I talked to you the day after the election and you asked me, how was Donald Trump elected President of the United States? How, you asked me, did tens of millions of Americans vote for an unqualified, unprepared, inexperienced man instead of for a qualified, prepared, experienced woman?
Hillary Clinton may not have been perfect, but there was no doubt that she was smarter, more prepared, she had policy recommendations, you said, and Donald Trump didn’t have any of those things.
In a contest of flaws, Donald Trump easily won.
How do I tell you that my generation of feminist failed you, that the glass ceiling is still nearly as intact as it was when I was your age?
You, my daughter, will have to work twice as hard, be twice as good, be twice as prepared and you still might not get the job.
Did we get complacent after we elected a Black man to the office of the Presidency of the United States not once but twice? Did we assume too much as women like Hillary Clinton were able to rise into positions of power? Did we feel too secure in our world when the US Supreme Court protected what remains of Roe v. Wade and made marriage equality the law of the land?
How do I explain to you that tens of millions of Americans voted for a man who has been accused of sexual harassment, perhaps even assault, who has engaged in racial discrimination and racial bigotry, who wants to build a wall to keep out Mexicans who he assumes are rapists or murderers, who wants to keep out Muslims refugees fleeing war-torn countries in the middle east because he assumes they are terrorists?
I don’t have to tell you that Americans have been electing White men who are racists and misogynists and homophobes and xenophobes for years…you need look no further than Mount Rushmore to see men who owned slaves and endorsed eugenics.
But it’s not just in politics, we give men, of all races and ethnicities, a “pass” every weekend when we turn on our television sets and watch rapists and child abusers and batterers run down the field or court or glide across the ice.
Remember how many women, of all races and ethnicities, donned their Ray Rice jerseys just a week after they watched him punch his then fiancé Janey Palmer unconscious demanding that he be allowed to play?
And, of course, it’s not just athletes, it also entertainers and powerful business men, like Roger Ailes who continue to succeed even after being found guilty of the worst acts of oppression and bigotry.
We also give a “pass” to the men who live in our neighborhoods, the men who we work with our worship with. Men we encounter every day are allowed to achieve despite the ways in which they treat women and children, and racial minorities and religious minorities and members of the LGBTQ community.
The election of Donald Trump, as shocking as it is, is a powerful reminder that despite all of the progress we have made, we are a long way from true equality. That we must fight fiercely not only to bring down more barriers but to protect the gains we have worked so hard to achieve.
Imagine this, you may have less of a right to make decisions about your reproductive life than I had at your age. Who could have imagined this?
When you and your brother were little, you had placemats featuring all of the US Presidents that you ate your breakfast and lunch on every day. One day at breakfast your brother, 2 ½ years older than you, turned to you and proclaimed that the only way you would get into the White House was by marrying the President. I never believed he said that because he valued you (or me) less, but because his placemat made it clear, only White men were US Presidents.
Sadly, another election cycle has gone by and the US Presidents placemats, though they now include a Black man, still send the message to girls (and perhaps more importantly boys) that women do not belong in the White House unless they marry the President.
And, in some ways, that’s exactly why this election hurt so much, because Americans didn’t think working twice as hard or being twice as qualified was enough. Americans were not yet ready to value a woman’s contributions on their own merit, instead they evaluated her in part based on her relationship to her husband and held her responsible for his transgressions.
I don’t want your value, my daughter, or any woman’s value, to be determined by their father, their brother, or their husband. You don’t need a man to prove you are valuable. Your value is inside of you. Don’t ever forget that.