Trump? He has called the policies of the Obama administration, such as the Clean Power Plan, “stupid” and, like many Republicans, denies that climate change is a concern, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. 

All In for Hillary! A Progressive Mom’s Back-to-School “To Do” List

The FeMOMist and her 16 year old son registering voters in Falls Church, VA.

Jennifer (aka “The FeMOMist”) and her 16 year old son registering voters in Falls Church, VA.

After a summer of family fun, my kids both went back to school on Monday, giving me a few minutes of peace and tranquility.

OK…that’s over.

It’s less than 10 weeks until Election Day!   Now that I have more time, what can I do to help Hillary get elected (and keep Donald Trump far away from the nuclear codes)?!

Here is one progressive mom’s “to do” list for this election season, which is shaping up to be one of the most important presidential elections in our lifetime.  The great thing is that many of these things can be accomplished with your kids by your side so you can set a good example, while getting them involved with the political process early in life!


My Back-to-School “To Do” List

1. Join (or Start) a Group

Grassroots organization has become one of the most effective way of mobilizing folks to support a cause, often from the comfort of their own homes.  Stay-at-home (or well organized) moms can benefit from this empowering way to get involved.  The group can stay social media-centered, but occasionally goes viral and takes on a life of its own.

Some examples of moms organizing at the grassroots level?  Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America started a movement in the wake of the Sandy Hook mass shooting that resembled Mothers Against Drunk Driving in some ways but had all the markings of the modern era:  Watts used social media to build up her massive following (now over a half million followers on Facebook alone) in a relatively short period of time.

More recently, Julie Zebrak started Moms4HRC (over 13,000 followers on Facebook) with the goal of electing Hillary Clinton as our 45th president.  Julie uses her electronic bully pulpit to send out (via social media and e-mail) pro-Hillary content from legitimate news organizations that she reads and digests before disseminating.  She also provides content on how to get involved with the campaign, has hosted a phone bank, is fundraising for the campaign, and just launched a website devoted to the group.  A lawyer and mom of two teenaged girls, Julie quit her government job to devote herself full-time to Moms4HRC.

No need to reinvent the wheel if you aren’t the organizing type (which I’m not), or simply don’t have the time.  All you have to do is like/join/follow groups like Moms Demand Action and Moms4HRC and there is genuine power and clout in numbers.

A Moms4HRC chart designed to inform moms about ways to help in various states.

“To Do” in Virginia for the week of August 26: Follow Moms4HRC on Facebook/subscribe to emails to receive these helpful charts on a weekly basis.

2.  Canvassing

While I personally haven’t done this yet, according to the research, canvassing is probably the single most effective way of getting out the vote.  Canvassing involves knocking on the doors of voters and encouraging them to vote for Hillary.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing this alone, bring a friend along or your kids.  I know of multiple women/moms who have canvassed for the Clinton campaign, and they say it’s a great experience to connect with real people and talk about the issues.

To get involved with canvassing in your town, especially in key battleground states:  (1) go to, (2) click on the “more” tab, and (3) enter your zip code under “events.”  You can then (4) select “canvass” as a filter to see upcoming opportunities and get additional information.

3.  Voter Registration

I registered voters on a scorching hot day in Virginia with my kids (see above pic with my 16 year old son taken by my 14 year old daughter), and plan to do more now that it’s not as hot outdoors.

Basically, voter registration involves:

(1) Going to a group information session where you will learn about the voting requirements of a given state, and what you need to do to help a person register to vote.

(2)  From there, going to an assigned location (typically outside of supermarkets or other public places)

(3) Asking people who pass by if they are registered to vote and, if not, would they like to register.  

(4) Volunteers also help folks fill out the paperwork, which can be challenging for some.

Note that we do not ask anyone to vote specifically for Hillary.  The purpose is to make sure that everyone who is unregistered but is eligible and wants to vote is registered before their state deadline.  

In Virginia, for example, that deadline is October 17th, but every state is different.  Since different states also have varying requirements for residents that can make registering to vote more or less challenging to accomplish, voter registration can be a great civics lesson for older kids who are learning in school about the history of the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

4.  Go to a Phone Bank

Not a face-to-face people person?  Have physical or other challenges that would make canvassing and voter registration (which generally involves walking and/or standing for periods of time) difficult?  Consider attending a phone bank event or volunteering for the virtual phone bank.  I did this beginning with Iowa during the primaries and it was so easy.  Yes, this is “cold calling,” but typically as the general election approaches you will be talking to a Clinton supporter and either asking them to volunteer or commit over the phone to voting for Hillary in early voting or on Election Day.  Whatever you are tasked with accomplishing during a phone bank session, you will have a script in front of you, and all the information you need.

Go here for more info about the campaign’s virtual phone bank.

For info about phone bank events near you, (1) go to, (2) click on the “more” tab, (3) enter your zip code in the space provided under “events,” and (4) filter by “phone banks” along the sidebar.

5.  Host a Fundraiser

Yes, this can sound a little daunting, but fundraisers come in many shapes and sizes.  Even if you aren’t the PTA type, you too can raise money for Hillary!  For example, what about setting up a lemonade stand and donating all proceeds to the Clinton campaign fund?  Not only are you getting the little ones involved at a level they can understand, but also you can chat with people as they come by and say why you are voting for Hillary and why they should too. Another example:  Zebrak’s group is hosting a family friendly, back to school event in the backyard of a friend’s home.  Be creative!

A Florida mom sells lemonade to raise money for Clinton campaign.

A Florida mom sells lemonade to raise money and awareness for the Clinton campaign.

6. Attend a Fundraiser or Campaign Event

For a campaign contribution of varying amounts, you can go to an event to hear and sometimes meet interesting celebrity speakers.  Occasionally there are even big name performers/Clinton supporters like Katy Perry or Barbra Streisand.  Fundraisers like these tend to be centered around major cities such as Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, but there can also be similar events going on elsewhere, particularly in battleground states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.

For a list of official campaign fundraiser events, (1) go to, (2) click on the “more” tab, (3) enter your zip code under “events,” and (4) use filters to find the event that’s best for you.

If you are in the DC metro area, and can’t afford a major fundraising event, consider going with your family to Moms4HRC’s back-to-school party on September 17th for a smaller campaign contribution.  For more info, click here.

