If not now, when?
If not her, who?
If not against him, how?
These three rhetorical questions circle around my mind every few hours, like an awful song I can’t get out of my head.
At first the words were white-hot: angry and bitter.
Now, however, they are grey: dejected and defeated.
There is no lump in my throat. Rather there is a black hole, a gaping hollow like a yawn that won’t come, compressing my brain, my sinuses, my ear drums. I feel my head might explode.
If a woman is the most qualified candidate ever to run for President (not just woman but person), but still can’t beat the least qualified candidate ever to run, what major party would be stupid enough to try running a woman again any time soon?
How much more qualified does she have to be? And what does more qualified than Hillary Rodham Clinton even look like?
In these moments I fear it will never happen. The metaphorical ceiling, which was there all along, suddenly feels stifling, suffocating.
And it makes me so bone-fucking-weary of being a woman.
I have always loved being a woman, in spite of everything. I was fortunate that I grew up incredibly privileged, blessedly unaware that anything stood in our way. I have tried to take this self-assurance, this assertiveness, with me into adulthood, to not let anything stand in my way, even as I learned that it did.
But now I am fatigued- I am sick of this skin, this pronoun, this pussy that men are allowed to grope.
I am weary on behalf of millennia of women: weary from all the years they have spent fighting, harder than I can even begin to imagine, weary from the kinds of oppression that I never knew.
I am weary for Hillary, for how many years she put in only to beaten by a man who I’m not sure even intended to win.
I am weary of being part of the sex of which a man can speak so dismissively and still receive 60 million votes for President.
Maybe they are smarter than me: maybe they know equality is never going to happen, and have embraced their subservience.
But it is going to happen.
It is when the questions stop being rhetorical, and start being practical, that I start to feel better.
We have come so far in such a short space of time, no matter how painfully long it feels. Women were not even allowed to vote less than 100 years ago. There are many more ceilings to be broken, but many have just been smashed. In July, a woman was nominated the candidate for President of a major party. This was one. On Tuesday, a woman won the popular vote. This was another.
Perhaps it was foolish of me to think the same woman who smashed the candidacy ceiling would smash the presidency ceiling.
At any rate, the next can’t be far off.
It might not be in four years. But it easily could.
In my grieving, I have to remind myself that not all of the people who voted against Clinton did so because she was a woman. It played an undeniable role (if you disagree with me you are simply wrong), maybe enough of a role to cost her the election. But Trump galvanized a genuinely disenfranchised, scared, suffering populous and they were not all sexist. Clinton worked impossibly hard and wanted it impossibly hard, but she also had flaws and associations that hard work could not overcome.
For those who did vote against her because of her gender (conscious or not), we now have time to reflect on how to handle them.
The first woman won’t be Clinton, our champion.
But it could be Californian Senator-Elect Kamala Harris.
It might be Elizabeth Warren.
It probably won’t be Michelle Obama, whom in my pre-election confidence I proclaimed should not be the second (two ex-First Ladies in a row didn’t feel good enough to me). Now I would gladly take her as the first, the second, the third.
It might be none of these women. But I have to tell myself that she is alive and she walks among us.
As Clinton said at the DNC:
“If there are any little girls out there who stayed up late to watch, let me just say: I may become the first woman president, but one of you is next.”
They may not have a female president to look up to yet, but we all have Clinton to inspire us.
We have this image of inhuman levels of strength to inspire us.
We have Merkel and May and Johnson-Sirleaf and Solberg and Thorning-Schmidt and Persad-Bissessar and Bachelet to inspire us.
We keep figuring this problem out.
There are so many inspiring women working on this problem. I’m so excited by the people I have met in just the last few months in New York: my new friend Louisa, who is researching the way economic empowerment can help women in South American countries escape abusive domestic situations; my new friend Ali, who is funny and inspiring and wants to create more videos like this one; an academic named Nichola Gutgold I am now in contact with, who studies women and the United States Presidency; the astounding women in my class; and all the other incredible women I see trying to fix the world.
We need to reach out to those on the “other side”, those who need our help, for whom culture changed too quickly and too threateningly, not demonize them and dismiss them.
We need to get inside boys schools, inside the locker room, inside online hate communities to talk to people in there no matter how painful and scary. Sometimes, we might need to make our point gently even when we want to scream. We need to look after each other while we do so.
We need to be united and strong, but we have to get out of our feminist echo chambers and turn the third wave into the tsunami I thought it was until Tuesday. President Trump should be a good assistant in making that happen.
We’re going to get there. I don’t know when, and I don’t know who. But I do know there is no way the world is going backwards: we’re still moving forwards, step by step, and every little step is taking us closer to where we are ultimately going. Soon a woman will be president, and we will keep on going after that, until women are equal to men, until black women are equal to white women, until black women are equal to white men.
We may have lost this battle, but we are going to win the war.
There is no doubt about that.