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“I am who I am. I’m good with it. You might need to figure it out, but I’m fine with it.”
— Senator Kamala Harris, a Democratic presidential candidate, the daughter of immigrants and a stepmother. She calls herself simply “an American.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren is a wife and a mother of four: two children, a golden retriever … and a government agency?
In a playful move with a healthy wink-wink factor, the Democratic presidential candidate recently listed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she helped create, as one of her kids in her Twitter bio. The implication: Her professional achievements are as notable as her personal ones.
In New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister whose leadership was universally praised in the wake of a mass shooting there in March, just got engaged — but don’t expect an Instagram-worthy proposal video. It took a student journalist to notice and ask about a ring on Ardern’s middle finger for the world to find out. Ardern and her now-fiancé had a baby together last year.
And on Thursday, Time magazine released its latest cover, which features the Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten — with the headline “First Family.” Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., is the first openly gay person to make a serious presidential bid.
The political family is changing, as is how its members represent themselves in the news media and culture.
“What’s happening politically, particularly on the left, is a desire to see leaders who reflect the family structures that are becoming increasingly common,” said Charlotte Alter, a national correspondent for Time who wrote the Buttigieg cover story — whether that be acceptance of gay marriage, women leading in the workplace or blended families.
Kamala Harris, the California senator vying for the Democratic nomination, for example, is a stepmother to two children. (She’s also biracial and a daughter of immigrants.)
While there are still plenty of Americans who long for the days of “two-point-five kids, mom doesn’t work, dad has a briefcase,” Alter said, the reality for many American families has moved far beyond that era.
That said, is Warren’s defining herself as a wife and mother — even if the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is listed as one of her children — actually progress?
Alter said the reference ultimately works both ways: as a way to tell more traditional voters that Warren still shares these values, while also sending a message to more progressive voters that she is proud of her gender, and that it is significant.
At the end of the day, candidates with strong family ties are still highly valued by voters, Alter said. Male candidates included. Recalling the campaign of President Trump, whose family is blended, Alter said she would hear the same statement over and over from his supporters: “He’s such a good dad.”
“People want to see a family living in the White House,” Alter said, “even if it’s a family that looks a little different than theirs.”
“I have the type of experience they’re looking for.” Asked if a woman can win, 2020 candidates offer an easy answer: “I have.” [Read the story]
“Caster Semenya, feminist icon?” When one of the world’s most visible athletes is told she can’t be one. [Read the story]
“You are trailblazers, creating your own path on your own terms.” For the first time, Miss America, Miss Teen USA and Miss USA are all black women. But is a beauty pageant really progress? [Read the story]
“How did the mass entry of women into the work force affect families?” Under the unlikely inspiration of Senator Elizabeth Warren, a group of conservatives has revived an old debate. [Read the story]
“Black girls didn’t have many outlets.” Norma Miller, the last survivor of the Lindy Hoppers, the all-black troupe that popularized the dance, has died. [Read the story]
If you’re in Washington on May 19, join the photographer Elizabeth D. Herman and the Washington bureau photo editor Marisa Schwartz Taylor for a special conversation about The Times’s portrait project of all the women of the 116th Congress, Redefining Representation. Tickets are free. Learn more here.
From the archives, 2013: ‘Complex families on a scale we’ve not seen before.’
Same-sex parents. Immigrant families. Cohabiting couples. Children with parents in prison. A 2013 report by Natalie Angier, a Pulitzer Prize winner, in a special issue of Science Times explored the rapid redefinition of the typical American family.
“In increasing numbers, blacks marry whites, atheists marry Baptists, men marry men and women women, Democrats marry Republicans,” she wrote.
“The typical American family, if it ever lived anywhere but on Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving canvas,” she went on, “has become as multilayered and full of surprises as a holiday turducken — the all-American seasonal portmanteau of deboned turkey, duck and chicken.”
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