Women for Hillary Fundraising Event on May 4 in Washington, D.C., featuring a panel discussion with Eva Longoria, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue, and Clinton aide Cheryl Mills.

Women for Hillary Fundraising Event on May 4 in Washington, D.C., featuring a panel discussion with Eva Longoria, NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue, and Cheryl Mills.

Hillary Clinton speaks at fundraising event attended by the author.

Hillary Clinton speaks at fundraising event attended by the author.

7. Spread the Word

This has become much easier in the Internet era.  I personally enjoy writing and have a background as an attorney/litigator, so I decided to start a blog entitled Musings from the FeMOMist.  While my blog covers many topics of concern to moms and women, a number of my posts are about Hillary Clinton and why moms/women should vote for her over Donald Trump.  Writing is a kind of a hobby for me at this point and my favorite way of supporting Hillary.

Not into writing?  That’s perfectly fine–you can send out a short email blast to your networks and quote or link to other sources (give credit as appropriate) or share content with your Facebook friends.  If you have a Twitter account you can tweet occasionally or share content that way.

8. Stay Informed

It’s hard to spread the word about Hillary’s accomplishments and what she intends to do as POTUS unless you are informed yourself.  There are many ways for a busy mom to do this.

Read articles about Clinton from reputable news sources that you feel confident are not biased against her.  (An example of a so-called news source not to trust is Breitbart since its editor-in-chief is now running the Trump campaign.)

Moms4HRC does a great job of gathering information and news and posting on its Facebook page.  If you don’t follow the group on Facebook, all of the posts are here.

Here is a link to a reasonably comprehensive list of Clinton’s jobs, experience, and accomplishments.  Print it out and carry it with you to show people when they tell you Hillary hasn’t “accomplished” anything.

A recent interview of Clinton by Parents Magazine reveals what she plans to do specifically to help families.

Go to Hillary’s website to see her concrete proposals to address an array of issues that face our country.

Follow these links to some of my entries as a contributor on HuffPost to know how to respond when people say they are considering voting for Donald Trump over Clinton, say that she is crooked/a liar, bring up Benghazi/emails, or mention that they dislike her.

9. Adopt a Campaign Office

One great idea proposed by Moms4HRC (see graphic below) is to adopt a campaign office.  Basically, you provide food, drinks, and supplies to the volunteers who are working away to support the campaign.

Ideas on what to contribute to your local campaign office, courtesy of Moms4HRC

Ideas on what to contribute to your local campaign office, courtesy of Moms4HRC

10.  Volunteer at a Campaign Office

Local campaign offices welcome volunteers and can have a variety of jobs for you to do, both at the office and in the field.  As one example, during the primaries, I volunteered to stand outside an early voting poll venue and hand out flyers about Hillary.  If your kids are old enough, you can bring them along and get them involved too.  As we get closer to the election, there will be opportunities to drive voters to the polling place, and help watch little kids while their parents vote.

The author handing out literature at a polling place during early voting, with Jamie Raskin, a Democrat running for the US Congress in Maryland.

The author handing out literature at a polling place during primary early voting.  To her left is Jamie Raskin, Democratic candidate for the US Congress.

7 Life Lessons Our Children Can Learn from Hillary Clinton’s Historic Nomination

You have probably seen the Clinton campaign ad.  You know, the one where Donald Trump disparages women, encourages violence against protesters, claims he could shoot up Times Square and his supporters would still vote for him, makes racist comments about Mexicans, and mocks a disabled reporter.  (If not, click here or see below.)   We have all heard Trump say these things, almost to the point of becoming desensitized to them.

But what about our children?  The ad is particularly devastating in that it shows the faces of children watching Trump on TV.  It shows that they are listening and taking in the words and the message.  Trump, in essence, says and does things that we as parents try to teach our children not to do.  The ad (entitled “Role Models”)  next displays this message “Our children are watching.  What example will we set for them?”

And then, the ad concludes with the words of Hillary Clinton herself, who is saying during a speech (again, as children watch on TV), “Our children and grandchildren will look back at this time, at the choices we are about to make, the goals we will strive for, the principles we will live by.  And we need to make sure that they can be proud of us.”

We have heard a lot about the horrifying things that Donald Trump has said and done–both during his campaign and over the course of a lifetime.  It almost goes without saying that these things–bullying, incitement to violence, racism, misogyny, xenophobia–are lessons we do not want our children to learn.  But what about Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and the things that she has said and done over the course of her lifetime?  What does her historic nomination teach our children (and us) about life and the principles we want them to learn?  The media has done little to distill these for us (except to note the self-evident, highly significant truth that at least one woman has been able to achieve the previously unattainable).  So, here are seven other life lessons (the first being that kids should dream big, that even a girl from a middle class upbringing can grow up to be president) that our kids can take away from Hillary Clinton’s extraordinary life and nomination.  It wouldn’t hurt to point these out to our sons and daughters and show them how Clinton’s story is, in many ways, a model well worth following

1. Perseverance Pays Off

Clinton is the poster child for the motto, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”   Her perseverance has been one of her most important character traits over the course of her adult life.  When she took on as First Lady, the thankless, impossible job of tackling universal health care and failed, she could have given up and retreated into a more traditional role.  Instead, she worked with members of Congress to find common ground and enact the Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing health care insurance to millions of children.   When she lost the nomination in 2008 to Barack Obama, she could have thrown up her arms in despair and lived out the rest of her life in comfort.  Al Gore did just that in 2000 when he narrowly lost the election to George W. Bush.  Instead, Clinton picked herself up, dusted herself off, and returned to public service, working directly for the man who had defeated her.  And then, put herself through the same grueling schedule and withering criticisms by running for the nomination again four years later.  Lesson taught?  If you give up, there is no chance at success, so why not persevere and try again.

2. Nobody Is Perfect But That’s OK/Own Up to Your Mistakes

Clinton has been around the block–many times.  She has been in the public spotlight since the early 1990s and, as a woman ahead of her time, has endured a particularly harsh, brightly lit, and cynical spotlight at that.   Could anyone come out of that without making some mistakes?  Of course not.  Do we expect our kids to be perfect and never make mistakes?  Do we never make mistakes ourselves?  Of course not.  Clinton has made her fair share of mistakes and her political enemies have always tried to make hay of those mistakes.  However, Clinton has also been unusual on the political scene by keeping an open mind and when she sees she was indeed wrong about something, she will admit it.  She will grow and learn from her mistakes and change either her way of thinking or try to make things right.  Male politicians on the whole seem to struggle with admitting to mistakes and instead dig in deeper and double down.  Changing one’s mind in the face of reason or admitting you made a mistake and sincerely apologizing for it is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and it’s a great lesson for our children.

