Natasha Gural's picture

    How a Feisty Woman Fends Off Smears and Dirty Tricks: Channeling Geraldine Ferraro for Hillary Clinton

    I remember watching and reading campaign and election coverage in 1984, and believing that Geraldine Anne Ferraro would become the first female vice president of the United States. Growing up in liberal Western Massachusetts, I had no reason to doubt it would happen. If not with Walter Mondale’s campaign, then in another four years we’d have a woman VEEP. Over the years, I grew increasingly confused by how our country seemed to tread backwards, as if Ferraro’s rise to prominence was just some blip in the system. As a 13-year-old in 1984, I never imagined that I’d have to wait until I had a child of my own to see a woman president.

    “The polls indicated that I was feisty, that I was tough, that I had a sense of humor, but they weren't quite sure if they liked me and they didn't know whether or not that I was sensitive,” Ferraro said after the defeat.

    I guess today’s feisty woman is nasty.

    To me, as a 13-year-old girl in 1984, and as a 45-year-old woman in 2016, and throughout every stage of womanhood in between, I considered “feisty” to be a compliment. Why on earth would I want to be quiet, or to be heard only uttering polite banter? There certainly were many women in my life over the years, especially during six long years at a private girls’ school, that brought out more and more of my feistiness by scolding me for impolite -- even “rude, crude, and lewd” as the dean of students put it -- behavior. I grinned, only half-hoping I wouldn’t be suspended, again. But I had every confidence that it was only feisty girls and women who belonged in the Oval Office.

    My 6½-year-old son Michael Alexander is an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter, and he quickly chimed in when he heard me call Hillary as nasty woman. “She’s not a nasty woman, Mommy! She is good, and she is going to be our president!”

    I didn’t try to explain how Hillary fans subverted Donald Trump’s juvenile and sexist comment, "Such a nasty woman,” into an empowering tagline. My son knows a lot about “marketing collateral” and uses the term often and correctly to warn us about deceptive consumer campaigns. “Oh, Daddy, don’t give them your money. That’s marketing collateral. It’s just lies.”

    Like every child in Manhattan’s West Village and the surrounding areas that I have the pleasure of interaction with, Michael Alexander adored Barack Obama and clearly and proudly called out the president’s name as soon as he could speak. When he learned about term limits, he suggested: “OK, then Michelle Obama should be president.”

    It took a little while, but eventually Michael Alexander warmed up to Hillary as much as Michelle, and he accepted that she was the only choice for president. From his first sight of her unworthy opponent, he quipped: “Donald Trump can’t be president! He’s not smart enough to be president! He doesn’t know how to be president! Just look at the way he acts!”

    While he’s not quite ready to grasp the concept of how “nasty woman” can be a positive message, Michael Alexander is far more politically savvy than I was, even at more than twice his age in 1984. What his 6½-year-old self and my 13-year-old self have in common is a fervid belief in women leaders. I have made every effort to only speak positively about this election, to not even dignify Trump as a rival to a brilliant, accomplished woman who has fought so many people who are nasty by Michael Alexander’s rigid definition.

    I get teary when I picture Ferraro’s smiling face on the clunky TV set that required a physical walk over to turn the nobs, and recall it as a failure of the American people to not have made her the first female vice president.

    As we live in a world where George Orwell's fictional ubiquitous telescreen (transceiving television set) in Nineteen Eighty-Four has become an everyday technology, let’s remember that the tyrant of today is not Big Brother, but something much worse than the Inner Party’s perpetuation of thoughtcrime.

    It’s heartbreaking that Ferraro, who died in 2011, is not here to witness history that has taken far too long to write.

    In 2007, Ferraro, who was then working as the managing director of a large corporate public relations and consultancy firm, made an Orwellian prediction that has turned out to be much worse than any marketing collateral.

    “The only thing that can stop Hillary becoming the next president would be smears and dirty tricks," Ferraro said.

    Ferraro isn’t here to keep her promise to Hillary: "I've told her I'll go anywhere and speak any time to make sure that doesn't happen."

    It’s up to us, fellow Americans, to stay positive, to focus on promoting Hillary’s qualifications, and to ignore the source of the “smears and dirty tricks."



    Pantsuits up, I'm so glad you wrote this, it's fantastic.

    Thank you, Teresa!

    Janet Reno's another figure in passing to note - a solid choice as AG, had her ups and downs but didn't deserve most of the scorn and insults heaped on her - shame people can't just do their jobs without having their personality & body types picked apart. Worth considering how much her tenure set up other women for high-up positions in the White House.

    And  Ferraro was a gutsy, interesting gambit that year - sure, she didn't have too much experience, but she seemed to present herself as both outspoken and an educated/thoughtful voice. Unfortunately she got caught up in the heated primaries of 2008, but she's a compelling figure in the road to smash the glass ceiling.

    PeraclesPlease, Had I a grant and the time, I would gleefully write the cannon of great women in power. Today I was simply trying to tie my moment in history with my son's. Thanks for reading!


    Yes, wasn't trying to tell you what you should have written. Was just a comment to add to the conversation. Hopefully that moment in history is real still at this point.

    Sweet Christmas.

    I completely understand, and did not mean to imply that I felt you were instructing me. I'm going to stop commenting now. My brain is barely functioning as my psyche struggles for survival. Thanks again.

    Oh, Natasha. The Ferraro comparison is more fitting than any of us knew. One day, when a woman finally does becomes president, people will recall 2016, when we believed that Hillary Rodham Clinton would become the first female president of the United States.

    I took my girls out at 4am to see history being made. Not the history we expected - a rude childhood lesson of how shitty the world can be. Fans of Alex Baldwin and crew at SNL, they'll be well grown before a woman becomes president. I think I'm gonna shoot Santa in the face too, as I think Maiello was suggesting. 2nd Amendment and all...

    Let's get him.

    Make a list. Check it twice. Elves? Never did trust the little fucks - always seemed conniving. And what's with this tooth fairy - for real?

    For real.

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