After The Election, My Work As Mom To A Little Girl Is All The More Important
American President-elect Donald Trump’s win has felt shocking and heartbreaking for a myriad of reasons, but perhaps the most awful is that a man who has made unapologetically racist, homophobic, and misogynistic comments throughout the course of his campaign was overwhelmingly supported by American voters — and particularly the majority of white men. At first, I found that fact a little hard to believe, but as a woman, and as the mother of a little girl, I knew I shouldn't have. What seems clear in the election aftermath is that, while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton managed to get her name on the ticket, it was unlikely that those men were ever going to allow her to actually advance to the White House. And although they might try to downplay patriarchy and sexism and rape culture as some kind of feminist myth, the presidential election proved it is all very much alive and well. As much as I wish it weren't true, Trump's election to the presidency shows how little we've progressed, at least where sexism and misogyny are concerned.
As an educated, middle-class white woman, I can’t even pretend like my life is much of a struggle. But I do know that, like most women, I’ve been indelibly shaped by a lifetime of seemingly-subtle sexism and toxic masculinity. It happens when little girls silently learn that it’s important to be pretty and a liability to be smart, that the goal is to get the boys to like you, and the best way to do that is to keep your mouth shut. It happens when women learn that men will roll their eyes when we have an opinion they don’t like, and will try to write it off as an example that we're "too emotional" or that we couldn’t possibly understand the situation the way men do. It's why so many of us have grown up believing feminism is something to be ashamed of, because men have always insisted feminists are "crazy." And it's why, anytime I’m once again put in my place by a “nice guy," I think to myself, Could I actually be wrong? Could I be imagining this? Am I 'playing the woman card’? Should I not have said anything?
This kind of patriarchal gaslighting is so pervasive that I see the eye rolls and smirks in my head of imaginary men even as I write these words. I can already hear them discounting everything I've said. It honestly makes me wonder if it's even worth saying, this message about women and fairness and respect that will fall on far too many deaf ears. But then I remember that, Oh yeah, Donald Trump just happened. Misogyny is not an outdated concept perpetuated by emotional women all on their collective periods. Sexism is real. And in 2016, it's prospering in America.
If I want my daughter to know that gender inequality is wrong, that she deserves better just like all girls do, then the truth is, I'll need to do more than just be disappointed. It might be unfair and infuriating that we still need to fight as hard as we do, but our daughters need to know that it's still a fight that's worth taking part in.
Hillary Clinton was not a perfect candidate by any means, but she was capable and prepared and ready, and if she’d had the good fortune to be born with a penis, we likely would have been praising her ability to be the voice of reason amidst the Trump circus instead of debating the status of her e-mail account. There wasn’t any doubt that Trump had obviously tapped into the anger and frustration of many Americans, and there wasn’t any doubt that he was going to get a lot of votes. But when he beat Clinton, it became evident that the white men of America had spoken loud and clear: We still hold the power, and we are not giving it to you.
As a mom, the election result was a sobering reminder that, actually, I’d be lying to let my daughter know she can do or be whatever she wants when she grows up. I’d be lying to suggest she’ll be treated the same way by the world as her twin brother will, that they will both have the same opportunities and will be entitled to the same level of respect. And I’d be lying if I told her that she won’t find herself questioning her opinions, her expertise, her feelings, and her own worth time and time again because yet another man has decided he disagrees with her. That might sound bleak — and it is — but it's a reality we cannot afford to forget.
We may be further away than we'd hoped from living in a world where a woman could be president of the United States, and where our daughters don't have to grow up thinking there's something radical about that idea. But I have to believe we are still on our way.
When I woke up the morning after the election and saw my sweet daughter's face, I felt so disappointed for her and all of the little girls just like her who have missed out on the opportunity to see a woman who campaigned on a message of unity, inclusion, and the belief that her country is great because it is good elected president. That disappointment continues to linger, and I'm sure it will for a while. But if I want my daughter to know that gender inequality is wrong, that she deserves better just like all girls do, then the truth is, I'll need to do more than just be disappointed. It might be unfair and infuriating that we still need to fight as hard as we do, but our daughters need to know that it's still a fight that's worth taking part in. If they are to grow into women who won't have to question their rights to their own feelings and opinions — and I hope they don't — then they will likely need to have mothers who aren't afraid to do the same.
We may be further away than we'd hoped from living in a world where a woman could be president of the United States, and where our daughters don't have to grow up thinking there's something radical about that idea. But I have to believe we are still on our way. Trump's win will almost certainly have global repercussions, but, as a Canadian, I'm reminded that, in Canada, we currently have a prime minister who is a proud, self-proclaimed feminist and who made sure that his cabinet was comprised of just as many women as men. Hillary Clinton may not have broken the glass ceiling Tuesday night, but it will eventually be, so long as we teach our daughters that, while there are plenty of Donald Trumps and Brock Turners and mansplaining "nice guys" out there, there are also plenty of men who would have been proud to see a woman president, and who were just as disappointed the next day when sexism prevailed once again.
This won’t be the end of the momentum mobilized under the Clinton campaign —we'll all keep going and forging ahead, and that energy will inevitably find a different outlet, a new direction, some other way to influence change. Our daughters might have more boundaries ahead of them then we envisioned, and it stings to admit that we can't actually protect them from the pervasiveness of misogyny the way we'd like. But we can try to make sure that they are as equipped as possible to handle it when it inevitably comes their way. And that's far too important to forget about, especially now.