The greatest thing happened this morning. I woke up, clicked on the computer, and found out that Hillary Clinton was on last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live.
Now, this isn’t the sort of thing that I would normally wet my pants over. I don’t have a problem with Clinton, and I’m even considering voting for her in the primary (or should I go with Bernie? Hmmm, it’s a tough choice), but I don’t actively follow her life activities or anything. No, the reason that I was so excited about her appearance on SNL was because I saw in it another opportunity to analyze her campaign for my re-purposing project.
For my project, I am working to create an article for the website of a publication like The Atlantic or Time that assesses the role motherhood is playing in the ongoing presidential campaign. This idea seems to be a strange one at first, probably because the idea of parenthood (especially motherhood) and politics seem so fundamentally separate. In a gender history class I took last winter, however, I wrote a paper that helped me see these things really aren’t so irreconcilable. In fact, nineteenth century female abolitionists frequently wrote about how slavery was a violation of motherhood, seeking to gain support for their cause by appealing to the familial sentiments of their audience. Hillary Clinton’s recent use of motherhood as a way to soften her image and make her a more appealing candidate are not without precedent and should be taken seriously. Slavery was abolished, due in part to the work of female abolitionists. What’s to say that Clinton’s appeals won’t be similarly successful, and won’t catapult her to the Oval Office?
So when I leapt for joy this morning upon learning about this SNL sketch, it was because I want all the evidence about Clinton’s use of motherhood in her campaign as I can get. The sketch did not disappoint. Before even introducing herself as a politician, Clinton (or rather Kate McKinnon, who was playing her) called herself a grandmother.
Yes! This is perfect!
Clinton’s self-portrayal as a motherly figure has been noted by the media, and I therefore have found a wealth of sources (like the SNL sketch) discussing how and why she has been doing this. Partnered with my background knowledge on 1840s abolitionism, I hope to make a compelling argument about how Clinton is just the most recent inheritor in a long tradition of women using motherhood to advance their political agendas. The evidence is all there, and now I just have to craft that into an argument.
Problematic, however, is that saying that is much easier than doing it. While my argument is aligning in my head and makes sense to me, I worry that it comes across as confusing and esoteric to others. That’s a problem. My goal for this piece is to present to curious and politically aware readers a perspective they may have never considered previously. I want to prove that motherhood is a rhetorical device that has been used in the past and continues to be utilized by female politicians today (albeit in a different form and for different reasons), but I worry that I won’t be able to create a piece that does so successfully.
Another thing I’m struggling with is figuring out a way to incorporate multimodality into my text. The sources that I am using as models for my piece use images and sound and the like sparingly, almost suggesting that these things don’t have a place in my genre. And while I hate to be the self-aggrandizing college kid who sees himself as more knowledgable than professional writers, I kind of disagree. I think that, if incorporated in a way that complements the flow of the article, things like sound and images could help illustrate my point.
Even with that resolve in my mind, I’m at a bit of a loss as to what I should include in my piece and how I should include it. I think it would be great to put in a poem or short excerpt from The Liberty Bell books, which promoted abolitionism in the mid-nineteenth century, but I’m still struggling to see how I could do so in a way that isn’t distracting. Similarly, I would like to include segments of a Clinton speech in which she discusses her life as a mother and grandmother, but I don’t know how to edit a video so it contains only those parts (or would it be better if I include the whole thing?). These are sort of technical difficulties right now, but they could prove to be significant problems if I can’t think of or learn a way to solve them soon.
It is no longer enough to be content with finding new evidence that supports my claim. Now I need to put those piece of evidence to work. I’ll surely keep my eyes peeled for more sources like last night’s SNL sketch that can further illustrate my point, but the time has come to figure out what exactly I want to say and how I want to say it.
I just hope I can come up with a way to do that.