I cried when when Chelsea Clinton introduced her mother during the last day of the DNC. My husband cried, too. So did our dog because our crying freaks him out. Hillary Clinton’s first official address as the first female nominee for president of a major American political party was, in short, a monumental moment—for women, for mothers and daughters—for people—worldwide.
The tears, I expected. What I didn’t expect was to see that the media, as far as I can tell, laid off of Chelsea when it came to her appearance. I felt gratified because in an election when everything is juxtaposed—here, Chelsea with would-be First Daughter Ivanka—this didn’t seem to happen when Chelsea took the spotlight.
I was surprised because it seems almost impossible for many journalists and media outlets to say anything unqualifiedly nice about the Clintons—witness here Rachel Maddow reacting to Bill Clinton’s heartfelt, personal, and frankly romantic speech about first falling in love his this wife, a speech she called “risky.” Apparently a husband of 40+ years reminiscing about the day he met the “girl” he would marry, bring to the White House, and ultimately introduce at the DNC as “the next President of the United States of America” is…insulting somehow?
Which is why I fully expected to wake up this mornings to comparisons, mostly unflattering, of Chelsea—smiling bravely and clearly Spanxed-to-the-gills after giving birth just 5 weeks ago—to the terrifyingly poised Ivanka Trump. That same Ivanka who last week at the RNC looked sleekly postpartum in her blush sheath dress as she directed her laser-like glare onto the cameras and tried to convince us that her father is in fact the exact opposite of everything we have seen him do.
After all, in a notoriously superficial media world, Chelsea is hardly a steely Trumpian fembot. For all her graciousness and accomplishments, she has always seems like a normal, approachable woman—the kind who needs a few months to get back into her jeans after having a baby and has not yet undergone some weird surgery to replace all her original skin with that rubbery tan plastic they make Barbies out of.
I thought that the pundits, as is their wont, would surely find some way to insult and diminish her, as they’ve doing with varying degrees of cruelty since she was twelve years old, and when I was one of those little girls watching at home. So you can imagine how gratified I am to see that, for the most part, this does not seem to be happening!
I’ve been Googling, with terror, but nothing has yet jumped out at me contrasting their appearances or dresses or bodies. Although, it must be said, that Hillary, unlike her opponent, managed to resist the impulse to grope her daughter’s ass in front of millions of people, just to drive home the point that she’s really an object placed on Earth for his judgment and pleasure.
There was no “who wore it better,” no “who’s bounced back from childbirth faster.” It’s almost like we have a woman candidate for president and the media has finally figured out that what women say is more important than what they look like. Because when it comes down to substance, there’s really no comparison.
Chelsea and Ivanka may share many superficial similarities: They’re both highly educated, high-achieving, and extraordinarily privileged. They are also both married to Jewish men whose fathers went to prison (how’s that for coincidence? Like, seriously?). And for anyone keeping track, no matter who is elected, it’ll be the first time we’ve had Jewish grandchildren in the White House.
But in terms of their speeches, they could not have been more different. Chelsea spoke in specific examples—about her father’s love for goofy ‘80s comedies, her mother’s fortitude and tenacity, the lively dinner table discussions they’d had during her childhood, and her relationship with her grandmother. “Grandma would be so, so proud,” she said. Ivanka, on the other hand, spoke in the same generalities her father has trafficked in, telling us we could trust him to “to make America great again” without ever quite getting at what that might actually mean (apart from ethnic cleansing and mandatory plastic surgery, which is what I myself have inferred.)
One daughter loves and knows her parent for who she is; the other seems to view him as a distant figurehead who tells, not shows. And that’s a comparison worth making.