Mo Elleithee, a Democratic political consultant and Hillary Clinton’s former press secretary, wrote a public letter to his three-year-old daughter apologizing for being unintentionally sexist. It’s heartwarming, yes, but also subtly brilliant in the way it taps into the sweetness of a father’s confession while still bringing up relevant, hard-hitting issues, in a softer, more approachable way.
Watching you grow up has been the purest pleasure in my life to date. Which makes it even more jarring to admit that I was once a sexist. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill, woman-hating misogynist who believes God made him superior to the fairer sex. I’ve always hated that guy.
He talks about how society is blindly sexist in small and often unrecognizable ways, something he fell victim to. That takes a lot of heart to admit, especially publicly, where he knew he’d most likely be scrutinized for such a confession. But he also makes it clear that he didn’t notice that he was being sexist at all, that he “participated without realizing.” And maybe that’s the biggest problem he’s hinting at: that sexism is so subtly embedded in culture it’s nearly impossible to identify and avoid acting on.
By approaching the topic from the stance of being guilty himself and seeing the importance of changing this mindset for the sake of his daughter, he conveys importance and makes a call for awareness that seems genuine rather than preachy. He exposes people to some often-ignored realities under the guise of composing a sweet letter to his young daughter. It is the best way possible to have a hidden agenda. (Cue joke about being in politics).
The constant stories about Hillary’s hairstyle or pantsuit color, but never about Obama or Biden’s tie color or haircuts. The questions Sarah Palin endured about whether she could do the job with small children at home, when not one male candidate ever had to answer similar questions. (And it is not easy for me to defend Sarah Palin!)
The sophomoric giggles from late-night talk show hosts about a woman soccer player ripping off her shirt in celebration that got almost more attention than the championship she had just won.
He closes with what he would like his daughter to have and be: happy and able to do whatever she wants. Respected and equal. Without any glass ceilings to break through. But more than anything, he hopes that when she is older and reads the letter, she won’t have any idea what he’s talking about. That, he claims, would be the best Father’s Day gift ever.
You can read the entire letter here: “Sorry I Used To Be A Sexist.”