Spunky is the word that’s used to describe Faye most often. When she’s running down the sidewalk, or loudly (and proudly) introducing her cousin to shopkeepers, or swinging from the highest heights on the playground, other parents nod and exclaim, warmly: “Whoa, she’s a spunky one!”
Spunk, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s, means “courage and determination.” It’s a word that indeed suits Faye perfectly; she’s brave and persistent and dogged. Like most two-year-olds, she’s plucky and spirited, nearly all of the time. But it’s notable that I’ve never heard a boy called “spunky.” And definitely never a man. It’s a word used almost exclusively for girls and women. And while often meant kindly, I think it’s also a commentary not just on courage but a certain kind of recklessness, too. Tom-boyishness. (To use an outdated phrase.) Unladylike behavior. (To use another.) When people call Faye spunky, I know they’re admiring her fearlessness, like I do. But consciously or not, they’re also remarking on her noisiness and physicality. It’s a compliment, but like many words applied to women and not to men, it comes with a subtle side of judgment.
This election, I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. She’s experienced; she’s qualified; she’s smart; she’s worked very, very hard to gain skills that are crucial for a challenging job that operates on the world stage. Many of our past and present nominees for President have not achieved what she has, neither have they had to do so in the face of structural and personal sexism and intolerance. In short, I’m voting for her not only because I respect her resume but also because I respect her guts and her grit. And guess what those adjectives are? Thesaurus-approved synonyms for spunk.
This November, I’m voting for someone who will bring spunk to the Oval Office. Not because I think spunk is all it takes, but because if spunk is what my daughter has, then I want it to, someday, be considered Presidential.
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