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“A Woman’s Dream of Truth, Youth, Hillary and Ruth”

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Introduction and poem by Lee Marcus Muse

During the primary debates for the 1992 election, California candidate Jerry Brown made a shaming remark to Bill Clinton about his wife working full time in a law firm. Asked about it, Hillary responded: “I suppose I could have stayed home, baked cookies, and had teas. But what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.” That was half of what she said. The rest went unreported: “The work that I have done as a professional, a public advocate, has been aimed . . . to assure that women can make the choices whether it’s full-time career, full-time motherhood, or some combination.” In other words, she fought to protect all women’s choices. But much of the media cherry-picked her statement to portray Hillary Clinton as looking down on stay-at-home mothers.

In an attempt to mitigate the damage, Hillary, known to be a devoted mother to Chelsea Clinton, offered up her own chocolate chip cookie recipe and apologized to stay-at-home mothers for the misunderstanding. Hillary was learning the hard way that off-the-cuff remarks to the media were dangerous, and from then on she parsed her words with utmost care. Her detractors never missed a beat, now saying she was too “scripted,” not spontaneous and warm (damned if she did, damned if she didn’t). People who worked with her described Hillary in exactly the opposite terms. She was known to be funny and fun, and a wonderful, attentive friend. But as a woman breaking new ground for all women, Hillary felt enormous responsibility not to slip up. She had no choice but to try to be perfect. So many of us identified with her on that score. “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” was a trick in the misogynist’s playbook warning all of us that women didn’t belong in politics or anywhere that decisions were being made. The calamity that has us marching today has nothing to do with concern for “babies,” but stems from exactly the same misguided, unAmerican value that plagued Hillary Clinton’s career: misogyny.

A Woman’s Dream of Truth, Youth, Hillary and Ruth

oh women

said Justice Bigwig

we do appreciate you

and all your little skills

we only want what’s best for you

such as a clear conscience

that’s worth a little inconvenience

don’t you think?

such a sound argument

but the women

oh, Women!

always with the ideas

and the drama!

we are people, they insisted

our lives are unique

and they belong to us

unequivocally

now, you see, right there

is an example:

too much education

that was our mistake

said Judge Bigwig

that, and voting

Bigwig turned to his minions

can we do something about the voting?

it’s not working out

just then

someone in the back

opened the door

and in came children

hundreds of them

maybe thousands

children. god the noise

see that?

the children are bold now

they need mothers at home

baking cookies

and all those things

good mothers used to do

the woman named Hillary stepped forward

handing Justice Bigwig her cookie recipe

you’ll need this, she said

we’re taking your job

before you make any more messes

the women filed out the door

leaving the children

who surrounded Justice Bigwig

hollering WE WANT COOKIES!

the boldest child

a girl named Intensity

spoke for them all

you have insulted our mothers

how dare you?

we are the army that will

take you down

for we are armed with the truth

of our mothers’ humanity

with the music of our mothers’ souls

and with the courage of our mothers’ autonomy

these ideas are bigger than you, Justice Bigwig

bigger than your bigwigotry

bolder than your bullying

and far beyond your failing vision

with that, the children resumed their chant

WE WANT COOKIES!

after that day

“His Honor” still had plenty to say

but all anybody heard was blah blah blah

the children continued to float their big dreams

on ripples of soul-song 

while the women rolled up their sleeves

and changed the laws

if you listened with all your heart

you sometimes could hear

the voice of Ruth from not far off:

you got this, my queens

have at it!

Lee Marcus Muse is a columnist, poet, and playwright who thinks women are different from cows and do not need their reproduction managed by men.

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