Responding to the 2016 Election Results
This October, my husband, Mike, and I had the ultimate trip of bringing a person into this world. Welcoming our son has been an incredible gift, tempered only by the complete lack of sleep we’re getting. But it was election night, not our son, that handed me my first totally sleepless night since he was born. As the results came in, I refreshed the New York Times app on my phone from bed. The headlines flipped every hour, spelling doom for Hillary Clinton. I couldn’t believe it. After giving our son a bottle and putting him to bed at 3 A.M., it was certain Donald Trump would be our next President. From our New York City apartment, I peered out our window to take a poll of my own. I wanted to know how many people were up with me, lights on in utter shock, watching the coverage. In the sea of apartment windows, fewer TVs glowed than I would have expected. The neighborhood was asleep — they’d soon wake up, literally and figuratively, to the final headline: “Trump Triumphs.”
I’m 30 years old, I grew up in a suburb of Boston. At my public elementary school, our 5th grade class put on a Presidential pageant to mark the 1996 election. Everyone dressed up as a President. There were more than 42 kids in our grade so we had 42 Presidents, plus First Lady Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper. I was happy to be Tipper, proud to be part of the sitting administration. I wore one of my mom’s skirt suites, red lipstick and some of her gold jewelry. The point I make here is that for women my age, Hillary Clinton has been a part of our reality and our imagination for as long as we can remember — through her husband’s Presidencies, her time in the Senate, her 2008 race against Obama, her service as Secretary of State and finally as the 2016 Democratic candidate for President. I think I speak for so many women my age when I say we happily took for granted, these last few months, that her long career in public service would end in its highest office: she would be our first Female president. It would be momentous for her and for us. This didn’t happen.
On maternity leave, I watched her concession speech from my living room sofa — big tears falling onto my lap, my hand resting on my son’s stomach, my husband watching me watch Hillary, surprised at how emotional it was for me.
Hillary, flawed as she is, had been one of the most important standard bearers of Feminism for my generation and her concession speech was the crumbling of a wall — old guard, establishment feminism had finally fallen. Now that she had been defeated, she was quite suddenly passing us the torch, and the burden, no doubt intensified by the fact that Donald Trump would be our 45th President, felt very, very heavy: “Let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.” Now that she had lost, Feminism — whatever that word means — was ours to protect, to progress. Not hers. In that moment, I felt incredibly unprepared.
48 hours later, this new responsibility inspires my first small act — I’ll define Feminism for myself and share it with you. Hillary’s words fittingly serve as the seeds: again, “Let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart… there is more work to do.” For me, Feminism in a post-Hillary world has far less to do with women’s issues. Feminism now means a bias for action. For work. This is the real legacy of Feminism, to define your work: work at raising compassionate children, work at a career, work for a cause. Feminism today is about doing something intentionally, and with energy. In our Age of Mass Distraction, it is so dangerously easy to let the years tick by without nurturing a bias for action. Without acting.
I implore you to define Feminism for yourself. Do work.