MankatoLIFE is proud to announce Changing the Narrative a new column by Robb Murray.

By Robb Murray

The phone rang and I glanced over to see who it was. And, of course, it was my daughter. She’s the only person who ever calls me just to say “Hi!”

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve gotten a lot of calls in the past few months. But almost all of them have been from chipper people imploring me to vote, or making sure I haven’t forgotten about Election Day, wondering if I know where to vote, or gauging my willingness to carpool a bunch of neighbors to our polling place.

Calls from Emma are much more pleasant. It’s exciting to hear war stories from law school classes at Washington University in St. Louis, and even better to see her dog Penny chewing on toys or rolling around on the floor of their apartment.

Like any good parent, I told my daughter in her younger years that she could be anything she wanted to be. And I believed it … for the most part.

Whenever she calls, I invariably notice her light brown hair and am transported back in time for a bit to when she was 3 years old. We were living in Amboy at the time, and she and I had a fun little morning ritual. I’d sit her on the floor, wrap a bath towel around her like a barbershop cape and “cut her hair.” Using my fingers as scissors, I’d pretend to cut big chunks of her hair, and she’d giggle and kick her little feet. After a few minutes, I’d put her hair in pigtails and get ready for the drive to daycare.

During those days, I probably asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. But at age 3, you really don’t have a good answer to a question like that. It took her a few years to finally arrive at “Subway sandwich maker” as her preferred career choice, which we thought was a huge bonus. Who wouldn’t want a sandwich artist in the house, right?

But when she got older, sandwich artist became veterinarian, and veterinarian became doctor. And, like any good parent, I told my daughter in her younger years that she could be anything she wanted to be. And I believed it … for the most part.

In the back of my head a little voice of pessimistic reality was saying, “Sure, you say she can be anything she wants, but you know it’s still a man’s world.”

I hate admitting it. But that voice was there for most of her life. Not because I didn’t believe in her. But because I didn’t believe in America. Professing optimism is one thing. Doing so in the face of incontrovertible proof of a misogynistic American culture is quite another.

The good news is this: Since Nov. 3, that voice has been very quiet.

More on that in a minute.

Four years ago, I sat in The Free Press newsroom and watched the results of the 2016 election come in. (Oh, by the way, I’m the same Robb Murray who used to write for The Free Press. I’m over here now. Same hot takes on Diet Coke and kids growing up, different publication.)

Finally, when a candidate comes along who has a chance to win, part of you hopes she wins just so girls don’t have to wonder: If boys and girls are supposed to be equal, and mom and dad told me I can be anything I want, then why can’t girls grow up to be president? 

Like most of America, I was stunned when Donald Trump shocked the world. But perhaps unlike many of you, especially the men out there, Hillary Clinton’s loss — I’m not ashamed to admit — brought me to tears. Not for policy reasons; I didn’t agree with Trump on anything, but those differences wouldn’t bring me to tears. No, I cried because all I could think about was that little girl in pigtails — and all the other little girls and women of all ages who had been waiting way, way too long for a woman to finally get a chance to do what only men have been allowed to do since the day this country was founded. The wait was egregiously long, and there was no good reason for it.

Any parent of a daughter has had a young woman look them in the eye and ask, “How come girls can’t be president?” It’s heartbreaking to look back at them and know you can’t give them any answer that will make sense to them.

Finally, when a candidate comes along who has a chance to win, part of you hopes she wins just so girls don’t have to wonder: If boys and girls are supposed to be equal, and mom and dad told me I can be anything I want, then why can’t girls grow up to be president?

Nov. 3 was a momentous night. Regardless of your politics, the election of Kamala Harris as vice president is earth shattering. (Yes, I realize the Biden-Harris win is being contested by the Trump administration in several states. By nearly all accounts, his efforts appear destined to fail.)

I got a text the morning that all the networks and The New York Times called the election for Biden-Harris. It was from my daughter. She’d been nervously watching returns come in instead of studying. “CNN called it!” she’d wrote.

While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities. Kamala Harris

Later that night, the Biden-Harris team spoke to the nation. Harris, dressed in all white in honor of the suffragist movement, said, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

When she said those words, I thought of Emma sitting on the living room floor in pigtails, the times I told her she could be anything she wanted, and the voice in the back of my head telling me she can’t. And I cried, knowing for the first time that those things I’d hoped were true finally were, and that the voice was finally wrong.

~~~

Changing the Narrative is a regular column by Robb Murray where Robb will continue his long tradition of speaking his heart into the lives of the people of the Greater Mankato Area.

Author

  • Robb Murray

    has been a journalist for 25 years. A 1995 graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato, Robb lives in North Mankato.

1 COMMENT

  1. This is such a beautiful article and I miss your Free Press pieces so much. I love hearing about you, your kids, your dogs…please keep us updated on what you and your kids are doing. Plus I could”t agree more with this piece.

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