3. Ignore Naysayers

How is it possible that Clinton holds her head up every day and forges ahead despite people yelling “Lock her up!” (and that’s just the Bernie-or-Busters)?  How can she work towards making a change to a deeply entrenched idea (like, disabled children can’t be educated in the public school system, or a woman’s place is in the home with her husband) when people all around her are saying it’s impossible, it’s not worth the effort, it’s just plain wrong?  Somehow she can block it out because she is secure in her values and in her heart knows she is doing the right thing.

4. Stand Up to Bullies

Clinton spoke during her acceptance speech at the DNC about how her mother–herself a tough cookie who had to fend for herself at a very young age–taught Clinton always to stand up to a bully.  When you’re relatively small, or weak, or female, it’s easy to be intimidated by those who seek to shut you down through force–physical or emotional.  Clinton’s defiance in the face of men–most recently, Donald Trump–who seek to bully her is another great life lesson for all of us.

5. Listen to & Learn from Others

While Clinton can block out a lot of unfair, politically motivated noise, she somehow maintains her ability to let in voices of reason and constructive criticism.  She also has never become so powerful that she forgets to listen, or has stopped listening, to those people who are weak and powerless and downtrodden.  Those who are closest to her and her advisors marvel at how she can truly listen to the plight of individual men, women, and children while on the campaign trail and immediately try to help solve their problem.  She does this by listening and not just hearing what they have to say.

6. Have Confidence in Your Abilities/Dare to Be Different

To be a college woman in the 1970s, the first student commencement speaker at your school, a student at an old boy’s club like Yale Law School, a political activist that poses as a housewife and mother to uncover school segregation in the South, and a First Lady that pushes the envelope like no one before her, etc., etc., etc., you have to be both very confident in your own abilities and also willing to go out on a limb and try another pathway.  Girls and women have always struggled with these things.  We allow ourselves to be talked over at meetings, needlessly apologize for our words and actions, doubt ourselves at every turn.  Clinton’s life history teaches all of us that we shouldn’t psych ourselves out and rather to trust our instincts and values to make change when we feel something is wrong and needs to be fixed.

7.  Empathize with Others

Clinton gave a speech when she was First Lady saying that what the world needed was more “love and kindness.”  She was crucified in the press for it.  This was yet another of her ideas that was ahead of its time.  She was right, of course.  What an antidote for the hatred and divisiveness peddled by her opponent than some love and kindness for our fellow humans.  When Clinton talks about “love and kindness” what she really means is that we need more empathy.  We need to be able to step into the shoes of a single pregnant mom living in poverty or the child of an illegal immigrant who is terrified he will be deported.  We need to see that saying racist things leads children who are African-American or of Mexican descent to feel devalued and ashamed of themselves and their ancestors.  We need to understand that “Black Lives Matter” because all lives should matter but do not, even in 2016.  We need to empathize more and judge less.  What a great life lesson for all of us.


Rape Culture & How It Impacts Our Children



In 2007, my husband and I went to the first parent-teacher conference for our daughter, Beatrice (not her real name), who had started Kindergarten a couple months before.  I was eager to hear about my smart little girl.  Because of Beatrice’s advanced language skills, we had decided to send her to a private international school with a Spanish immersion program.  Although we are native speakers of English, this meant she would be learning in Spanish subjects like reading and math.  Naturally, I wanted to know how she was adapting to her new school–the immersion part, the academics, and to some extent the social life.

We sat down at one of the tiny tables that dotted the classroom and the teacher said to us, “Beatrice is doing great!”  I heaved a sigh of relief and looked at my husband and smiled.  Clearly, we had made the correct decision sending our daughter to this school.

The teacher then continued (somewhat exuberantly):  “The boys love Beatrice.  They always want to sit or stand right next to her.  They hold her hand. . . .”

By now, my feminist mom mind had switched on a very bright lightbulb over my head.  When the teacher finished with her description I asked (somewhat diplomatically), “Is Beatrice ok with that?”

The teacher didn’t hesitate:  “Oh yes, she loves it!”

Hmmm…I thought.  But does she?  Does she really?

We did at that point go on to discuss how Beatrice was adapting to foreign language immersion and academics, but the question hung in the balance.  Beatrice had always been a joy–a natural entertainer to whom people, adults and children alike, were drawn.  If someone was down, she would comfort or try to cheer him or her up.  I wondered if perhaps the teacher’s assessment of her interactions with her male classmates did not reflect how Beatrice genuinely felt about all that attention, including the touching part of it.

So I went home and asked her.  Beatrice was only five years old and had little self-awareness but I knew my daughter well enough to see that she found the routine invasion of her personal space by the boys–at the very least– annoying.  In any event, it clearly wasn’t something that she loved or wanted as the teacher seemed to infer (and enthusiastically at that).

Consent.  It is actually so simple (Yes means Yes; No means No; unconscious people are incapable of consent–see this video about tea to drive home the point):

Yet, young children are so innocent we don’t tend to think that sexual consent is an issue at that point.  The problem is that teachers like my daughter’s, when they put a positive spin on a boy’s impulse to touch a nice, pretty little girl, send a potentially dangerous message that both the boy and the girl may bring with them into adulthood.  The message that the boy gets is that he has carte blanche to touch girls.  The message that the girl gets is that she has to suck it up and pretend it doesn’t bother her.

These messages are dangerous, particularly when coupled with a culture that is–face it–absolutely saturated with messages that women are not in control of their own bodies; that unwanted touching is something to be endured without complaint; and that if a woman does dare to complain about unwanted sexual contact (e.g. rape)  she will be the one who is blamed, shamed, dismissed, and worst of all, even when believed, her rapist will get off with little more than a wink and a nod.

Growing up in this culture–the so-called “rape culture”–in this country makes for future men who may see “no” as just an inconvenient roadblock to move out of the way through verbal or physical coercion or brute force, or that believe if a woman is sexually assaulted on a college campus she is not a rape victim but merely an inconvenient roadblock to a college man’s bright future.  It makes for little girls who think it’s ok for little boys to invade their personal space because the teacher (who is, after all, a product of rape culture herself) thinks it’s cute, even if it is actually annoying to the little girl, who just wants to be left alone.

