On Tuesday, we learned that Chelsea Clinton is expecting her first child sometime in the fall. On the same day, American society regressed about 50 years. Both conservative and liberal media stations launched stories about the implications the new baby would have on Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for the 2016 presidential election. “Would she forego the election to stay home and babysit?” they asked. Echoes of speculation in newspapers, online media, and television reports draw attention to the severe dichotomy between the portrayal of men and women in the media.
First, speculation about Chelsea’s baby altering Hillary’s potential candidacy is inherently sexist. Since our country’s founding, 44 men have entered the Oval Office. Nearly all of them were fathers. Many were grandfathers. Yet, their paternity was never a point of contention. To put this in perspective, Mitt Romney has 18 grandchildren. Political satirist Jon Stewart jokingly jabbed, “[Romney] is the only [presidential candidate] in history whose Electoral College total is less than the number of chairs he has to put out at Thanksgiving.” Two of those grandchildren were born just six months before the 2012 presidential election. Ironically, no one questioned whether the birth of his grandchildren would interfere with his campaign. Rather, the 67-year-old candidate was revered as a “family man.” In addition, George H.W. Bush was grandfather to three kids while president. His predecessor, Ronald Reagan, had two grandchildren. Shockingly, being a grandpa had little to no effect on their actions in office. Yet, news media holds Clinton to a different standard because she is a woman.
Further, President Barack Obama’s push to implement legislation that protects the Equal Pay Act demonstrates additional disparities between men and women in our society. Earlier this week, Republican State Representative Will Infantine of New Hampshire defended income inequality by claiming that women are “less willing to work long hours … and are less motivated by money [than men].” Several news sources interpreted his statement to mean women are lazier than men. When we examine recent statistics, however, we notice that women are increasingly becoming the breadwinners of their families. Thus, they are more motivated to pursue higher education as a means of attaining a job. There are currently more women enrolled in four-year universities around the country than men. Further, industries that were once male-dominated are being overrun with women. Law school enrollment for female students exceeds that of their male counterparts. Both the medical and engineering industries are seeing a rise in female workers. Yet, they still earn 77 cents to every dollar a man makes. This leads me to question whether this is an issue of correlation or causation. As the news media continues to belittle female professionals, will inequality in other facets of society persist?
Most of this negative attention stems from the belief that there is a disconnect between motherhood and professionalism. In an article titled “An Open Letter to Chelsea Clinton’s Fetus,” Kyle Smith, columnist for the New York Post, condescendingly writes, “Grandma is not what us grown-ups call ‘maternal.'” He argues that Clinton’s professional success prevents her from demonstrating the compassion and care expected from a mother. Similarly, news anchor Charlie Rose posed the question, “President or grandmother?” as though giving Clinton an ultimatum. He implies that she can only have one if she sacrifices the other. As a representative of American women, we look to Clinton to prove that females are capable of being mothers, grandmothers, and leaders all at the same time.
Although she has not formally announced her bid for the 2016 presidential election, Clinton is arguably one of the most influential political leaders in American history. As former secretary of state and 2008 presidential candidate, she has climbed higher in political rank than any other woman in the U.S. She earned these accolades as a mother and wife. Her progress should not be minimized with the birth of her first grandchild. If anything, the new baby should encourage her to run for president and promote a future wherein men and women are treated as true equals.
Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.