#ImWithHer, And I’m Going To Get Loud About It
I went to a debate viewing party last night, which is not the sort of thing I usually do. Usually we watch the debates at home, where my husband and occasionally one or both of my children absorb any running commentary which bursts forth from my mouth without judgment or surprise. I like it that way. But the invitation came, from folks we adore (and—full disclosure—who we knew were inviting only like-minded guests), and off we went.
We returned home late last night and climbed into bed with our Internet devices, comparing the aftermath on social media, exhausted but unwilling to let it all go and succumb to sleep. This morning I got up late and cranky, still unsettled from the night before.
Here’s where I come clean: I didn’t always vote. As a young adult, I didn’t take much interest in politics. More times than I am comfortable admitting, I felt that not voting was a more responsible choice than voting when I didn’t really know what was going on (and educating myself and exercising my civic duty didn’t seem important; please don’t judge me on my naïveté, as I can assure you I’m doing a fine job of that, in retrospect, already). As I got older, I voted in presidential elections, but still figured “people smarter than me” would handle local elections, as what good would I be in the booth when I didn’t even know who most of the ballot choices were? I didn’t watch the news. I didn’t read the paper. I had never experienced what seemed like the real or imminent threat of total political failure, and although I sometimes preferred one candidate to another, I never thought to myself, “Well, if this other person wins, it could be the end of civilization as we know it.”
A few things happened as I evolved into a more socially responsible human. I got older, for one thing. The hubris of youth is long behind me, at this point, and with it, the notion that I am not responsible when it comes to the awesome privilege of having a say in my country’s governance. Also, I became a parent, and it’s funny how many things that didn’t matter much before I desperately loved humans who will outlive me now hold the utmost importance to me. Those things happened even before I married a journalist, and so in addition to those changes, I’ve now come to understand both politics and the importance of community understanding/involvement in a way I never did when I was younger. Also: Hello, Internet. The ways we can get news and sound bites and fact-checking these days makes any “it’s too much work” complaints from pre-Internet days (granted, those were whiny) moot. You want to be informed? Everything is literally right there in your pocket.
This current election cycle is literally causing me to have insomnia and panic attacks. I am scared. I’m scared for our country’s future, I’m scared by what’s happening all around me, I’m scared this is one of those “point of no return” pivots in history where, somehow, hatred has become an acceptable way of life.
I realized this morning that I have spent the better part of a year supporting Hillary Clinton wholeheartedly—with enthusiasm, among friends; with my donations; with my volunteer hours—but quietly. I don’t have a sticker on my car or a yard sign, in large part because of the stories I’ve heard about vandalism and confrontations when others do. The last time I volunteered for the Democratic Party, I bought myself a Clinton/Kaine button and put it on my purse—a small gesture, to be sure. A week later, I realized it was gone. I mentally retraced my steps; someone took it, but to silence me or because they wanted it for themselves? I don’t know. I didn’t replace it. Meanwhile, my daughter called home and told me about her friend at school whose car had both side mirrors broken off with a hammer. Campus police said the crime was “likely politically motivated.” You guessed it: Hillary bumper sticker.
I realized during the debate last night that we as a country have come to a place where telling the truth is no longer seen as important, where someone who is smart and prepared is vilified as elitist, where misogyny is so rampant yet accepted, the male candidate can interrupt the female candidate 51 times, often with childish outbursts and documented falsehoods, and still be seen as a viable potential leader of the country. I realized this morning as I read yet another shrewd analysis of why Clinton appears so threatening to so many that my oft-repeated “It doesn’t matter whether a candidate is male or female” is something I want to believe, sure, but not something that’s true.
I realized as I sipped my coffee this morning and replayed in my head a conversation I had yesterday with my daughter that we as women internalize more than we realize. You see, my daughter—as a first-semester college freshman—is having a fabulous start to her college experience in countless ways… all except one. She has one professor with whom she’s having an issue. And because she’s a self-possessed young woman who can handle herself and knows when it’s important to speak up for herself, she went to see the professor yesterday to discuss said issue. And—every woman reading this is now going to do the slow nod of recognition—what my daughter got for her trouble was a lot of “oh, sure, of course, but actually” peppered among the many interruptions of what she was trying to say. Her concerns were waved away and she was told everything was fine. So she did what anyone in her position would do, I assume: she left his office and called her mom and cried with frustration about what had just happened. And when I said, “Okay, that’s awful, here’s what you can do next—” she cried harder and told me it probably wasn’t worth it because it wouldn’t matter and nothing would change. Worse, she was afraid that taking the next step would cause the professor to retaliate. She didn’t say she felt it went down this way because she was female (I don’t know if she thought that, even), but she definitely felt powerless and made to feel “less than.” It could be age, it could be power, it could be gender; to me, the problem is when we accept that for whatever reason, power held above us must be the final answer, fair or no.
As I had my coffee and thought about that conversation, again, it occurred to me that at 18, my daughter has already internalized that the most logical conclusion of a young woman pushing back against male rules is that the woman is talked over and rendered invisible, at best, or further persecuted, at worst. And everything else happening in this election aside (and yes, I realize there is no shortage of injustices up for grabs right now, obviously, and any discussion of how privileged we are as white middle-class folks is a whole ‘nother thing), to sit with this being 2016 and that being our reality made me so angry I didn’t even know how to proceed. (As fate would have it, my daughter called me this morning about something else—and I took the opportunity to remind her that she has the right and the responsibility to stand up for herself, and while I can’t say that it has anything to do with her viewing of the debate last night, she agreed and we outlined a plan together for how she will proceed. I can’t promise her it will work, but I can promise her she will be glad she didn’t let it go simply because someone in power tried to convince her she doesn’t matter.) I am done being angry quietly.
I support Hillary Clinton for president. I support her wholeheartedly, not because she is a woman, but because she is an accomplished, lifelong public servant who has not just created real, positive change in our country, but who has managed to do it while men consistently waved her away and assumed they knew better.
I know she’s not perfect. I know she’s made mistakes. (I also know she’s not a pathological liar who seems to enjoy inciting violence and hatred, but, y’know: details.) I know that if I hadn’t already come to a deep understanding of our civic responsibility to participate in democracy before this election, I’d be there now.
If you are American, please do your research before this election, and please register to vote and exercise your right to do so. I know not everyone agrees with me, and that’s okay. Today two women whom I respect surprised the heck out of me: one by expressing a level of vitriol about Clinton that sounded like it came straight from the “All Democrats Come From Satan” handbook, and one by outright stating she plans to vote for Trump (but no further explanation was offered and… yeah, I got nothing). This year is unlike any other in history in terms of the departure from accepted decorum and how the public seems to view what’s happening. So from now until the election, I’ll be staying loud. I’m going to be loud for my daughter, for myself, for those two women who maybe never had someone remind them that just because it happens doesn’t mean it’s okay. I’m going to be loud in the hope that eventually I wake up from this nightmare.
Photo Source: HillaryClinton.comPublished September 27, 2016. Last updated September 28, 2016.