|What does it mean to be a woman and a candidate? What does it mean to approach a stranger, or a group of strangers, engage them in conversation, and ask something of them, to share contact information, to invite follow-up, and to do it all hoping that romance and attraction and sexuality have nothing to do with it?
I can’t count the number of times, upon sharing my business card, someone will ask “So, is this your number?” I used to say “yes” because that is the truth but also to emphasize that I’m engaged, accessible, reliable. After a 2 am phone call where someone asked “are you married?” and a few other calls that resulted in my saving the number as “Creepy-Do Not Answer,” I because to change my response to say “yes, that’s our campaign number.”
In a campaign, there is so much to do and I could always be doing more. So any form of help is an incredible resource that I am extremely grateful for. And yet what if those who are ostensibly there to help are doing so for the wrong reasons? Or what if they are very helpful but regularly cross lines of appropriate behavior? These are not hypothetical questions, they are daily challenges in management, self care, and interpersonal relationships. I am starting to learn how to say “that kind of help hurts” and to do the unthinkable, by saying “no” when I really really need the help.
I have even been hit on by other candidates. What. the. heck?!?!
Maybe after the primary, sweetie.
I am a woman, so to have people see me as a woman is not inherently bad, but to take what one sees and then to manifest it into action or words when I am in a vulnerable position- that is bad.
On the other hand, being seen as a woman has wonderful perks as well. I have been getting daily doses of joy from the children that I run into along the campaign trail and I know I am the beneficiary of bias which makes adults much more trusting of me with a child than they would be if I were a man.
This week I was canvassing by bike (as usual) and had a little chat with some children when the rain started to come down. It was still very sunny out but we were getting wet so I said goodbye and told the kids to keep an eye out for a rainbow. As I biked away, I decided I should really finish up visiting the last two houses on the street. I turn about that BAM! There were two massive rainbows cutting across the sky. Amazing!
I called out “children! children!” like a character in a story tale and they all came running. They shared one umbrella and asked me how I knew? and we took pictures and enjoyed the magic moment together. Their parents never approached us or called them to come home or did anything other than smile and look on.
We can never know how much of our experiences in the world are a result of our appearance. Even our personalities and world views are based on the constant feedback loop of reinforced ideas based on how people react to how we look and act.
The most important aspects of my womanhood are not my appearance. They are my nurturing side, my desire to heal and be helpful, my ability to listen. (I’m not saying men don’t have these traits, but this is how I experience my womanhood.) Even my annoying habit of caring what other people think is translated into something that makes me very helpful and sensitive to people’s needs.
I am one of five sisters and am comfortable with women. And, ever since the days when I was regularly the lone woman in my engineering teams at University of Michigan, I am also comfortable being the only woman at the table. I speak up, I weigh in, I lend solutions, I offer to help.
I’m going to tell you a small story. I was sitting in the waiting room of a doctor or dentist office and the TV in the waiting room was showing a women’s basketball game on mute. I watched as the camera followed a woman on the sidelines holding a clipboard and wearing a suit who was shouting in rage at the team. The coach, of course. What struck me was how derivative it was. I had seen that scene untold times before where the only details that were different were the gender of the characters. Why, in a women-only version of the sport, was everything exactly the same? Isn’t there anything the men didn’t think of or didn’t do right? Or that was right for them but not for women? I wished for the women to find more ways to make it their own instead of stomping out a caricature on the sidelines.
I think of that sometimes in the course of my campaign. It’s not that I don’t think the rules apply to me- there are certain things we must do to get elected and some things we cannot do. On the other hand, I will always be worse than you at doing things your way, it will only ever be derivative. I am on a grand experiment to see if I can find a way to be successful and purposeful in a man’s space without trying to contort myself into something I am not. Maybe with this kind of approach we can go beyond emulating others to making a new and better way of being.
Thank you to everyone who attended our 7-neighborhood meet-and-greet series. We learned so much and had so many wonderful experiences!
Thank you to all who have offered your time as volunteers.
Thank you to al who have contributed money.
Thank you to all who have spoken positive words and spread support for this campaign to your friend and coworkers and neighbors.
We receive it with gratitude.
Every day is a day to volunteer, just let us know what works for you. If you need more structure, come out at NOON on SATURDAY June 9 for door-knocking and yummy food.
Every day is a day to chip in. Please direct donations to our website:www.micheleformichigan.com.
If you have questions or need another time, contact Evan Fisher firstname.lastname@example.org. (Bring friends!)
As always, feel free to contact me directly at 313-770-0818 (the campaign number, right?) or email@example.com.