The Tale of The First First Gentleman
Gerald Weaver has a rich history in American politics, having been a former Chief of Staff in Congress, as well as a political lobbyist with his own firm. His political life derailed when he was charged with obstruction of justice, as well as being a member of a conspiracy to distribute cocaine - all as a result of a refusal to testify in a case regarding the White House Post Office Scandal of the early 1990s.
His experience on the inside not only allowed, but rather, forced Mr. Weaver to re-evaluate what truly mattered in his life. At the same time, prison provided the backdrop to begin writing his first novel, The Gospel Prism, a sort of poetic story of redemption, drawing influence from Dante's Inferno and the like.
His latest novel, The First First Gentleman, tells the story of Melinda Sherman, a former war hero, who is vying to be the first woman in the Oval Office. While the timing is eerily similar to Hillary Clinton's Presidential run, Mr. Weaver emphasizes that his novel is not a commentary on the current election cycle, but rather an attempt to push the notion of true gender equality past the 'tipping point,' as he calls it.
In Entertainment had a chance to catch up with Mr. Weaver and talk about his new book.
Isn't it strangely serendipitous that you wrote a story about the First Female President, considering how close we are to Hillary Clinton's potential victory?
The book is a little over two years old. My idea was to create a candidate who broke down all the political orthodoxies. [Melinda Sherman] says she's going to breastfeed in the Oval Office, she goes to her brother's 'Big Gay Wedding' four days before the election, she says she thinks the war on drugs is a sin and God would disapprove - things that are not ever said or done - and I wanted to say, mostly, that the people are hungry for this.
At some point people are going to want someone who's not regurgitating what the pollsters told them to say, who's not giving canned remarks, etc. I made her a woman because what could be more iconoclastic than that? To break down the monster of misogyny. I made her a war hero too, which is critically important.
I think people want to throw out the old sexist stereotypes. People want to say, "OK, a woman can lead us." I think that's going to come from a special woman, and I hope that [Hillary Clinton] becoming President makes her special. But I wanted to make [the character] special because she's laid her life on the line, has had to kill other people, etc., because I think that would be the kind of female candidate that men would not be so sexist about.
Let's talk about the "elephant in the room" of misogyny for a moment. Melinda Sherman has the lack of filter that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have been applauded for, but that Hillary Clinton would probably never get away with. This appears to be very 'gendered." Would you agree with that?
I would more than agree with that. Look, I was in prison for 16 months. You would think that men in a place deprived of women's company would think of women in a dear or special fashion, or would miss them. But the level of misogyny there was utterly insane; it was like a measure of your manliness to be able to express how much you hated women. It's so ingrained it's not even considered anything weird or strange.
The Congress of the United States used to have this tremendous tradition of members of the House of Representatives playing naked poker in the locker room, swimming naked - which is weirdly almost homoerotic - very clearly keeping women out of the gym for 20 to 30 years after women were beginning to be elected to Congress. And one of the things that they privately complained about was that they couldn't play naked poker games anymore.
The Book is not only about Melinda's rising through the ranks, it's also a love story, no?
The book is split into two parts. The first book is a love story. You see these two people moving through their lives, you know they're going to end up together. The key element of the love affair is one of my favorite lines from the book: "(Such was not the case in the shower with Melinda,) . . . proving forever the truth of the well-known and quite celebrated maxim that a man should have children and essentially be their mother before he is ever allowed to enter a relationship with a woman."
What [Melinda] loved about [Garth] is that he's a single father. She sees how he is gentle and, basically, maternal because he's both mother and father. He sees her as this amazing, bright, shining woman who's headed straight to the top, and all he wants to do is support her. He loves her the way he loves his children without asking for anything in return - without any possessiveness, without any masculine pride - he's just there to nurture her and support her.
It's sort of a gender reversal, but in actuality it's not; there are people out there like that, there are relationships like that. When men accept themselves in supporting roles, that is more important than everybody being able to accept women in leadership roles.
There's no question that [Bill Clinton] is a 'manly' man, so if he, as a former President, does nothing but support [Hillary], I think that is going to give a lot of space for other men to say, 'You know, I can support my wife, I can take care of the kids, etc.'
Do you think in your lifetime, or in my (a millennia's) lifetime, that we'll find an equilibrium where we don't have the "monster" of misogyny and that we can all truly progress?
In the same way the opinion on same-sex marriage [evolved], I think that's going to happen with sexism and misogyny. More women graduate from college. More women are entering the work force. More high school graduates are women. 5% of CEOs [of Fortune 500 Companies] are women - ten years ago it was 1%.
You look at the Congress of the United States; 20% of elected Senators and members of Congress are women, but that 20% represents 70% of all the women who have ever been elected.
So, in other words, this is incredible growth in female elected officials. The forces that are pushing up against [progress] is the patriarchy, the status quo, etc. I think [equilibrium] is coming sometime around the end of my lifetime and definitely in your lifetime. Women will be equal, and to a certain extent, they'll be in charge.
Mr. Weaver is currently working on a new novel, set in the thirteenth century. While it may not take place at the same time as Gospel Prism or The First First Gentleman, the three novels tie together questions of faith, gender, and the power of institutions. We look forward to reading!
- Joya Mia Italiano
To learn more about Gerald Weaver and his work, visit his website at: GeraldWeaverAuthor.com
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