I had already written my piece to share as we basked in the afterglow of finally electing a woman president. I was so sure we were ushering in a new time, I was so optimistic about the future for ourselves and our daughters, and now I have to pause.
I pause because we have to think again about how we will support ourselves and our girls in the aftermath of this election. I pause to really think about relations between men and women, and what Trump’s victory might mean for our youth.
In a recent NY Times piece, “How to Be a Man in the Age of Trump,” Peggy Orenstein reminded us that the onslaught of revelations about Trump’s inappropriate behavior toward women, “have sparked unprecedented discussions in the news media of “rape culture” and sexual consent. Except that the discussions aren’t really unprecedented. They are part of a cycle of soul-searching that is repeated whenever news of a high-profile incident of alleged harassment or assault breaks — Robert Chambers; the Spur Posse in Lakewood, Calif.; Glen Ridge, N.J.; Clarence Thomas; William Kennedy Smith; Mike Tyson; Steubenville, Ohio; Bill Cosby; Ray Rice; St. Paul’s; Roger Ailes; Brock Turner. In each case, by the time it’s over, we turn away from the broader implications toward a more comforting narrative: The perpetrators are exceptions, monsters whom we can isolate, eliminate and occasionally even prosecute.”
Except that now we cannot isolate, we cannot eliminate. The perpetrator is the next president of the United States.
This election is bigger than Clinton vs Trump, bigger than Democrat or Republican. This election is a moment that offers us the opportunity to look very well at how we relate to women, how we relate to girls, and what it means to come of age in this time. And in the wake of this shocking news, it is time to reclaim honor for the women, honor for the grandmothers…and in doing so, reclaim honor for the men as well.
This election gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves, and subsequently ask our children – what does it mean to be a man today? What does it mean to be a woman?
I was a bossy girl. In some ways, I still am. I am a leader. I am not afraid to move people to listen, to take a first step forward, to do my part to inspire change. When I was younger, both boys and girls called me bossy. Sometimes my teachers did too. When I was in high school, people thought I was a lesbian. It was not until I grew into an adult, not until I had the privilege of being mentored by great women elders, that I saw that I could be a leader and be a woman – that those two aspects of myself could be one, that I didn’t need to act like a man to lead well, that I could embrace myself as a woman, and from that place, lead.
It’s amazing that it took me so long to see that, even though I was raised by powerful women. My Grandma Rose could move crowds of people to tears with her words; my mother tirelessly fought for justice for her students. And both of them were real matriarchs, embracing the qualities of warmth and generosity of spirit that made even strangers feel a mother’s love in their presence.
Though I voted for her, I was critical of Hillary throughout her campaign. I wish she would embrace even more fully those qualities that make women’s leadership different from men’s. I know, it’s hard, when those qualities are all too often disrespected. Now is the time for change.
I am waiting for us to ask and understand why women’s leadership is essential in our time.
I feel even more strongly today than I did yesterday that we need to remember why the grandmothers were the most respected elders in many ancient cultures.
I feel even more strongly today than I did yesterday that we need to lead by valuing our intuition, by expressing our emotional intelligence, by encouraging empathy. In this way, we will inspire our daughters and show them that these qualities, which are naturally of the women, are the basis of a great deal of good in our society; they are the foundation of a culture that seeks to cultivate peace and dignity for every human being. These are the very qualities that enveloped each of us as we took our first breath in this world, safe in the warm embrace of our mothers.
For me, the most powerful words spoken this election season came from Chelsea Clinton at the DNC. “That feeling of being valued and loved, that’s what my mother wants for every child. It’s the calling of her life.”
In some way, it is the calling of all of our lives as women, the natural instinct from which we all operate. We give life, and so we inherently value it. How beautiful would it be if this were the guiding principle of our policies, our governing, our national and international politics?
And so, today I ask us all – mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, sisters, daughters, WOMEN – to embrace all that it is today to be a woman, and by doing so respond to the climate of misogyny and sexism we are all so afraid will infect our youth.
We cannot isolate or eliminate the threat that has hovered over us for these months; we must respond. Trump’s election is a wake up call to all of us to reconsider how we speak to one another, what values we teach our children.
With honor and respect to our mothers, our grandmothers, the generations of women upon the earth, I salute you, Hillary Clinton. I thank you for inspiring our daughters, for pushing us to remember that we need women’s leadership today, November 9 2016, more than ever.
May our granddaughters look back on these historical days, on Clinton’s candidacy and Trump’s election, and tell their granddaughters about the revolution they witnessed when they were younger. May they remember the fear that moved the people to act, to engage with their deepest truths about the relations between men and women in our culture. May they remember the changes they witnessed and tell their granddaughters of the revolution that precipitated peace.