By The Gorgeous Ladies Of Pajiba (GLOP!) | PaEHba Day | June 8, 2016 |
By The Gorgeous Ladies Of Pajiba (GLOP!) | PaEHba Day | June 8, 2016 |
When I was in sixth grade, a boy in my class placed his hand on my chair as I was sitting down, palm facing up so I’d sit on his hand. He and his friends laughed, and I cried, and he received a moderately angry shout from our teacher and nothing more. When I was a bit older, a boy pushed me into a coat hook, the metal hitting my spine like a bullseye radiating pain through my body. He didn’t get in trouble either. I don’t know that I ever told my parents, about these or the other moments that just seem to come with being a girl. But I’ve held onto them, burned into my skin and my mind.
To live in this world is hard. To live in this world as a girl can be impossible.
My opinions have been dismissed, my body used without my cognizant permission, my thoughts and motives questioned in ways I don’t see among my male friends. I’ve been sent for coffees while my male co-workers were invited to laugh about sports highlights, I’ve been ridiculed for my weight—be it too much or too little, and insulted for my makeup, clothes, taste in and presumed-limited knowledge in film and music. My body has been touched when I didn’t want it to be. And there are moments, still now, when I think about that where I wish no one could ever touch me again.
And now, we have for the first time ever, after a longer, harder road than my own and stories I’m sure we share, a major party with a female presidential candidate. And I think about all the moments being a girl has been so impossible, and I think about all the girls who might have fewer of those moments. Who might be able to stand up more than I ever was. Whose emotional loads might be a little lighter come adulthood. Because they will have had this woman, who stood and weathered so much from so many, and she’ll lead them. All of us. She’ll have shown them it’s OK to be strong, to be angry, to be loud, to say no, to say yes.
Being a girl will always be hard. But today this woman has taken a sledgehammer to the ceiling that divides us from them. Today is a good day. And the hard days, those awful moments, they can’t take this away from us.
When I first saw the word streaking across my timeline, I was afraid to believe it. I was afraid believing it would somehow jinx it and take it all away. Between the battle over women’s health care, the wage gap, and the disgustingly gender-biased treatment of women in the media, it feels like snatching the voice and rights away from women has become the new national pastime. Then came the flood of news sites with victorious headlines, and the reality hit me like a much-needed hug, the kind my dad gives me where he lifts me full-bodied into the air and swings me around. I felt weightless and grateful.
As a girl, my parents always told me that I could be anything I wanted when I grew up. But as we grow, girls are given very different messages from our culture. Men run most big businesses, news organizations, and our government, while movies and TV shows most often show women are lust objects or damsels to be rescued, instead of the heroes of their own stories. But today, we see a moment that could bring a major, needed, and long-awaited shift that women have dreamed of for generations.
I wanted to post a celebratory response on social media, but didn’t, because I am so exhausted by Bernie supporters acting like ANYTHING I say about Hillary is like I’m force-feeding sour grapes down their throats. I didn’t want this moment to be spoiled by snarking, condescension, and conspiracy theories in replies. And here’s the part where I say # NotAllBernieSupporters. Totally. But enough have personally attacked me over the past few months that it has tainted this moment a bit. However, today is not about these bad apples.
Today is about an historic moment where, for the first time in U.S. history, a woman has come closer to the presidency than ever before. And I believe in our nation enough to believe we’ll get over the bitterness of this Democratic primary and unite to take Trump down in a blaze of glory so righteous it’ll be read about in our histories. And we’ll tell the story of tonight, remembering the victory and Hillary as the flawed yet pioneering and inspiring heroine she truly is.
My first vote ever was in a presidential primary. In 2000, I cast my vote for Vice President Al Gore to be my nominee for the Presidency. I voted for him again in 2000’s general election, and for John Kerry in 2004. At that time, I was terrified of the right wing push, terrified of what a second George W. Bush term would mean. I saw so much bigotry and hate towards gay Americans used to draw out votes. I didn’t know what was going to happen if President Bush was reelected. What I couldn’t imagine at the time is that in the very next election, I would get the historic privilege of having to choose between a woman and a black man who were both supremely qualified for the job. I had no concept in 2004 that each presidential vote I’d cast over the next 12 years would be for a candidate who would stand in such stark contrast to everyone who came before, including John Kerry or even Howard Dean, my favored candidate in the primaries. If you told me in that election that in the next two, I’d get to vote for Barack Obama, and then after that, Hillary Clinton, I wouldn’t have believed it. But here we are.
In that same time frame, if you told me that when I cast that first primary vote for Hillary Clinton that I’d be living my life full time as a woman, I also wouldn’t have believed you. For me, womanhood was something as vaguely attainable as a non-white male president. Something that on paper or as a dream could be real, but in reality seemed hard to grasp. The ghost of hope. But here we are in 2016, my vote cast yet again, living openly as a woman in a world where Barack Obama is finishing his second term as president, where marriage equality — the very law that was used to scare people in 2004 — is now the law of the land, an ornery Jewish democratic socialist managed to push some extremely leftist rhetoric into a mainstream political campaign season, and for the first time in our nation’s history, a woman has been nominated to be president by a major political party. Despite a lot of anger out there, of confusion and frustration, despite how divided we seem at times these days, we keep pushing and love, passion, determination, keeps winning the good fight in the end. I know right now somewhere there is a little girl like myself, or maybe even a woman like me back in 2004, who has no idea yet just how different the world became today. You can be anything you want to be, you can be a woman, and a woman can be president.
For years, women who tend to be stubborn, loud, and opinionated have been told that the path to success is not to fight for it, but to be quiet, humble, agreeable, and eventually someone will give us what we want. Not when when want it, but when they decide we deserve it. Every grade we receive, every position offered to us, every minor achievement is not the result of our own hard work, but of the benevolence of someone else. They’re doing us a favor, you see. Asking for these things would be rude, or brash. Fighting for them would be arrogant. Last night we got to see what asking and fighting and arrogance gets us; a shot at the highest office in the land. This does not mean that we won’t be told to be quiet, humble, and meek any more, but it does mean that we can see clearly what happens when you decide to take control of your own destiny. It may not be comfortable, but it’s far more rewarding.
I watched the first half of Hillary Clinton’s speech on my phone, the audio playing on my friend’s car as we drove to her house. We made it in time to catch the end on TV. We couldn’t wait, couldn’t settle for watching the moment as a clip. We needed to witness it as it happened. Because what happened matters.
My friend is eight months pregnant with a baby girl, a daughter who will be born into a world that is different. Hillary isn’t president (yet), but she’s damn closer than any female has gotten in 227 years, only 96 of which we’ve been able to vote. That deserves recognition, period.
We stayed up for hours, waiting on primary results and to see what Sanders would do. My friend fell asleep before he appeared on stage and his supporters booed at his mention of Clinton. “The idea that HRC must be 100% perfect in order for her achievement to count as historic or laudable is a great metaphor for being a woman,” tweeted Huffington Post editor Chloe Angyal. Indeed.
What happened matters, even as I sit here frustrated with the cynicism I see around me. I wish I could help those angry at her likely nomination be less so. I wish I could make this world a better and more welcoming place for my friend’s daughter and for all women. I wish one of the main stories circulating on social media wasn’t about rape, the rapist only sentenced to six months in jail because the judge thought he’d had a hard enough time as it is.
But wishing won’t bring about change. Action will. So I’ll keep going — what better example do I have than Clinton herself, a woman who *always* keeps going? I’m determined to hold on to the joy of watching her get closer to finally breaking that highest glass ceiling in which she’s been putting cracks for decades. And I’m going to do my part in adding a few cracks myself.