It is shocking that I’ve never blogged about Hillary Clinton. I am a feminist blogger who has been a supporter of hers since the early 90s, and yet I’ve never written about it. I remember the moment that my young heart started to burn with feminist purpose. My father was watching the news. They were covering the United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing and I heard our First Lady say, “women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.” I had never heard anything like that before. She became my hero.
As I got older, and bad things would happen to me, I would often think of her. When I was down, when I was mistreated, when I wanted to give up, I would think of her courage and conviction and it would help me keep going. Asking myself “what would Hillary do” got me through the day-to-day struggle and the unique challenges of being a woman in the military. Watching her survive attack after attack and emerge triumphant helped me deal with sexist theatre professionals as a young actress. WWHD became my battle cry and my comfort. I have often thought of her as a friend and confidant and her influence in my life has helped get me through some of the hardest times.
When she announced she was running for president in 2008 I was overjoyed. Then a brilliant young senator from Illinois joined the race and captured the nation’s heart. I was disappointed, but not hearbroken. She would have another chance.
When she announced that she would be running again, I knew that this was it. It was finally time. She had a 65 percent approval rating throughout the country. All of my friends who had supported President Obama were now supporting Hillary. It was too good to be true. An enigmatic gentleman from Vermont appeared on the scene who gave blustery speeches and who was a mensch and once again my friends turned from Hillary.
The primaries were ugly and the misogyny was rampant, but I took my strength from my candidate. If Hillary could suffer through it and remain full of strength and grace then I could bear the trickle-down effect.
And then it happened. Hillary became the democratic nominee. And I thought, “This is it! She will finally do what she is destined to do.” It was inconceivable to me that this life-long public servant would be beaten by a reality star who spewed hate speech. And my friends were coming around. Some begrudgingly…but some of them were learning to love her as I knew they would if they gave her a shot.
But I watched. I watched the media villify Hillary and I watched them normalize hate. I watched them normalize assault. If Hillary had said even one of the offensive things that her opponent said during his campaign, her bid would have been over. If any woman had made any of those gaffes, her political career would be over. I thought it was such bitter irony that our first woman president would have to defeat misogyny and sexism personified as her opposition.
But she didn’t win. The sexist won. Voldemort won. Sauron won. Panem won. The Empire won. Evil won. And that little girl who grew up loving Hillary is so confused. Good is supposed to conquer evil. Love is supposed to trump hate. And it didn’t. Hate won. And it has torn my world apart.
Every day I wake up and remember that Donald Trump is our president-elect and my stomach rises into my throat, my pulse rushes, and I feel lost. Tuesday night I started off cautiously optimistic. I didn’t think she would win by a landslide as many predicted, but I thought she would eke it out. I finished the night watching his acceptance speech, feeling hollow.
Wednesday I watched her concession speech and sobbed watching my hero fight back tears. I was filled with a new sense of purpose. I was filled with vim and vigor and FIGHT.
On Thursday I got pissed. Pissed at non-voters. Pissed at friends and family. Pissed at Bernie or Busters. Pissed at the #iguessimwithher and #ihatehillaryless folks. Pissed at white women. Pissed at the Rust Belt. Pissed at Florida. Pissed at men. Pissed at the FBI. Pissed at the media. Pissed at third-party voters. Pissed at some of the people who are now protesting on the street who didn’t support her on the ballot. Pissed.
On Friday I cried. I had hope. I had understanding.
Saturday I fell apart. It took me three days to figure out how I felt. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t shocked. Although I feel all of those things. Ultimately, I feel betrayed. I feel more betrayed than I can remember ever feeling. If Hillary Clinton, who has every privilege in the world as a rich, educated, white, straight, cis-gendered woman and who is the most progressive and most qualified candidate to run for president in history can’t succeed….how can any other woman?
We were on the brink of progress. We were on the brink of history. And what I heard deafeningly by that defeat was “NO GIRLS ALLOWED.”
I re-watched her concession speech recently and I heard something I’ve never heard in her voice... not during the hearings, not during her concession speech in 2008; never. I heard defeat in her voice. Her vulnerable words were stunning. Just beautiful. What a lady. What a public servant. What a loss. I hope I’m wrong, but I do not think she will run for public office again. I think we’ve lost her. So I grieve for what might have been. For what may never be.
I know this pessimism won’t last. I have to snap out of it. My job is to empower women and I have to do that. But, “O Captain! My Captain!” I have to do it without my mentor. I have to do it without the example I have always held myself accountable to. And the sexist voices that society has embedded in everyone, including women have rushed back in. “You’re not good enough. You can’t compete with a man. They will never let you win.”
And I find myself wondering if we’ll ever get our shot. When will women be equally represented in our government? We are more than half of the country. We are the only disenfranchised group that is not a minority. We are the majority and still we have been held down since civilization began. We still live in a country where the highest office held has been Secretary of State and only 3 women have held that title. Out of 100 senate seats, we currently have 20 women serving. Of those women, only ONE is a non-white woman. Thankfully, we just elected 3 more non-white senators, but it’s still woefully unbalanced.
And get this. There have only been 46 female senators in our national history. Read that again. Take that in. IN OUR NATIONAL HISTORY. It’s going to take a long time for equality in representation, let alone a woman president. And I think part of my heartache is that I have now realized that it may not happen in my lifetime. The women of this country are more divided than ever, many of them voting against their own interests, many of them believing we live in a post-feminist society, and many of them thinking that we don’t need to lift each other up. And it leaves me feeling so confused. I don’t know if I want to protest. Or crawl in a hole. Or run for office. Or move out of this country. Or start a war. Or just give up. And that’s where I am. And it isn’t the brightest place. But it’s honest.
As a woman with thick blonde frizzy hair, who can rub people the wrong way, and is bursting with passion and ambition, who doesn’t know when to quit and can’t stand injustice, I take this loss very personally. I see a lot of myself in her and her defeat feels like mine. But don’t worry. I will rally. I will come out of this fog of uncertainty and pain and I will fight for those disenfranchised groups whose safety has been put in jeopardy by the rhetoric and action of this new leader.
I will rise from this stronger than before. How could I not? Look at the example that has been set for me. Thank you Hillary. Thank you for taking a shy girl that didn’t really fit in and turning her into a warrior. Thank you for helping me to stand up for what I believe in. Thank you for inspiring me to start my own company empowering women. We have never met, but you have changed and improved my life more than you will ever know. And for that...I thank you.
“This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It is...it is worth it.” -Hillary Clinton