The problem is that teachers like my daughter’s, when they put a positive spin on a boy’s impulse to touch a nice, pretty little girl, send a potentially dangerous message that both the boy and the girl may bring with them into adulthood.  The message that the boy gets is that he has carte blanche to touch girls.  The message that the girl gets is that she has to suck it up and pretend it doesn’t bother her.

Therein lies the rub:

When schools have stringent dress codes that specifically target girls, this sends the message that girls are responsible for making sure that boys are not attracted to them, thereby serving as a distraction, and further implies that boys do not have the responsibility to learn and practice self control when around girls.

When matters of women’s bodies and health are routinely decided by male lawmakers rather than the woman herself and her doctor, this sends the message that women are not in charge of their own bodies.

When campus sexual assault is routinely “dealt with” outside the confines of the criminal justice system, that sends the message that a man’s future and the reputation of colleges and universities are more important than a woman’s health, safety, and physical and psychological well-being.

When the “song of the summer” (Robin Thicke’s hit song “Blurred Lines”) is all about “no” maybe not really meaning “no” and claiming that really there are “blurred lines” in the context of sexual consent, that sends the message that it’s ok to coerce or force a woman into sexual activity or ignore a woman’s state of consciousness; and further, that women don’t even know what they want sexually so men should just go ahead and decide for them.

When the hottest bestseller and movie (Fifty Shades of Grey) romanticizes the story of an older man who refuses to take no for an answer from a college woman and enters into what is an essentially physically and emotionally abusive relationship with her, this sends the message that relationships such as that one are normal, healthy, and desirable.

When a woman is brutally raped and assaulted by a college student (Stanford swimmer Brock Turner) who is convicted, yet receives a three-month jail sentence because the (male) judge is concerned about his future (and–“Hey-he is an amazing swimmer”!), that sends the message that even if a woman goes forward with a criminal rape case and is believed, her life and self-worth as a victim of rape is not worth as much as the convicted rapist’s future.

On the other hand, slut shaming puts society in the position of judging a woman’s exercise of certain freedoms by invariably identifying with the male perspective.   American women should be as free as men, however, to make their own choices in life.  Thus, when an adult woman consents to sexual activity with an adult man, that is her business.  She can make these decisions for herself, and it isn’t the place of a man or anyone else to make them for her.

Incidentally, having consensual sex doesn’t make a woman a “slut” or a “whore,” any more than it makes a man who decides to have consensual sex with a woman a “_______” (fill in the blank, because there is no male version of the term “slut” in our rape culture lexicon).  It doesn’t mean a woman is asking to be raped when she dresses in a way that some men might happened to find alluring.  Women should not be responsible for men’s lack of impulse control, however.  Boys and girls need to learn this from an early age before it becomes “normal” and accepted adult behavior.

One more time everyone:  “no” means “no” and “yes” means “yes.”  There is no secret language that exists–at least outside of our culture, which at every turn glorifies male sexual domination and control, equates masculinity with sexual conquest, and excuses men from wrongdoing because, well, a man has a powerful desire to do something wrong to a woman.  Put differently, sexual consent is no different than consenting to drink tea–the only difference between these two scenarios is that men (boys) have really strong urges at times to have sex with women (touch girls) but care a lot less about tea drinking.

It’s high time that we see our rape culture for what it is and make meaningful changes to it.  Our young children–both and boys and girls–are watching, and listening, and learning.



16 Female Empowerment Anthems (& 1 Pop Song that Set Us Back Decades)


I was in the car with my 14-year-old daughter listening to the Hits 1 station on satellite radio and I think she was a little surprised at my reaction to what was the “song of the summer” a few summers back. I abruptly changed the station and couldn’t help but say aloud in an annoyed tone, “I can’t believe they are still playing this song.” You see, I actually LISTEN to the lyrics of the songs that come on the radio, especially the stations that my kids like to listen to, which I suppose you can call generically “pop music.” So anyway, I didn’t have to listen to any more than the first couple bars because how many times have I heard that song played? The song I’m talking about is “Blurred Lines,” by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams (or actually not penned by Robin, whom you may recall copped to being strung out on prescription painkillers through the entire process, and didn’t write the song at all), and featuring rapper T.I.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Tipper Gore, and can tolerate some explicit language and even sexual innuendo, but I do think there are some songs that have become so engrained into our culture and that have content that is seriously damaging to our kids.  Take “Blurred Lines,” which includes lyrics such as “I know you want it . . . but you’re a good girl. . . .You’re an animal. Baby, it’s in your nature. Just let me liberate you. That man is not your mate and that why I’m gon’ take you.” The rap portion of the song is even worse. Did you even know that it contains this lyric: “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your a$$ in two.”???  Date rape much?

It would seem that Robin, Pharrell, and T.I. are inviting men to question whether “no” actually means “no,” and to sexually harm women, but it’s set to such darn catchy music (still can’t get it out of my head after hearing it earlier today), that we all say, “Wow, what a great, fun song.”  And (this is only as of June 2013—the summer had just begun) the music video was watched on YouTube over 73 million times, played over the radio over 50,000 times, had more than 1.4 million downloads, and made megastars out of Robin and Pharrell. Then, we are somehow shocked when we hear about the high rate of sexual assault and date rape on college campuses.

Context. It’s the only realistic answer when it comes to the non-stop popular culture that bombards our kids every day and leaves them with the idea that “no” might really not mean “no,” or that a girl is nothing without a boyfriend, or that appearance counts for everything in this world, or that sex is the end all be all. So, you can’t stop the culture bombardment—even those of you who may still be monitoring closely the content—because, face it, popular culture permeates our entire society and they are going to see and hear it: on iTunes, at a friend’s house, or on YouTube anytime he or she has a phone and you are not around. What you can do, however, is ferret out the truly pernicious aspects of our popular culture and point out to your teen that they are listening to a song about date rape, for example, and then talk to them seriously and meaningfully about date rape.

