There’s a petition on The White House’s site asking that the President stop using the phrase “wives, mothers and daughters,” because it is counterproductive to the fight for women’s equality. Tracy Clark-Flory, writing for Salon, quotes McKenna Miller on the issue as it would be applied to gay rights: “The reason to fight homophobia isn’t because ‘you’ve got a gay friend,’ it’s because it’s simply the right thing to do. The reason why a woman is valuable isn’t because she’s someone’s sister, or daughter, or wife, it’s because of the person she is unto herself.”
True. The reason to expect, let alone fight for, equality among sexes (male, female, or transgendered), or among those with different sexual orientations, or among those with different abilities, or among those with different religions, is because it’s the right thing to do.
But why do we do the right thing? We do the right thing because we know we wouldn’t want the wrong thing done to us.
Each one of “us” in this country comprise a community: A big, messy community in which you may never meet even one 10,000th of one percent of all of its members. It’s a community that can make you feel lonely, isolated, or safe and in good company.
When you hear a phrase like “wives, mothers, and daughters,” and in the case of gay rights, perhaps not the phrase “gay friend,” but the more accurate, if not all encompassing, phrase “sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters,” the people named are no longer “them.” They become one of “us.”
There should be no reluctance in using the fact that one is a part of something–a marriage, a family, a community–in arguing for equality. Nobody diminishes me for naming what I am in relation to others. I am proud of my relationship to others: as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, an employee, a volunteer, a citizen. I am not isolated, I am not alone. I am safe and in good company.
Sure, the President used shorthand, likely because he is trying to appeal to a pretty stubborn segment of old-school old boys’ club members. Whatever. There are bigger fights to fight.