When I was 12, a friend and I admired a bench that our male friends built in the camp woodworking department.We decided that we wanted to build one too. The boys laughed at us. The teacher said that he didn't have time to teach us all the basics and he didn't want us to get hurt. So we opened a book and followed the instructions on our own. We built a big, beautiful bench, and we painted it pink.
Two years later, I received the highest grade in the class on my first freshman Bio exam. There were rumors later that day that I only did well because I flirted with my teacher during office hours.
When I was 19, I was on the train home from the city when some boys asked me where I went to school. I told them I went to Cornell. They looked at each other in astonishment, "We never would have guessed that you're smart."
About a year ago, I was talking to a repair man about my pool heater. I asked him if he could show me what was wrong with it and he asked if I had a brother or dad who was home. "I just don't want you to burn your face, sweetheart," he said.
This summer, I told an acquaintance that I would be attending law school. He told me I am "too pretty for school." Just a few days later, a friend's mother asked me what type of law I'm interested in. She then listed the fields that are "good for women."
This morning, I watched Hillary's concession speech:
To all the little girls 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.
Those words would have meant a lot to me that summer in 2006 when I was trying to decipher the woodworking manual.
I wish I could say that things have changed, that little girls are encouraged to explore jig saws, hand saws, and table saws just like their male counterparts. I wish I could say, even, that we're moving in that direction.
But how could I? Come January, the free world will be led by a man who brags about sexual assault, blatantly says he doesn't respect women, and dismisses prominent women by claiming they have their periods or by calling them "nasty." He was elected in large part by our husbands, brothers and fathers; I wonder if they feel ashamed when they look in our eyes.
But while the big glass ceiling still remains intact, we can still each shatter our own. We won't fall to the stereotypical expectations of what we should be good at and what we should leave to the boys. We will fight for our right to choose. We wont tolerate sexualization in place of admiration. We are not powerless or voiceless, and we will not allow our limits to be defined by anything but our aspirations.
We will build our own benches. And we'll paint them pink.