One more example: there was so much media attention directed at the book and movie “Fifty Shades of Gray,” but did anyone stop and think about how this so-called relationship might look to a teenager?  The story is about a college woman who is completely submissive and subordinate to a much older (wealthy) man who won’t take no for an answer.  And by submissive I mean, like S&M submissive, but also under his complete domination and control.  Even if you think your daughter (or son) isn’t paying attention, you can’t know for sure unless you open up the dialogue. Tell your teen son that “no” means “no” and to respect girls and women, and tell your teen daughter that she has the right to choose when and how she allows others to touch her body—that she is the sole keeper of her body—and that she is worthy of respect.   Because I’ve seen some rather ugly, scary things written on social media by middle schoolers about sex and date rape, which was so disheartening. It’s clear that these messages are coming from all corners and it is our responsibility to make sure that at least it is put in the proper context. I have so much more to say on this topic, but that will be for another day. In the meantime, let’s focus on the positive!

Our pop culture does have some saving graces. Every so often, a badass woman releases a song that becomes very popular, and that song is actually about female empowerment! I love these songs and fortunately since they are also set to catchy music they can also have an impact on our culture, our teens. However, some of these songs also need context, because sometimes the artist is being ironic or symbolic.   So here are some songs—actually anthems—that I have compiled. The next time Hits 1 plays “Blurred Lines” I’ll be ready with the antidote. In fact, I think I’ll make an iTunes playlist!

16 ANTHEMS OF FEMALE EMPOWERMENT (in no particular order)

Click on the song title to hear the song AND read the lyrics!

1.  “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel

Ah, how many times have we moms heard this song from the Disney movie, “Frozen”? Actually my kids were a bit old to become obsessed with a Disney movie so I never heard it enough that I got sick of it. I still listen to it in the rare times that it still is played on the radio. First of all, it’s sung by Idina Menzel, who is possibly one of the best female vocalists of all time. But it’s more than that—the movie plus that song equals young girls growing up to see that not all princesses are crooning “Someday my prince will come…” and that they should be who they want to be: “Don’t hold it back anymore…”   Also, the song teaches that everybody makes mistakes and to tune out the naysayers, something even we adult women sometimes forget to do.

2.  “Run the World (Girls)” (clean version!) by Beyonce

This song just might be the quintessential female empowerment anthem. Who run the world? Girls! Well that couldn’t be further from the truth (unless a certain woman ends up winning the 2016 election—wink, wink), but isn’t it important that we teach our girls to think that they can or could some day? My favorite line is “Boy you know you love it how we’re smart enough to make these millions. Strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business” Who runs the world? This song is a step in the right direction.

3. “Roar” by Katy Perry

Katy Perry’s anthem is the story of her evolution from mouse to lioness!   (Well, she did come from a strict, religious upbringing so I’m going to assume without knowing for sure that it’s at least partly autobiographical.) This is such an inspirational song for girls with a message that it’s ok to be assertive and strong, and also how to be resilient. Coming from one of their faves, Katy Perry, it is a message that can really resonate.

4.  “Material Girl” by Madonna

OK well this one is kind of the 80s—greed is good—version of an anthem, but it’s Madonna!   Her entire career has been about female empowerment.   Remember the time she said early in her career that her goal in life was “to rule the world”?   To put that statement into context, this was the 80s—before there was such a thing as the concept of sexual harassment and relatively few women in professional careers or the upper echelons of power in our country—and she was a female symbol of strength and power (even though some of our own parents might have seen her as a bad influence). As for the song itself, the point is in the end, which in essence is: I don’t need you, a man, in any event, because I make my own money.

5.  “Confident” by Demi Lovato

Well, what is wrong with being confident?  Absolutely nothing–it should be no-brainer that it is better to be confident than not.  The issue is that our girls have a confidence problem relative to the boys,  which partly explains why girls do well in school and testing, but then get passed over for the guy when the time comes to get a job.  So if one of their favorite artists is telling them it’s a good thing to be confident, well, that can only be a good thing.

6.  “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor

An earlier feminist anthem released in 1978, within a year of when we learned that the Equal Rights Amendment was not to be, this song is actually about a woman’s plucky determination to get by without her man who wronged her. He has the nerve to walk through the door and she’s not having it. The emotion and passion of this song is impossible to resist.

7.  “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten

This: “Like a small boat on the ocean, sending big waves into motion. Like how a single word can make a heart open. I might only have one match but I can make an explosion.” And it goes on from there. Beautiful, meaningful poetry set to a beautiful melody, and released in the year 2015, amidst a lot of bad, inappropriate fluff music. I love Rachel Platten’s defiant “Fight Song”! Apparently, so does Hillary Clinton, as the song is often played after her rallies and special events.

8.  “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper

This 80s song, widely considered to be and used as a party or dance song, actually has a “hidden” feminist message. The song is about a young, unmarried, working woman (an increasingly common demographic by then), who holds on to her right to live her life on her own terms.   Not her mother’s, nor her father’s. And this: “Some boys take a beautiful girl and hide her away from the rest of the world. I wanna be the one who walks in the sun. . . .” I have to give props to Cyndi Lauper too for “True Colors,” which has become an anthem for the acceptance of people who are different from the norm, including the LGBTQ community.

9.  “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy

“Invincible,” “strong,” “wise.” “If I have to I can do anything!” These are words that we want our girls to associate with being female. This early 1970s folk anthem—the original feminist anthem—does that and much more.

10.  “Respect” by Aretha Franklin

This still-beloved classic from the 60s still says it all in a word. Respect. Respect yourself, and respect others. Everything else will then fall into place.

11.  “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift generally writes songs about relationships, both good and bad ones, but every so often she makes an exception. This 2014 song off her smash “1989” album sends the message to girls that they shouldn’t get hung up on what others think or say about them. Just do what Taylor does and Shake. It. Off. In this era where cyberbullying happens all the time, and there have even been incidents of teen suicides at least partially attributable to cyberbullying, this message is a very important one to convey.

12.  “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson

While ultimately about the end of a relationship, this popular anthem is also about not needing a man for happiness.  Kelly Clarkson sings this song like a mantra and it’s a good mantra to have during the times of trouble that we all face in a lifetime.

13.  “Just a Girl” by No Doubt (Gwen Stefani)

So, the casual listener might think this song is actually about submission, but it is completely sarcastic and ironic. I love the lyrics to this song: “Oh I’m just a girl, pretty and petite, so don’t let me have any rights.” The lyrics also slyly get at victim/slut shaming: “The moment that I step outside, so many reasons for me to run and hide. I can’t do the little things I hold so dear, ‘cause it’s all those little things that I fear.” Make sure you point out the sarcasm to your kids—if not heard that way, it is actually a terrible song!

