Last week, my grandma sent an email to let me know that she had cast her ballot for “our candidate” in Florida’s early voting. I called her on my way to class that morning, strolling through the Main Quad with my phone pressed to my cheek and a visibly proud smile on my face. We both felt that “our candidate” was on the brink of victory, with just a few more inches to go before the finish line that she was confidently predicted to cross. All morning, my heart swelled with excitement as I told anyone who would listen that my grandma had already cast her vote for Hillary Clinton.
On Wednesday morning, I woke up to an email from my grandma that crushed me: “So sorry our candidate lost. I hope you are okay. Maybe she paved the way for someone like you or even you to run in the future.” I imagined her typing the email with a shrug, accepting our loss in calm frustration. But I am outraged on my grandma’s behalf. If the United States chose a man with an unparalleled amount of despicable strikes against him, rather than a woman with unparalleled qualifications, will another woman even end up on the ticket in my grandma’s lifetime?
The promise of a Clinton presidency sparked an intergenerational burst of female empowerment. The campaign slogan and hashtag #ImWithHer conveyed not only support for Clinton, but a spirit of solidarity among all women who embraced it. My high school history teacher added me to the secret Facebook group “Pantsuit Nation,” which grew to a group of over three million women and men who supported Hillary with zeal. They posted pictures of replacement lawn signs perched on trees after the original ones had been stolen or defaced – because “when they go low, we go high.” They shared painful stories of sexual assault and workplace misogyny, but also lifted each other’s spirits with pictures of mothers born before women had the right to vote now heading off to polling places with “Hillary 2016” garb. I am heartbroken for these women who have fought for equality for nearly a century even when the battles seemed insurmountable. I am heartbroken for all the hopeful little girls in Hillary costumes on Halloween and for their parents dressed up as Secret Service agents to accompany them trick-or-treating. I am heartbroken for my fellow millennial women whose first votes in a presidential election now feel like futile jabs at the patriarchy rather than the satisfying smash we had anticipated.
I know that my privilege as a white, third-generation American makes a Trump presidency infinitely less terrifying for me than for many of my peers. My privilege allows me to spend my time dwelling on the discouraging message that this election sends to women, rather than fearing for my personal safety and my family’s acceptance in this country. Yet as a woman, especially one who hopes to pursue a life of public service, Donald Trump’s victory has made me feel existentially threatened. Of course I will not let Trump slow down my wholehearted commitment to pursuing positive change, and someday soon I will be ready to channel my anger into action. But it is hard to motivate myself to do any hard work when a man who speaks in unintelligible word salad has just defeated a woman who has meticulously done her homework throughout her lifetime. Today is still devoted to wallowing.
I am dreading the policies that Trump will enact and repeal, especially with two red chambers of Congress, and I am dreading the appointments he will make. But right now I am preoccupied with the symbolic double blow of the 2016 election, in both her loss and his victory. Trump’s victory projects the message that a racist misogynist who has never held public office can undermine a qualified woman with a lifetime of dedication behind her. I was already painfully aware of the gendered undertones of the race, that if any woman ever exhibited Trump’s outrageous decorum she wouldn’t have made it past the primaries. Now, I see that a woman can accomplish infinitely more and work infinitely harder, yet still be barred from achieving as much as a man. As an ambitious young woman, that makes me confused about my role in the world and the obstacles I face. So today, I am tuning out anyone who tells me not to take it personally, who tells me not to cry. I have to cry. That unbroken glass ceiling breaks my heart.
Contact Courtney Cooperman at ccoop20 ‘at’ stanford.edu.