When my girlfriend and I left the screening of Strong Sisters, the image and story of the two female politicians hugging from across the party line stayed with me. I texted her the next day, saying, “I want to live in a world where I hug people with opposite political views.”
The symbolism of the gesture, as well as why the hug registers as so unique, is very important.
Hugging someone acknowledges that you support them. They lean into you and you lean into them.
You acknowledge the physical – you both are humans, not strawmen set up by the opposing political side as easy targets to berate and hate.
You validate their struggles, their beliefs and mindsets. Most of all, you validate the idea that, even if you don’t agree, those beliefs and mindsets are important to that person.
You acknowledge that humans do not have to carry the same values in order to coexist. This view is hotly debated – different beliefs and mindsets cause both isolated and national levels of harm. Unaccepted difference of opinion is a major (if not final) root of conflict. Our own class, a British Literature course with an emphasis in World War 1 cause-and-effect, confronts this issue squarely. In Mrs. Dalloway Septimus is not given a space where his thoughts and views are given respectful consideration, and it kills him. In Return of the Soldier, Chris is not allowed to express his unhappiness in marriage and during the war he represses the whole thing, resetting his brain instead back to a frilly, teenagerish summer love.
Watching this hug during the film, I found myself saddened that such respect for people IN SPITE of politics is not more prevalent. Why did this feel like such a unicorn sighting, and what can we do to change that? Why does this rejection of the “other” side of an issue occur? Is it due to the media, where good politicians know that a controversial quote will float directly to the front page? Or is it our patriarchal society, and we conflate being disagreeable with being strong? Conversely, what will it take for compromise to stop being conflated with weakness? More women in government may absolutely be what we need to redefine our patriarchal definitions of a 2 party system.