14.  “No” by Meghan Trainor

What better antidote to “Blurred Lines” and “Fifty Shades of Gray” than Meghan Trainor’s new pop tune? Basically this song is about a woman repeating “no” over and over again to a guy who is trying to hit on her. It’s such a simple word and yet there is no word more empowering for girls and women. Really, just one “no” should suffice but Meghan has to say “no” to a number of come-ons because of some boys/men who have now been conditioned to think that maybe, just maybe, “no” means “yes.”   “My name’s ‘no,’ my sign’s ‘no,’ my number’s ‘no,’ you need to let it go.” Yes!

15.  “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross

A song from the early 80s from the great Diana Ross, “I’m Coming Out” has a message similar to the one in “Let It Go”—I’m free to be me!

16.  “Brave” by Sara Bareilles

Saturday Night Life satirized this song, and it was pretty funny, but really if you listen to the lyrics, they’re not about saying everything that’s on your mind with no filter, like your great-aunt Bertha. One big problem girls and women have is that over time we become increasingly silent. We are afraid of what others might think of us. We are afraid that our points of view will be belittled or worse. Sara Bareilles tells us we should be brave “and let the words fall out.”


So there you have it:  16 empowering songs that help counter the damage done by songs like “Blurred Lines.”  Can you think of others?  Are there any feminist songs that have been recorded by men?


With Love and Kindness,

The FeMOMist






About Those Tired Old GOP Tropes Against Hillary Clinton: It’s Time for a Reality Check.

My 14-year-old, apolitical daughter came home from school about a month ago and said at the dinner table to me, my husband, and her 15 year-old brother: “[Insert name of classmate] said that Hillary Clinton is a liar.”

Drop the mic.

We all looked at each other. My husband and I are Democrats, live in a blue state, and an ultra-blue county and I have been a Hillary Clinton supporter for years. My husband is not as die-hard as I am but voted for her in the primaries. Deep breath. . . . How to handle this. . . .

“Did your friend say why she thinks Hillary Clinton is a liar?” My daughter’s response, “No.”

“Well, what did you say?” My daughter: “Nothing.”

What could she say to that? It’s a deeply engrained trope that was started by Republicans against Bill and Hillary Clinton back when they were the quintessential power couple and the GOP were still mourning the end of the Reagan/Bush administrations and their position of power beginning in the early 1990s.   I found it troubling in part because I am pretty sure the classmate’s parents are Democrats. But moreover, it bothered me that my apolitical daughter had no idea what to say in response to a slanderous label that finds no support in fact. My daughter did seem to know though that her parents weren’t going to be supporting a liar for President and she wanted to see our reaction. It made me realize that there is probably a lot of people out there—a lot of young (and maybe even older) women—who don’t know what to make of it when they hear the distortions that come out about Hillary Clinton.  Thus, I wrote this blog post. I hope it helps women and girls feel more secure in challenging or dismissing these tropes when they hear them. Far from being the demon claimed by the right (and some Bernie supporters too), Hillary Clinton has the opportunity to become our first woman president and continue the progress made under the Obama Administration.

Indeed, she undoubtedly will have the opportunity to appoint at least one if not more progressive Supreme Court justices who will aim to overturn Citizens United (which will pave the way for campaign finance reform), as well as return to minorities voting rights that were wrongly taken away by a conservative majority of justices; who will make sure that we do not go back to the days before Roe v. Wade;  and who will overturn Heller, the decision whose strained interpretation of the Second Amendment gave virtually unfettered rights to individual gun owners.  On the other hand,  Donald Trump threatens to nominate very conservative jurists to the Supreme Court who would decide these cases the opposite way, sending us further down the primrose path and back into the dark ages.  That is why it is essential for all progressive thinking women and men to rally behind Hillary Clinton and dismiss these old tired GOP tropes for what they are.

Tired Old GOP Trope #1: Hillary Clinton is not likable. Even women don’t like her.

How It Continues to Arise: Commentators continue to observe this casually without any real evidence.  The likability factor is a very nebulous one that is hard to pin down. If someone doesn’t “like” a person running for public office, then all of the accomplishments, achievements, and solid policy experience and goals are somehow beside the point. Americans vote for someone they think they would want to sit down and have a beer with, right?

The Counterargument: Hillary Clinton has been voted the most admired woman in America 17 times in 18 years.   Plenty of Democrats—women, minorities in particular—presumably “like” her as she does particularly well with those groups.   She also has millions more votes in the primaries than her opponent, Bernie Sanders.

Rather than debating whether Hillary Clinton is in fact liked or not liked, let’s get to the crux of the issue: Why wouldn’t she be liked and why do we have to like a person for him or her to be our President in the first place? David Brooks recently surmised in a New York Times editorial that Hillary isn’t liked because we don’t know anything about what she likes to do with her free time.  In essence: does she have hobbies or does she just want to be the leader of the free world, dammit?   As if playing basketball like President Obama or golf like many professional men would make all the difference.

There is a throwaway line in Brooks’ editorial, about Clinton being a grandmother. Aha! There it is! It’s not that she doesn’t have other interests—she is very outspoken about how much she loves being a grandmother, how she enjoys spending quality time with her daughter and granddaughter, and enjoys reading to little Charlotte, etc.   So it’s not that she doesn’t have other interests outside of public life—clearly she does—it’s just not the right interests (Basketball? Golf? Drinking with the guys?). Believe me, if Hillary Clinton took up a hobby (and who’s to say she doesn’t have a hobby by the way—maybe she just doesn’t talk about it), this would not make anyone like her any better. People would then be saying—why doesn’t she care about her family more? Nobody ever asks that question of a male politician. Ever.

Could it be that no woman running for public office is ultimately “likable”? Put differently, is it possible for a woman politician to be both likeable and capable? That’s hard to say, although if likeability is in fact tied to how one spends their leisure time, it’s hard to imagine a woman who is doing an excellent job juggling a career and a family having the time to get her likeability badge. Sarah Palin seemed to have some interests outside of politics and family, but then again she famously failed the capability test during her run for vice presidency.  I personally would rather have a surgeon operate on me who I know is smart and capable, rather than one that I hear is an awesome basketball player. Hopefully I’m not the minority view on that one.

