I don't remember the point at which I fell in love with Hillary Clinton. It wasn't a traditional, all-in kind of love, like I felt toward Bernie Sanders. It was a guarded, defensive love; it was one that allowed me to examine her faults, agree with friends that maybe she was not the best candidate for the Democratic Party, but that she was more deserving than any other candidate in this election cycle. I shot off at people who insulted her, counting first on my fingers and then moving to my toes, and then keeping a tally at my desk the number of times I read an article calling her deceptive, two-faced, stop-at-nothing, shrill: all just coded language from male and female journalists expressing their distaste for a woman with ambition. I read these articles, listened to these opinions, shook my head, and called my mother, texted my friends. Was America still this sexist? And then her emails were leaked, and I shook my head and called my mother. And her emails were investigated a second time: another call to the woman whose phone bill I was racking up daily. Was Hillary Clinton's campaign still this stupid?
I remember when, at 13 years old, my mother dragged a very self-conscious middle schooler to the high school gym to vote in the primaries for Hillary Clinton. I was less excited than annoyed as I sat in the bleachers, unable to walk into the booth with my mother. She gave me her 'I Voted' sticker, which I wore grudgingly, just barely grasping the joy and the history that she had brought me to experience. My mom was a staunch Obama supporter, but being able to bring her daughter to a primary and vote for a woman who could be on the major party ticket, less than ninety years after women got the right to vote, was too much for her to pass up.
I wish I had paid more attention back then, because as most twenty-somethings realize with increasing clarity: my mother was right. Back in my high school gym, I could not care less about what was happening. But this year, I cast my vote for the first woman ever to run on a major-party ticket. Like many of my peers, I was less excited by her policy than I was by what she stood for (even more importantly, what she stood against) on a larger scale, but I was excited all the same. We could do this. We could be stronger together.
In a deflated gasp of surprise, disappointment, and fear, my friends and I realized that Hillary was not going to win. I went to sleep, hopeful, at 10:30 p.m. and awoke at 12:30 a.m. to the worst news of the past eight years. I called my mother, sobbing; I texted my female friends frantically, telling them to get birth control as soon as they could, because who knows what the next four years will bring. I showed up to work, physically and emotionally exhausted, tearful, nauseated. I counted on my fingers, and then my toes, and then tallied at my desk: friends posting about fear for their safety, for their rights, for their families. Hillary Clinton wasn't perfect. She was human. We should not have needed a perfect candidate to defeat a man who stands so unflinchingly for hate.
Once again, America has proven that as a woman, you must do at least twice the work to be soundly rejected from a position for which you are over-qualified. As a white woman, I know that I am mostly safe in this new America. The garden-variety sexism that I will face over the next four years will not be different from that I experience now, though its frequency will increase. My heart and my love and any aid within my power go out to everyone who will be worse affected than I will be. I will fight alongside you for a nation in which you can live safely.
Like my mother, and my mother's mother, and countless mothers before them, I will have to wait. Women's place isn't in the kitchen, as so many would have you believe, nor is it in the White House. Women's place is waiting patiently, but not silently, for the world to catch up with them. So I will wait until the next major party female candidate. That won't be a first for me, for which I am grateful. I will wait and hope that the next female candidate is more palatable to the voting men of the country. I will wait and call my mother and grandmother, who have been waiting all their lives, and tell them that I am working. That my generation will inherit the consequences of this election, but also that we will fix it.
To the people who did not vote for Clinton, I do not blame you. It is a uniquely privileged position that allowed you to vote for a man who will not change your country for the worse. I only ask that you look into my eyes and say that she did not deserve it. That we, women of the United States, did not deserve to see a woman as president. Not only that, look into our eyes and tell us that Donald Trump is a better candidate. Tell us that a sexual predator deserves the office more than a woman who spent her whole life fighting, campaigning, planning, and suffering to reach the White House.
As a woman, I am not surprised. I was so, so hopeful - complacently so. The look of defeat in Hillary Clinton's eyes during her concession speech, which brought me again to tears, told me that she was not surprised. Hers was not just a look of defeat - it was a look of "I have to capitulate to that?" America is not ready for a woman who so openly embraces the characteristics that we tout in male leaders. How are we supposed to lean in when America takes a giant leap back?
I'll wait. But I'll yell, and god damn it you bet I'll vote.