Hillary Clinton is the Champion Women in America Need

“Whether I am meant to or not, I challenge assumptions about women. I do make some people uncomfortable, but that’s just part of coming to grips with what I believe is still one of the most important pieces of unfinished business in human history — empowering women to be able to stand up for themselves.” — Hillary Clinton

It is the summer of 2001.

I am sitting on the floor of my living room reading a book while my parents watch the news. News anchors are discussing America’s new first lady, Laura Bush, and how she is a more “traditional” FLOTUS than her predecessor, Hillary Clinton. The news anchors seem relieved. To them, it’s preferable for a first lady to not be so politically active and to “remain in the background.” The next day my cousin comes over to play with me and my sister. He tells us he gets to choose what game we play because he’s the boy — so he’s in charge. I don’t challenge him.

It is the spring of 2005.

I am at lunch with my mom and sister. The tv in the restaurant is playing CNN and they show a clip of Hillary Clinton. I overhear two men in the booth next to me talking about how “cold” Clinton is. “Would it hurt to smile once in awhile? Why is she so serious?” One of them says she is “too aggressive” and calls her an “ice queen.” They both laugh. While they’re still laughing, CNN shows clips of two different male politicians who do not smile. The men in the restaurant don’t comment on them at all. Later that week, the boys at school start a game of soccer during recess. I want to play too, but they push me aside, saying girls aren’t allowed to play because we aren’t good enough or tough enough. When they finally let me play, I get kicked out again for being “too physical and aggressive.” They tell me I can play with them when I “stop trying to play like a boy.”

It is the winter of 2008.

The democratic primary dominates the news cycle. Every morning when I come downstairs before school, my parents have Morning Joe on in the background. One morning they start talking about Hillary’s impact on men. Her voice quickly becomes the focus of discussion, and commentator Pat Buchanan says, “when she raises her voice, and when a lot of women do, it gets to the point where every husband in America has heard sometime or another.” My mom turns off the TV and tells me and my sister it’s time for us to go to school. Later that day in my civics class we have to give presentations about something we would change in our community. Many of my classmates are not enthusiastic or particularly skilled presenters. But the girls tend to communicate much differently than the boys. When explaining their position they frequently say “I don’t know,” and preface many statements with “just” as a way to mitigate their opinions or ideas. In a world where girl’s and women’s communications styles are frequently mocked, it’s not surprising many of us are afraid we won’t be taken seriously. A woman’s delivery is often studied more than the content of what she is saying.

It is the winter of 2010.

It’s Christmas Eve, and my parents receive a gag gift — The Hillary Clinton Nutcracker. The package refers to Hillary — now serving as Secretary of State — as a “ball-buster.” The message is clear: women can not be intelligent and attractive at the same time. We have to pick one. If you’re a strong, ambitious female leader, it makes you immediately unattractive — that’s the joke. A week later, I am struggling with my physics homework — a class that has given me trouble all year. Rather than reminding me that I’m a bright student, intelligent in my own right, I’m told to find “a nerdy guy who would like to tutor a pretty girl.”

It is the winter of 2015.

Hillary Clinton is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. I am sitting in my university library reading the news and I come across an interview with famous journalist Bob Woodward, who says, “I think a lot of it with Hillary Clinton has to do with style and delivery, oddly enough. She shouts. There’s something unrelaxed about the way she’s communicating.” As a college senior, I’m finally able to see and articulate the double standard that Hillary — and all women — are held to. As a woman, if you stay calm you’re told you’re too scripted and cautious, but if you show emotion or raise your voice, you’re told you’re too shrill and need to calm down. The sexism that Hillary deals with is not isolated — and it doesn’t only impact her. Her fight represents the sexism that every woman has to deal with, daily, from the time they are born. Nearly every week a man who I do not know tells me to smile. When people find out I play rugby, it’s not uncommon for people to ask, “Isn’t that too hard for girls?” I can not go to a bar without a part of my body being grabbed or groped without my consent.

It is the Fall of 2016.

Hillary Clinton is debating Donald Trump in the final presidential debate, and the topic of abortion comes up. Hillary’s answer on allowing women to make their own reproductive choices is assertive, informed, and unapologetic. She is the feminist champion women have been waiting for. It’s clear Hillary listens to women and values their experiences. Her preparation and competence are obvious throughout the debate, and she has a thoughtful answer to every question. I can not help but to beam with pride while watching her. She represents every girl or woman who has to had to study harder, stay up later, and work longer hours than a boy or a man just to be taken seriously. Later in the debate, Donald Trump interrupts her to call her a “nasty woman.” The next morning, it’s his insult — and not her strong performance defending women’s rights — that makes headlines.

For my entire life Hillary has been a champion for women. She is the first major party presidential candidate who understands what it is like to navigate life as a woman. She’s spent her career fighting for the underdog, quietly improving the lives of millions. As a lawyer, a first lady, a senator, and a Secretary of State, she’s worked to improve the lives of the people who needed it most. If you need help, there’s never been a better person to have in your corner than Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mailing my absentee ballot

As I cast my ballot this year, I can’t help but be in awe of just how monumental it is to be able to vote for Hillary. I am claiming a spot for myself in a historic moment, and helping clear the way for the women that come after me. We still have a long way to go regarding gender equality in the U.S., but women’s rights have made so much progress over the last century. I — along with all young women in my generation — have trailblazers like Hillary to thank for the advancements we’ve made. Hillary Clinton has been fighting for me since before I was born. That’s why I’m with her.