The balance of power between men and women has changed radically as Hillary Clinton has moved from first lady to senator to candidate for president, but the cliches persist: Neither the woman nor the country is ready for a female commander in chief. It's just not fair for the men to pile on the woman, even in a presidential debate. It's not fair when the candidates line up on stage and only one of them is a woman.
But in truth, the balance of power is shifting in favor of women. Men may act as if it's still a man's world, but women are ascending, and there's nobody stopping them but themselves. They've got the wind at their back, filling their sails. (Have we forgotten any cliches?)
There are more women than men on the college campus. Women make up the majority in both medical and law schools. Who dares put down a woman today for showing her smarts? Two women have served as secretary of state, and a woman is speaker of the House of Representatives. What's different now is that women have more choices than men. They can have the babies and work, they can work without having babies, or they can have babies without work.
We make over the female "firsts," but rarely examine those firsts in the context of the varied life now open to women. Not so long ago, a woman who turned 60, as Hillary just did, faced a life of diminished physical and intellectual abilities and opportunities. Not for her a prosperous and interesting future stretching out for years ahead. Now women, commuting to a different timetable, feel fresh surges of energy just when their husbands retire.
The responsibilities and demands of child raising have changed, and women are freer to work when their children are young. Once it was assumed that a child shouldn't start schooling before 5, but now the culture suggests that it's considerably better for a child to play with other children at 4 -- or even 3, guided by teachers -- than to stay home in front of a television set. Children mature earlier. Boys, especially, require more physical activity at an early age than girls. It's important to get them out of the house, and that frees their mothers for other things.