With the last of the presidential debates between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden looming, I have a lot of questions. What will be the defining moment of the evening? What are the memes going to be like? Will the fly come back? And, perhaps most importantly, will the 2020 presidential election be the last time I see two men debate about what’s best for my children?
Since Hillary Clinton's poignant loss in 2016, women have been entering the political arena like never before. The 2018 midterm elections ushered an encouraging wave of "firsts" and new records for women. I can't tell you when we'll have a female president, but I can confidently say that I don't see women suddenly losing interest in seeking the job. The presence of women in politics is crucial — even if they don't always win, it's nevertheless important that we have a female perspective on debate stages and in office.
It’s not that men don’t have a place in the conversation about what’s best for our country’s children. It’s that they’ve overwhelmingly had that conversation without women, who have been raising generation after generation of Americans.
Look, I don’t want to be reductive about this — knowing what’s best for children isn’t based exclusively on one’s gender, of course. And, certainly, being a parent doesn’t qualify you to be president. But I also want to call a thing a thing. On the one hand, with literally one exception, all presidential debates have been between two men, usually over the age of 50. On the other, you have the constant discovery and rediscovery that, between men and women, women are primarily the ones doing the heavy lifting when it comes to raising kids. Yes, men are taking more responsibility in childrearing than their fatherly predecessors. According to the Pew Research Center, dads put in an average of seven hours of care time a week compared to a paltry two and a half in 1965. This, however, has not decreased women's parenting workload, which has also gone up since the 60s, from approximately 10 to 14 hours a week.
In other words, the people seeking to direct the future of America look very different from the people most responsible for raising the future of America.
Credit where credit’s due, of course: Biden was a single dad for several years while his sons were young and Trump is, well, a father of five. It’s not that men don’t have a place in the conversation about what’s best for our country’s children. It’s that they’ve overwhelmingly had that conversation without women, who have been raising generation after generation of Americans.
No, we don’t need to exclude men from this process, and shouldn't. We just need non-men involved as well. We need to see debates between people who not only have different ideas for the future of our nation, but different lived experiences. We need people who have been left out of politics, laws, and governance to bring their perspectives to the table. Because, men? I love you, but you’ve let a lot — a lot — of issues slip through the cracks. Because you don’t know what you don’t know… but we sure as hell do.
So maybe, just maybe, this debate will be the last of its kind. Or at least the last of its kind for a while. Granted, I was a little more hopeful about that possibility before the most diverse Democratic primary in history was won by the second oldest white guy in the running, but it’s rare that one person breaks a barrier on their own — it’s a sustained effort over time and every woman who steps forward makes it easier for those who follow. The term “standing on the shoulders of giants” comes to mind but, more often than not you’re standing on the shoulders of dozens, hundreds, thousands of average sized people and now you’re the lucky one who can finally reach what they were grasping for.
I’ve enjoyed watching the debates over the years, gentleman… and I suspect I’ll enjoy them even more moving forward.