The Tired Old GOP Trope #2: Hillary Clinton is a liar. She is dishonest and can’t be trusted.

How It Continues to Arise: Donald Trump has taken to calling Clinton “Crooked Hillary,” as if that makes it true.   Bernie Sanders has repeatedly made reference to Clinton’s speaking engagements to Wall Street firms, and the large fees she received as a result.  The point he is trying to make—often indirectly—is that by accepting these fees, she is corrupt, beholden to Wall Street interests, and part of a bigger problem in the U.S.

The Counterargument: Hillary Clinton—unlike Donald Trump—came from a middle class upbringing.  She actually made the lion’s share of her “fortune” after she was First Lady for eight years. As recently as 2001, the Clintons were “dead broke.”   Donald Trump’s sole purpose in life until very recently was to make huge amounts of money. He has bragged that despite being a billionaire, he takes advantage of tax loopholes and looked forward to the real estate bubble bursting so that he could swoop in and get some bargains. He has filed for bankruptcy multiple times.  The common denominator here is that he clearly relishes taking advantage of the system in a way that enriches himself and hurts others.   Trump also refuses to release his tax returns despite it being the standard course of events for presidential candidates to do so, prompting speculation about what could be in those returns.

Finally, according to the political fact-checking website,, Hillary Clinton has made statements that are at least partially true 71% of the time.  By means of comparison, Bernie Sanders made statements that were at least partially true 69% of the time.  Her statements were completely true 23% of the time, while Bernie’s statements were completely true 14% of the time.  But the big story is Donald Trump.  Trump has made completely true statements only 3% of the time, and has received the aptly titled “pants on fire” designation a whopping 19% of the time, while Clinton received that designation a mere 1% of the time.

Crooked Hillary?! How about Crooked Donald?

Regarding speaking engagements, former presidents and other leaders command huge sums for speaking to groups who can afford to pay them.   That is even when there is no prospect for them to run for office again. Get it? Bill Clinton and George W. Bush don’t make a fortune every time they speak to a crowd because they are running for the White House or Congress and the audience hopes to influence them in some way.   Likewise, no one accuses Barack Obama of being in the pocket of Wall Street bankers despite his acceptance of large contributions from the banks when he was running for president in 2008.    This is another red herring issue—despite all that Wall Street money, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were both in favor of the landmark banking law—the Dodd-Frank Act—which gives the power to break up banks if they become too powerful.   Hillary has made clear during her campaign that she wants to enforce the law and give it teeth through additional regulations and rules.

Further, even saintly Bernie Sanders has taken advantage of support from special interest groups. The powerful gun lobby, National Rifle Association (NRA) helped him get elected to Congress, and then he turned around and voted in favor of their positions multiple times.  Donald Trump likewise recently climbed into bed with the NRA and cozied up. In the meantime, Hillary Clinton has met multiple times with the mothers of victims of shooting incidents.   She promises to make gun violence prevention a priority of a Clinton administration.  I know who I trust most on the issue of gun violence prevention and it isn’t Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.

Finally, I would submit that there are tinges of sexism lurking within this slanderous trope.  Is it possible that we hold women to a higher ethical standard than we do men?   That we expect a woman politician to be more or even far more honest than her male counterparts?  One study found this to be the case.

The Tired Old GOP Trope #3: Hillary Clinton is too ambitious. All she cares about is her own success.

How It Continues to Arise: She dares to—gasp—run for the presidency. Not once, but twice!   Even though a lot of people (especially a lot of white males) wanted a man to win the Democratic nomination, she is persisting in her goal of becoming the leader of the free world.

The Counterargument: This one is so obviously sexist, even the mainstream media can’t deny it.  For comic relief, check out the Onion’s spoof of this sexist trope.   But it’s become increasingly unfunny as time passes and it continues to be recycled. Interestingly, as early as March 2008 there were calls for Hillary to step aside when she was battling against Barack Obama for the nomination and she was doing better at that time in the race than Bernie Sanders is today—over two months further into the primary season.  Why is it ok to push the female candidate to withdraw but not the male candidate? Short answer: it’s not.

What person running for president isn’t ambitious? Doesn’t it go with the territory—almost like a prerequisite character trait? Yet, a woman running for president is overly ambitious and even selfish (say some Bernie Sanders’ supporters, as anyone who reads comments on social media well knows). Beyond that, let’s go back in time to when a young Hillary was setting forth her vision for America. She actually entered a life of public service because she cared about the downtrodden in our society—women, minorities, children, etc.    As a young law student in the early 1970s, she traveled to the Deep South to work on school desegregation.  She was for universal health care long before President Obama was – in fact she was ahead of her time on this issue and faced criticism from many corners — but nevertheless passionately pushed for it as head of a task force while First Lady.   Faced with defeat over universal health care, she turned her attention to enacting the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which today provides insurance to millions of children who otherwise would be ineligible.

So, it’s unfair to say Hillary only cares about her own success. First off, it’s not true. And secondly, it’s unfair and unrealistic to expect that anyone running for the highest office in the land—male or female—does not care at all about personal success. Ambition is not the sole domain of men and we need to get past that notion as a society.

The Tired Old GOP Trope #4: Hillary Clinton is inauthentic. She seems a bit too perfect, too packaged to be for real.

How It Continues to Arise: Progressive funnyman Jon Stewart came out of his post-Daily Show hibernation and declared her as much.  To be fair, she has been in the national spotlight for 25 years and who stays exactly the same over time?

The Counterargument: There is a genuinely sexist underpinning to this trope, which I will get to in a minute but first, read what Hillary Rodham had to say in the graduation commencement speech she gave at Wellesley College in 1969, the first student to be asked to make such a speech.   Sounds pretty thoughtful and genuine to me. What about when she said—infamously—that she wasn’t going to stand by her man like Tammy Wynette or stay home and bake cookies.  Was that not a genuine (and indignant) Hillary? Or when she spoke passionately as First Lady about this country needing more love and kindness?  Hillary has always had the same values, and underpinnings, and convictions but, for better or worse, became caught up in the realities of being a woman in politics in this country.

Following each of these moments there was a tremendous backlash against her. She was mocked as First Lady for preaching emotions such as “love and kindness” and viewed as harsh and cynical after explaining why she continued a professional life after marrying her husband.  Should she not have tried to package her views in a way that would be received better? Should she have just gone home after Bill’s second term, never to be heard from again? We as a country and as women are better off because she tried to package her views in a more “acceptable” way and continued her life of public service.

