The morning of Hillary Clinton’s graceful concession speech, wherein she called for unity in light of all the work that needs to be done, lauded author of All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation Rebecca Traister tweeted, “God I wish she were allowed to just cry like the rest of us.”
Watching Bill Clinton and Tim Kaine struggle to keep it together, both shedding a few tears and Bill even mouthing ‘that’s my girl,’ I was taken aback by Hillary’s poise and class as she delivered a graceful sucker punch of speech, reminding young people, especially little girls, to keep fighting for what they believe in, despite the pain and genuine hurt from the outcome of the election. If anyone could do it, it’s the epitome of personal and professional resilience that is Hillary Clinton, but watching her actively focus on collecting herself and not breaking down opened up the floodgates for everyone else as we were reminded once more of just how strong she’d learned to be.
“So occasionally, I’ll be sitting somewhere and I’ll be listening to someone perhaps not saying the kindest things about me,” Hillary Clinton once said to a group of female political activists at a luncheon for the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Fund. “And I’ll look down at my hand and I’ll sort of pinch my skin to make sure it still has the requisite thickness I know Eleanor Roosevelt expects me to have.” It was with this same spirit on Wednesday that Hillary was able to let us know that everything we’d done was still so, so worth it, despite overwhelming sentiments of the contrary.
Trying to grapple with the results led to a strange couple of days, and I kept on pinching my own skin to double check that it wasn’t, in fact, just some cruel, convoluted dream. All of my close friends voted democratic this year, but even when some of the well-meaning guys that I love tried to console me, it just wasn’t working. I found myself gravitating towards my female friends, at least for those first few days, and reaching out to women I’ve always been close to as well as ones that I hadn’t contacted in a while. Girls from my old boarding school called, while some women that I’d only known on a professional level even checked in on me through Twitter and email. In public, in passing, we would squeeze hands, murmuring a heavy “how are you?” I found myself falling asleep at two of my girl friends’ apartment, even renting a hotel room for a night with one friend just so that she and I could get away and talk, with zero interruptions. We wept. I fell asleep with my shoes and makeup on. It was real, primal sobbing, keening sounds that I hadn’t previously realized I was able to make.
…Watching her actively focus on collecting herself and not breaking down opened up the floodgates for everyone else as we were reminded once more of just how strong she’d learned to be.
I’m terrified for the future of environmental, cultural, racial, gender identity, sexual orientation, and reproductive issues, among dozens of others, but a small part of me, the bit that ugly-cried in private, was simply, wholeheartedly grieving as a woman.
I’m disheartened that the United States’ most experienced and qualified presidential candidate was beat by an individual with no political experience whatsoever. While she was by no means a perfect candidate, the differences in credentials between the two nominees can’t be argued, regardless of political views and beliefs, so it’s hard to pretend, even with both candidates’ mistakes and wrongdoings over the years, that the results weren’t at least due in part to the fact that Mrs. Clinton is a woman.
The morning following the election, in an article titled “Her Loss” for The New York Times, Lindy West wrote about crying the day before, when results weren’t even in yet. Her husband tried to comfort her and explain that the numbers still looked good for Hillary, but she acknowledged that her tears were “not a genteel twin trickle but a great heaving, wracking burst, zero to firehose.” She wrote, “But maybe this election was the beginning of something new, I thought. Not the death of sexism, but the birth of a world in which women’s inferiority isn’t a given.”
Yes, most of the women that voted for Hillary are upset about the ideals that won the election and what the future of our country might look like, but we’re crying for who lost. We’re crying because it’s blatantly clear just how much work still needs to be done, even on this front. And, like Hillary, we’re trying not to do it in public.
The endlessly talented Kate McKinnon delivered a beautiful cold open on the Saturday Night Live following the election. Like so many SNL sketches, she was dressed as Hillary Clinton, but this time she was also playing the piano and singing “Hallelujah” in her alto voice that was surprisingly reminiscent of the late Leonard Cohen’s. While “Hallelujah” most often reminds me of Shrek, followed by mostly out of place and too cliché moments in film and television, this was the kind of moment that the song was written for. This was the kind of moment that Leonard Cohen would be proud of. People everywhere responded, many expressing their gratitude on twitter, despite the fact that McKinnon doesn’t have any official social media accounts.
Last month Rolling Stone published a piece by Alex Morris on McKinnon, which focused on her portrayal of Clinton. Morris wrote, “One recent Sunday morning, Kate McKinnon was leaning over the remnants of a sliced banana and trying not to cry… The crying was because I’d just innocently mentioned that, God willing, come January, she may very well be the first woman in Saturday Night Live’s history to play the president of the United States. Suddenly, she’s bending over the banana and holding her face in her hands. ‘It’s really — ’ she falters. ‘I had not thought about it in those terms until this moment. Not my involvement in it, but just — what’s that moment gonna be like? How hard are we gonna cry? I could cry just thinking about how hard we’re gonna cry when it happens.’” The pathos in McKinnon’s real-life confession came out in her piano-playing depiction of Hillary, the lament blurring the lines between a character’s sadness, the grief of democratic-voting women everywhere, and the anguish from McKinnon herself, who is a gay woman, the first openly lesbian actress on Saturday Night Live, and is now confronted with the horrific fact that much of America was OK with voting in a vice president who believes in conversion therapy for the LGBTQ community (the VP-elect’s website now redirects to the president-elect’s, but like defunct Myspace pages and “deleted” political WordPress rants, the internet stores everything in the end, so it was easy enough to locate).
McKinnon’s Saturday night performance was what most of us didn’t even realize we needed, and brought on one final cry when her voice grew heavy as she sang, “I did my best, it wasn’t much; I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch; I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you… And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of song with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah.” And as she turned to the audience, forcing a smile with tears in her eyes and a cracking voice, saying, “I’m not giving up, and neither should you,” we all took a deep breath and pinched the skin on our hands once again to make sure that it was still as thick as Hillary expects it to be, for there’s work to be done.