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Raising Girls in Trump’s America

Twin of the Week – Clementine: Penelope and Clementine are officially American Euro mutts — Italian, Austrian, Irish, and Swiss. My dad was the child of Italian immigrants, my mom, of Austrian immigrants. I’ve always identified as Italian — raised on a steady diet of mob movies such as The Godfather, A Bronx Tale, and Goodfellas. My wife is half Irish, half Swiss. She grew up performing as an Irish dancer, so naturally she has always identified as Irish. If Penelope and Clementine are interested, we’ll gladly tell them all about their ethnic heritage, but otherwise we plan on indoctrinating them as Americans. In the mean time, there’s been a surge of racist, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic intimidation and harassment since Donald Trump’s presidential win — prompting Clementine to barrage me with a series of questions about our family heritage.

“Daddy, are we Jewish?”

“Ooooh, um, that’s complicated, sweetie.”

“I’m stuck here on my tummy, daddy. I’ve got nothing but time.”

“Ok, here goes. I was raised Catholic, but my mom’s Jewish, which makes me Jewish. But your mom isn’t Jewish, so technically, you’re not Jewish.”


Sweetie, why are you interested in this now, anyway?”

“On our walk the other day, I saw those swastikas in Beastie Boy park — they’re burned into my short-term memory!”

“Oh, that. I was hoping you didn’t notice.”

“Daddy, please don’t ever insulate me from the truth, no matter how painful.”

“Ok, sweetie, what would you like to know?”

“The swastikas — who did it?”

“No one knows, sweetie. But since Trump won, there’s been an uptick in bigotry and hate crimes.”

“Oy vey! What if someone thinks I’m Jewish!?”

“Sweetie, you have blue eyes and blonde hair — not exactly on the radar of neo-nazis.”

“But, daddy, I’m only 5-months old. I heard that baby’s eyes often change color at six months — GULP!”

“Actually, it can happen even later, sweetie. I had blue eyes till I was 10-months old.”

“Shit on a stick! Daddy, have you ever been the victim of a hate crime?”

“No, sweetie. Well, sort of. I once represented a lady in a custody case. After we met, she said ‘I like you so much more than my last attorney — he just wanted my money, that JEW!’

“Wow! That’s bananas, daddy! Did you promptly inform her of your Jewish ancestry?”


“Why not?”

“Because I really wanted her money.”

“Ha. Ha. Ok, I get that, daddy — but I hope you purposely did a shitty job.”

“Nope. We won the case.”

“Ugh! So, you just cowered in the face of evil?!”

“Sweetie, as an attorney I have a duty to zealously represent all of my clients, no matter how despicable.”

“Fine! But please tell me that she got her comeuppance after you won the case.”


“OMG, daddy! A bigot unwittingly saved by a Jew — it could’ve been a great teachable moment.”

“I agree, sweetie. I really dropped the ball there. To be honest, she was a really nice lady, and I didn’t want to make her feel bad.”

“Of course, daddy. Don’t want to offend the nice bigot. BTW, how can people hate Jews when they can’t even tell who’s Jewish?”

“That’s a good question, sweetie. And I don’t have an answer.”

“Daddy, what about mommy?”

“What about her, sweetie?”

“I overheard her talking to a friend who was groped by a guy on the train, as he shouted “Trump’s America!”

“Oh yeah, I almost forgot — there’s also been a lot of anger directed at women since the election.”

“Well, daddy, I may not be Jewish, but I’m definitely a lady.”

“Yes, sweetie, biologically you’re female. Fortunately, you’re still a baby — an androgynous baby — it’ll be awhile before your gender is obvious.”

“Are you saying I look like a boy?”

“No, sweetie. I’m saying you don’t look male or female. You see, as you develop…”

“Daddy, I’m not offended. This is great news! I can avoid harassment if I just pretend to be a guy until this whole misogyny thing blows over.”

“I dunno, sweetie. That’s a risky game to play — transgender woman are even more vulnerable than cis women.”

“But what if I really really look like a man?”

“Sure, if you can pull it off, sweetie. But you’d be visibly transgender for a long time — trans kids are even more likely to be harassed and assaulted.”

“That settles it, daddy. I’ll just have to become a badass woman.”

“That’s the spirit, sweetie. But you should know… badass women are typically assumed to be gay or trans.

“What? By who? Insecure men?”

“Exactly. Sweetie, are you familiar with Joan of Arc?”

“Of course, daddy. She courageously led the French army to victory over the English.”

“That’s right, sweetie. But that’s not how the story ends. As a female warrior, she dressed masculine to blend in and also to avoid being assaulted by her comrades in arms. Not surprisingly, she was labeled both gay and trans. She was ultimately burned at the stake for witchcraft.”

“Daddy, I have great respect for Ms. Arc, but I’m more inspired by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill — fierce but unambiguously feminine!”

“Sweetie, movies are certainly inspiring, but they’re not realistic. When I was young, I thought I was gonna become a hotshot air force pilot, playing beach volleyball with Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer.”

“Ha! Ha! Seriously, daddy? You? You’re afraid of flying! You need to get drunk just to get the courage to fly to Cleveland.”

“Well, we all have our built-in limitations, sweetie.”

“Not me, daddy. As soon as I start walking, I want you to enroll me in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai — I’ll take care of the rest.”

“Oh, I’m on it, sweetie. I hope Penny’s on board too — that way, you’ll always have a training partner.”

“Fat chance, daddy. Penny clearly has your anxiety. She’ll be a coward, uh, I mean an attorney, just like her daddy.”

“Sweetie, are you familiar with the phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword”?

“Daddy, are you familiar with the phrase, “Well-behaved women seldom make history”?

“Yes, and do you know the woman who coined that phrase?”

“No, daddy. Whoever she was, I guess she was well-behaved. Was her name Penny?”

“No, she was a Harvard professor who lived an esteemed, and LONG life — Ms. Arc tragically met her fate before her 20th birthday.”

“That suits me just fine, daddy. I’ll make history, and Penny can write about it — I’d rather live 19 Joan of Arc years, than 100 years as a coward.”

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