“And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.” -Hillary Clinton
Trigger Alert: This post is written by a Democrat. A liberal one. One who also likes to hear ideas of people who see things differently than she does, because she doesn’t believe one party or one way of thinking has all of the answers. She even likes the ideas of Republicans and Libertarians sometimes. That said, if you aren’t a liberal Democrat, you are probably not going to agree with her viewpoint on the election. If you can’t understand that fact, and can’t see this as a story of her experience, feel free to skip it.
I am a to-the-core feminist*. I was raised in the 80s and 90s by my parents and my friends’ parents to be one. I was raised to EXPECT a seat at the table – any table I wanted. Work hard. Learn all you can. Be smart. Be diplomatic. Be whatever you want to be. You can rise as high – higher – than the boys. Why not?
But here’s the catch. I held this gift of expectation in a world that still wasn’t ready to accommodate it. I learned over time, that I had to talk a certain way, appear a certain way, be a certain way, to be heard and to gain due respect. I believe these are things that my male friends and colleagues simply did not have to consider.
I’m not complaining.
I am an upper-middle-class, white woman, who has had opportunities and experiences that my grandmothers could barely imagine. I have advantages that people with less resources, a different pigmentation of their skin or a different country of birth are not automatically afforded.
And – I recognize that the gift I was given – to expect to be equal – was the next rung on the ladder.
This was more than what my mother was given. I am grateful.
And I want even more for my daughters.
I am also teaching them to expect a fairly earned seat. But that expectation will be met with the same challenges I experienced if the world doesn’t keep evolving. I want this world to change enough so that they take for granted that the earned seat is theirs for the taking – no accommodations necessary.
So let’s get to the point of this post:
I was flat-out devastated last night. The polling set me up perfectly for devastation. I literally went into the evening thinking: We’ll button up Florida and call it a night.
To be clear: A GROUNDBREAKING, ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME, NIGHT.
I wrote in a Facebook post earlier in the day that Hillary being female was about 5% of the reason I was voting for her. I stand by that, because I also believe she was one of the most qualified and capable people to ever run for the office. For me, there’s 95% worth of other material to support her candidacy. (If your eye-rolling is knocking you out right now, reference the trigger alert above.)
But that 5% was potent.
My feminism was bursting with the possibility of breaking that highest of high glass ceilings. This was it! This was the next rung on the ladder towards realizing the world I want for my girls.
Hillary’s loss last night hurt profoundly. I physically hurt. It felt like a shocking, mourning, hurt. I realize the words that I’m using right now are dramatic. They sound over-the-top. But I experienced exactly these words and have been walking through today in a hungover stupor.
My father cemented in me a love of politics, especially for the presidential election, in 1996: Clinton vs. Dole. He would send me clippings from the newspaper and magazines about the election and I couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement of our impending victory. It was fun.
I have actively followed politics ever since, and have keenly felt the Democratic wins and losses along the way. But nothing from any past election comes even close to what I have felt since last night. It has been so different- so much more.
Why? Why was this time so different? When I focused on the pain, two very specific, feminist ideas became clear:
- Severe disappointment that the holy grail opportunity of feminist progress has been lost.
- Horror that the opportunity was lost to a known misogynist. Every fiber of my feminism recoils from this man.
These twin pains, separate and connected, feel like such an enormous setback. They make me wonder if I thought we were farther along than we really are.
There are many, many reasons to be alarmed about Donald Trump in the White House. These topics of feminism and misogyny are simply one little piece of the story. Holistically, I think that if his views and rhetoric do not moderate once he takes office, and if he does not surround himself with the most capable, knowledgeable people (and LISTEN to them!), this entire American experiment could be very much at risk.
But no matter what he does or doesn’t do, that specific rung of the ladder sits waiting, untouched. This was the source of my sharp, mourning pain.
But… that will pass.
And there is always a silver-lining. I am certain of this: this experience will only galvanize me and the other strong feminists that I know. As we stand on the shoulders of the women that came before us, I know that we will never stop working for ourselves and for our daughters and granddaughters.
In the words of Hillary today, “Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It is, it is worth it.”
Please, dear God, may our girls take all of this for granted someday.
*Feminist (noun): A person who supports feminism, which is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. If you love a woman – a wife, sister, mother, daughter – any woman – in my opinion, you should be a feminist.
2 thoughts on “Next Rung on the Ladder”
I may send my midwest family a note saying that I am a liberal – elitist- feminist. Like it or lump it. Its up to them. I have a graduate degree from Yale. They should expect nothing less from me.
Exactly how I felt. Word for word we are the same person.