It would be an understatement to say that the 2016 election has completely centralized women. There were women cards and nasty women, a social media campaign to repeal the 19th amendment, and a nationwide conversation on sexual assault and harassment. As American women continue to turn out for early voting in astounding numbers, it's clear that women are deciding the 2016 election. But what about the men? (You knew that was coming.) And not just any men: the dads of America, who may not-so-secretly support Donald Trump while also raising daughters who are looking up to Clinton.
The "dad vote" doesn't get too much air time because it's never really been a political thing. Unlike the "mom vote," "single women vote" or "college-educated women vote," which, in the words of Simone de Beauvoir, automatically partitions off women as the "Other," (white) male voters get to be all of their varied roles and characteristics at once. They are the default. Or, as Beauvoir would say, "it is understood that the fact of being a man is no peculiarity.
But now that women are the focal point of the final days of this election, men have become the "Other." As John Dickerson of CBS News recently pointed out, there's been more attention given to the so-called "dad vote," particularly by the Clinton campaign. Dickerson highlighted a Clinton campaign mailer sent by the New Hampshire Democratic Party that targets fathers, showing them how voting for Trump would impact their daughters.
Using daughters as a way for men to pay attention to and care about issues that mainly affect women has long been a well-meaning yet ultimately demeaning tactic that may do more damage than good. All women are "daughters," but women also exist outside of their relationships to men. If a man can't think about women independently — as autonomous human beings independent of the title "daughter," "mother" or "wife" — then that means there's still some work to do on the gender equality front.
However, it is a smart tactic for the Clinton campaign to use here, against a candidate who has grossly objectified his own adult daughter. And, given the rise of first-person essays from women voting against their sexist fathers this election, it's a message that seems on point. If women are deciding this election, then the dads of America need to acknowledge that maybe this isn't their world any longer.
"Our dynamic plays out between fathers and daughters – around dinner tables, over phone lines and in inboxes – all over the country," Laura Bogart wrote for The Guardian in September. "[N]o matter whom these dads vote for, when they indulge in ugly anti-Clinton smears, they sound like Rush Limbaugh’s cronies to their disappointed daughters."
Is it time to finally "Otherize" men and talk about the dad vote? The beauty of this gender flip is that men, for once, are centered around women and forced to acknowledge that their voting choices aren't made in a vacuum. We can't talk about the dads without putting their daughters first, but their daughters are now the ones leading this narrative all the way to the ballot box.