I have never felt more inconsequential or irrelevant as a woman.
Today began feeling like Christmas Eve. I listened to my friend’s HillYes playlist on Spotify bouncing through my workout. I giddily slipped into my “H” shirt — a heathered grey crew neck so soft I’ve been living in it for days — and delighted at the fact I had so many blazers to choose from to partake in #pantsuitnation. Will it be blue or black? Cropped or long? I settled on my white suit-jacket because it symbolized freedom and it just reeked with optimism. I put on eyeliner for the first time in weeks. Today was going to be special. Today was An Event.
The I Voted sticker I’d saved from my mail-in ballot was the perfect size for my lapel. Looking in the mirror, all proud and patriotic-like, I felt like something was missing. I rummaged through my top dresser drawer and pulled out the earrings my 80 year-old grandmother had given me for my 30th birthday. They had been hers. They seemed perfect to wear, not just to commemorate the women who came before me, but to personally honor her work leading the charge in BOTH of HRC’s campaigns in her home state of Oregon, and to honor her 50+ years of public service in some way shape or form. She recently told me how Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” had made her realize her call to fight injustice.
I met a dear friend of mine for lunch, another go-getter Nasty Woman who I aspire to be like in her drive, ambition, and follow-through on ideas and projects on both large and small scales. I bounced through the West Village into a Starbucks, and upon hearing a little girl ask her mom excitedly “Am I gonna vote today?” I asked if she’d like my sticker. The polling places were running out, after all — and I wanted her to have something to commemorate this momentous day.
I came home to an empty apartment and spent entirely too long taking selfies in my makeshift Election Day ‘fit. “Why so dressed up?” my mother asked when I shot off one of my faves via text. “Just because. Because of today,” I responded. I mean, duh. I rode the subway to the spin class I was teaching midtown and promptly changed into a more sensible “patriotic” red-white-blue shirt. You know, stay non-partisan for the members. Don’t want my class to feel like an unsafe or biased place. Also don’t want to, like, rub this win in or anything. I changed back on my way home and locked eyes with every single woman. We all gave each other the nod. We’ve got this. A man sitting next to me smiled and said, “I LOVE your shirt.” Normally I’d be unresponsive or short. I’m trying to get home, not get picked up. But this one was different. It was relief. It was camaraderie.
My boyfriend and I made mulled wine and roasted veggies, opting for a night in instead of going down the street to watch it all go down. I want to be able to really soak this in, I thought. I want to be able to break down with joy. “I know it sounds cheesy,” I tried to explain to him, “but today makes me feel like I can really do anything.”
And then it started. The first numbers rolled in, and she wasn’t ahead. That’s fine, I thought. We’ve got a long night.
But then they didn’t stop. She’d be ahead for a hot second, then he’d inch forward to make it neck-in-neck. A little more. A little more. A little more. I still didn’t think much of it. It’s like how I used to do homework in high school, I joked in a Facebook status, hoping to lighten the mood. Finish all the dumb, inconsequential stuff first, then end the night with the best, most A+ long-form essay work that ultimately accounts for pretty much all of my grade. It’s just like that. It’s how it works in the movies. It’s how it works at Thanksgiving. It’s just how it IS. You leave the best stuff for last.
But then the tone changed. It was suddenly 12:15am, and the ABC news correspondents (who did a fab job, ps — shout out to a Cokie Roberts cameo) were visibly worried. Professional. But worried. And flabbergasted.
My heart started to sink. Not sink — panic. What the fuck is going on?
It’s now 2:06am, and the last time I checked the polls it was 215 vs 244. I’ll check after I finish writing this, but I just couldn’t stay up and keep driving myself crazy. Notes from international acquaintances, friends, and mentors started pouring into my social media feeds. No longer were we rallying together — now they were offering condolences and support. “We WILL get through this. I promise. Stay strong.”
My tears won’t stop, and it’s not simply because it’s looking grim for “my” candidate. It’s because what started out as a day of hope and joy came crashing down into a quicksand-filled pit of despair.