The irony is that by doing so, things got twisted around and now a sizable number of people—men and women—view her as “inauthentic.” This is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t double bind that all professional women face. Be too soft and you won’t be taken seriously; be too strong, and you’re cold and calculating.  Smile, and don’t shout, or be shrill, or be a “bitch.”

Men simply do not have to keep all these balls up in the air simultaneously. And even progressive men (such as Jon Stewart) and likely many young people have fallen into the trap of thinking Hillary is “inauthentic” and somehow lacks the courage of her convictions.  The history of her life and career just doesn’t bare out that conclusion, however.

The Tired Old GOP Trope #5: Hillary Clinton is an enabler. Her husband had multiple affairs during their marriage and yet she continues to stand by him.

How It Continues to Arise: The GOP likes to raise this as a reason why we should not trust Hillary on women’s issues. If she can’t even put her own husband in his place, the tired old argument goes, and even “went after” and “ruined” the women who accused him of wrongdoing, how can she be seen as good for women? Donald Trump recently resurrected this “argument,” though he didn’t provide any support.

The Counterargument: Let’s get one thing clear, straight off the bat: there is NO WAY that Donald Trump as president would be better for women than Hillary Clinton.   It’s just not the case.  Donald Trump objectifies women and always has—even his own baby daughter, Tiffany,  as well as his adult daughter, Ivanka. He has admitted that he does not respect women.   He doesn’t think twice about demeaning women and calling them horrific names, often zeroing in on irrelevant factors like appearance.  The examples go on and on.

In a contrast so stark it’s on another galaxy, Hillary Clinton has been fighting for women’s issues, such the right of a woman to choose when she bears children and thus have control over her own body, her entire adult life.  Watch this watershed moment in women’s rights where she traveled to Beijing in 1995 and announced to the entire world, “women’s rights are human rights.”  Clinton has been at the forefront of issues of importance to women and children such as universal health care, equal pay for equal work, paid family leave,  etc., etc., etc.

Beyond that, there’s Bill Clinton and his treatment of women. It turns out that Bill did have sex with an adult White House intern by the name of Monica Lewinsky and lied about it under oath. That is true. It is possible that he has had other affairs or sexual dalliances during their marriage. Blaming Hillary for the indiscretions of her husband, however, is akin to blaming the victim. She was the spouse he cheated on, people!  He lied to her like he lied to the rest of the country and in her own words, it couldn’t have been clearer how hurt and betrayed she felt when she learned the truth within days of the rest of us. Yes, she ultimately decided to stay with him. It was her personal decision, however, just like countless other women who have discovered marital infidelity and decided that the good in the marriage outweighed the bad.   The difference is that she had to make this decision under the glare of public scrutiny and the decision became politicized by her opponents and enemies. She enabled nothing—Bill was a big boy who made bad choices and was humiliated and even impeached for it, although he was ultimately acquitted. GOP leaders have nonetheless attempted to make hay out of decades old allegations that were never proven and have exaggerated the claims and number of women involved.

There is simply no evidence that Hillary Clinton “went after” anyone. And even if she had called anyone a “bimbo,” or similar names, let’s say, these women either knowingly engaged in sexual activity with a married man—her own husband—or did not but were lying about it to bring him down. Who wouldn’t be upset with them in either case?  In fact, it only demonstrates that she IS human, with human feelings—so why crucify her for it? In the end, despite his personal indiscretions, countless Democrats still view Bill Clinton as a great president who balanced the budget, created tons of jobs, raised the standard of living for all Americans, and unlike his successor, did not lead us into an unnecessary war in the Middle East, with a huge cost both in dollars and American lives. Indeed, even Donald Trump himself has spoken in glowing terms about the Clinton administration (at least when he wasn’t running for office against Hillary)!

The Tired Old GOP Trope #6: Hillary Clinton is a serial criminal.

How It Continues to Arise: This one is so clever and diabolical! The GOP has alleged claim after claim over the years against Hillary Clinton—from Whitewater, to Benghazi, to E-Mails. Much to Republicans’ chagrin, she has never been charged with a crime, but the unsupported allegations continue to be raised against her like a blood libel, as if they are true. They then accuse her of being a scandal magnet—when they are the ones who created the scandals out of whole cloth in the first place.  Donald Trump has recently picked up this line of attack.

The Counterargument: After all these years of GOP machinations attempting to get the Clintons generally and, more recently, Hillary Clinton, one would think that if there was anything there, they would have uncovered it by now, no? Yet Hillary has never been charged with a crime. Never.   President Obama pointed out that her e-mail fracas was evidence of carelessness but nothing more.  Another (male) secretary of state, Colin Powell,  did similar things like commingling personal and official e-mail accounts. Benghazi is an even better example of much ado about nothing. You would think she had personally and purposefully led Americans into harm’s way for no good reason. Oh wait, that was George W. Bush and Dick Chaney, and the Iraq War.   After 11 hours of questioning, and multiple GOP launched investigations, there has been nothing uncovered to suggest that Clinton was at fault for what very unfortunately happened at Benghazi.


So what to make of all of this? Politics is a dirty game and we are in unchartered waters with our first female candidate poised to win a major party nomination for President. It is important, therefore, for women (and moms) to be vigilant. When your child (or friend, or neighbor, or colleague, or relative) parrots one of these old and tired GOP tropes as if they are the gospel truth, don’t let them get away with it without challenging the basic assumptions. Make sure they see the sexist overtones, the hypocrisy from various GOP politicians who used to sing Clinton’s praises but now that she’s running for the presidency have changed their tune (Donald Trump is but one example. For others, see this article), the fallacies, and more. If they continue to press their case, perhaps it is a lost cause. Psychologists say that people believe what they want to believe and have a way of looking askance at evidence supporting the opposing view. Our children though have not yet hardened in their views and as parents it is our job to teach them that, while they should come to their own conclusions, they should at least be privy to all the facts.

With Love & Kindness,

The FeMOMist

The FeMOMist is a civil litigation attorney by background and training, middle-aged mother of two teenagers, stage III colorectal cancer survivor, blogger, runs a small business, and is a concerned American citizen.  She maintains a pseudonym due to the pervasive misogyny and hate directed at feminists on the Internet, and admits that as a Gen X’er she is not as open online as her Gen Z kids.