By Alexander Reed Kelly
A new Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll has the voting women of Ohio giving Barack Obama 25 points over Mitt Romney. In Pennsylvania, women prefer Obama by 21 points and in Florida the president has a 19-point advantage, according to the same poll. That might have something to do with the war on women Republicans have been accidentally waging this summer. Well, the war is not accidental—it’s quite intentional—it just wasn’t meant to be this public.
Let’s talk about women.
My grandmother didn’t think her daughter needed to go to college. Mom could find a husband to provide for her. She went anyway and worked her way through school until she got herself a “copyboy” job at the Los Angeles Times at a time when women, if they were hired to write at all, wrote about clothes and food.
My mom became a reporter, an editor, a bureau chief, an edition chief, an associate editor in charge of 10 sections and a vice president of a company that, when she got there, thought she might be an aspiring secretary.
Let’s get back to my grandmother, the one who didn’t care if her daughter went to college. Obviously she turned out to be wrong. But Grams was, herself, an extraordinary woman, the first person in her family to graduate from high school.
Everyone agrees my grandfather was one of the most decent people ever, but the least decent thing he did was to leave my grandmother to raise the youngest of three children by herself. So she was a single mom. She was also a United States Marine who fought Hitler, Hirohito and pretty much anyone who didn’t chew his food properly. A Polish-Ukrainian, she was initially treated like livestock in the home of her Italian in-laws, but it was preferable to the home she had left behind.
Let’s go back another generation. When Grandma was a child, her father would come home from a weekend of drinking looking to beat on his wife. This Ukrainian bully once lost his temper and threw a telephone pole across the yard, so it was an amazing act of courage and survival when his wife managed to lock the bedroom door and wrap her arms around her brood, a thin pink line between a half-dozen futures and the monster outside.
We inhabit a world built by women, extraordinary women of nerve and smarts and sniper-like aim toward better.
Fight a war with these women and you’ll lose, because women have always had to fight harder. My mom, Joan of Arc marching into a newsroom where 1,000 egos tipped their inkwells and said “no.” Her mother, who put on one uniform for democracy and another to put food on the table. Her grandmother, who crossed an ocean and locked a door so her granddaughter would grow up one day to report the news to millions of people instead of boiling cabbage.
This country was built by women and many of those women were and are immigrants, like my father’s mother, an undocumented garment worker who was threatened with deportation when she was in her 80s.
Ida fought everyone for her freedom. She fought the Orthodox male elders in her Jewish family over the religious dictate of female subservience. She fought the feudal lords who ruled over her patch of Lithuania as a courier for the Jewish Socialist Bund. She fled when Lenin’s Bolsheviks turned on her group, and so she came to America and fought with a sewing machine. She fought poverty and unfair laws and she fought ignorance by seeing every play and recital she could afford to attend.
When she was old and frail, she fought off a mugger because her worthless purse held her writer son’s articles, each paper the product of a hundred marches, a thousand leagues of ocean, a million stitches in a sewing machine that built a great country where the son of an undocumented immigrant could write his way from poverty to a Pulitzer Prize they took away. (This leftist writer was not “a proper role model for young journalists,” someone higher up decided. His mother was proud, anyway.)
Not to take anything else away, many of our fathers and grandfathers have their own incredible stories of perseverance and heroism. This is an amazing nation, grown from ideals and the toil of freed slaves, pioneers and huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Many different kinds of people made America exceptional, but it definitely wasn’t the born-rich douche bags who pose for photos pretending to eat cash money. And if there’s one rule everyone should know by now, it’s this: Don’t fuck with women.
If you don’t believe me, just ask the ladies of Ohio, the most important state in this election, where men prefer Romney by eight points and Obama is winning by 10.