I try not to be angry. I really try. But when I hear analysts say she made the mistake of being “more of the same” I am enraged that people even dare lump her in with the 44 men who came before her. More of the same? More of the same? I find it grossly unfair that people are unhappy with the direction 44 MEN have taken before her — all white men but one, ps — so now when she’s offered a seat at the table, she’s not even given a chance to be heard, much less the time and resources to actually make change happen HER way. I find it horribly unjust that she has spent her life toeing the line between standing up for what she believes in and acquiescing to the system she is forced to be a part of in order to be taken seriously and then is vilified for being “one of them.” I am enraged that a rapist, racist, misogynistic human (?) with zero experience, vague ideas and sickening charisma is seen by more people in this country as suitable than she is, a woman who has worked her entire life to build the most impressive resume and job qualifications and allies in practically every single sector she’d work in. I am horrified that apparently, the white male vote was at record numbers this year, largely thanks to white, uneducated male voters who have rarely if ever turned out to vote before.
But then again, should I be surprised? If anything, shouldn’t I be disappointed in myself for thinking better of where we are in this country when it comes to how we treat one another? Nope. These are simply highly, highly magnified versions of what I and countless other women of all ages, life stages, races and religions experience daily. Job interviews where we’re made to feel dumb. Interactions in which we’re shut down before we can even begin. Times when we’ve been told that change is needed, then our ideas for change are laughed at or worse, completely ignored. All the mansplaining, the “commentary” (if I can even call it that) on the way we look or sound or walk or act, the standards we’re held to when somehow our male counterparts seem to be let off the hook. For everything. Boys will be boys. Don’t be so sensitive. He’s doesn’t really mean that.
I do not want to go to bed, because I do not want to go to bed with this feeling. Never have I felt so inconsequential, so irrelevant, so much like I don’t matter. I began the day feeling as if I could finally fully embrace my ambitious nature and could do anything in the world. Right now, I feel imprisoned.
And that isn’t even factoring in my worries in regards to my rights or my safety. That isn’t even BEGINNING to cover my fears for my friends’ and family members’ rights and safety. Will my colleagues be able to stay married? Will my first-generation friends have their families ripped apart? Will my non-white-non-male friends be able to walk down the streets in their own neighborhoods and feel the basics of safety? Will my own family need to fear in a way we haven’t since the 1930s?
I know this is not the end, even if it seems to be. I know our country, and our world, has gone through worse. Every “bad time” has a set of recipients, we’re just the lucky ones who get it this time.
But bad times aren’t forever, they just last as long as we stay silent. There were some who called for revolution in the primaries. Welp — here it is.
The worst, worst thing we can do right now is steep in our own anger or depression. We need to get active — WAY ACTIVE — and fight for all the things we believe in most. Love. Hope. Equality. The lot of it. This is the time, my friends, to make that fucking revolution happen and get involved in whatever way you can, big or small. We cannot change big things at once but we can change small things on loop. Those small things add up, and when we are fierce about the small things we fight for, not against, we’re unstoppable.
Me? I run a platform to help women shift their negative self-talk patterns. I’m a writer and an artist, but you bet your nasty woman britches I’m an activist as well. Writing and art are just my vehicles. I’ve been subtle with my activism, but I’m ready to get more vocal. I believe the way we treat others begins with the way we treat ourselves. The way we make change out in the world is by being the change we want to see in the world. And so I’m making a promise to myself (and to anyone reading this) that I will work my very hardest to help lead us into the sunlight again. I will work tirelessly to help lift myself when I fall, then help lift others when they feel weak, then they can help lift others when they don’t even realize the world is breaking underneath them.
I hear the screams outside now and I know they’re not in joy. I can’t bear to look at the news, confirming what I know now to be true. I wonder what I’ll say to my grandmother in the morning, I wonder how the little girl I gave the sticker to will react when she wakes up knowing her sticker isn’t valid. I wonder how long it will take before I feel valid as a female again.
And then I remember my boyfriend holding me before drifting off to sleep (and me coming into this dark room to write this) and telling me I can still do anything I want to do. I remember I’m still wearing those diamond earrings that belonged to a fucking badass woman who helped found things and fight for stuff and create change, and started doing it in a time during which she could have easily been a pretty girl and left it at that. I don’t think the world is burning, even though it feels like it right now. I don’t think I’ll move to Canada, even thought it really seems tempting. I am reminded that there is still work to do, and I am reminded of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote: “A woman is like a tea bag: you never know how strong she is until she’s in hot water.”
We’re in the hottest of waters now, Nasty Women, and it’s time to show the world what we’re really made of.