Amber Tamblyn just announced she and David Cross are expecting their first child, a girl. Her announcement wasn’t the typical celebrity pregnancy announcement, or the typical anything announcement, really. Instead, she let the world know about her pregnancy via an essay in Glamour, in which she talks about all the ways motherhood has been on her mind lately. Being a woman, about to have a daughter, in this time of Peak (please, god, let it be the peak already) Trump, those are a lot of thoughts that are weighing on her.
Tamblyn hasn’t been shy about her Trump feelings up to this point. It’s been eleven years since Trump told Billy Bush he used his star power to kiss women without permission and “grab them by the pussy.” It’s been 2 1/2 weeks since Tamblyn posted her own story of being “grabbed by the pussy”— or, as most decent humans call it, sexually assaulted— by an ex-boyfriend. And it’s been one week since she appeared on Lip Sync Battle to sex up her friend America Ferrara in a disturbing Trump costume that— warning— can never be bleached from your eyeballs. (Skip to 1:30 for the eye poison.)
Her essay published Wednesday on Glamour begins with how, when her story of assault was going viral earlier this month, she called her own mother to tell her what was happening. Her mother was “unshockingly unshocked,” and responded with a story of her own.
Go ahead and fill in the blank of my mother’s story. It’s easy, isn’t it? I was at a ________, and a guy _________. I was _______ years old and the father of one of my friends __________. I was at work and my boss ___________. I was walking down the street and __________. I exist, therefore ___________ is bound to happen.
When Tamblyn’s mother told her own mother, Amber’s grandmother responded with the unsurprising “Boys will be boys. You just have to be really careful around them.”
This is what has passed for wisdom, what’s been handed down between women for generations. It continues today. It encourages women to take a backseat in their own lives, telling them it’s okay: men know how to drive and know what they’re doing. It tells us to shush, to not make a fuss, to accept the world as it was built for us. It tells us we shouldn’t ask for more than what we are given, from dollar bills to the Bill of Rights. Boys will be boys and girls will be, what? Quiet. Hungry. Subservient. Game.
And Tamblyn, who has been vocal for some time on her feelings on Clinton, Trump, and the attack so many women feel on our basic existence, quickly and skillfully ties these stories into what’s happening in front of us, politically. Because motherhood is not unpolitical.
I am very lucky to be surrounded by strong mothers, from my own mom to some of my best friends—those who are raising young women to accept themselves and those who are raising young men to accept women.
This country, this world, is making it crystal clear that we DON’T accept women. We are working towards that ideal, but we are forced to force it. Because we’ve denied women for so long that now, when we want to “accept” one in power, we think we’re holding her to the same idyllic standards we do men. But those standards aren’t anywhere close to the same.
Hillary Clinton is a mom. She’s also a daughter. She’s also a grandmother. I have wondered what kind of conversations she’s had to have with her daughter about men, or what conversations Hillary’s mother had to have with her about boys? When people tell me they dislike Hillary not because she’s a woman but because of her record alone, I think, “How can you be sure?” I don’t think anyone can be.
The disdain for Hillary Clinton can never be about her record alone. Powerful women don’t get to exist outside of context. To discount all the good she’s done in her 30 years of public service and pay attention to the bad is, at best, severely myopic. At worst, it erases the struggles and achievements of all women. If we are not allowed to be complex, compromising, wholly human—as human as men—then we are all disqualified.
The version of Hillary Clinton we wish for doesn’t exist. That woman is the Madonna part of our nation’s complex, a symptom of the absurd cultural standards of perfection we apply to our girls. That the real Hillary’s most lauded quality is her tenacity is not surprising: It’s the one quality that any woman would have to have in spades to challenge our collective hallucination of what a woman is supposed to be.
Please read Tamblyn’s full essay. It’s a beautiful, personal story of a woman looking at her place in the world, mirrored by the generations before and after her. She clearly supports Hillary Clinton, as both a woman and a political candidate. And it’s still disappointing that we feel we have to separate those two qualities. Throughout the primaries, the argument of Hillary’s supporters only voting for her because she was a woman was everywhere. When up against Trump, she has finally been seen more for her merits (because she has many and Trump has none), but thankfully, we haven’t lost the importance of voting for womanhood. Because we can vote for an idea, as well as an exceptionally qualified human.
After I’m done writing this, I’ll go back to my desk and fill out my absentee ballot. I’ll be voting for more than just a woman; I’ll be voting for a revolutionary idea. I’ll be voting for a future for my daughter where conversations about our bodies and our lives are broader than what value they have for men. A future where being a mother is less about warning our daughters about our sons and is instead lifting them up to their greatest potential. A future where my girl will someday say, “Donald who?” and think nothing is revolutionary about a woman becoming President. A future where she can’t even believe that was ever even a thing.
Read Amber Tamblyn’s full Glamour essay here.