Like as if it was the season finale of Game of Thrones, my husband and I sat in front of the television last night, with our heart rates skyrocketing. Would Hillary finally succeed, after her long career, to move back into the White House but as its leader, or would Trump and everything he stood for and the people we represented takeover?
This election has meant a lot to my family, which might be surprising considering we’re Canadians, but my husband is also part American and I, as a child, was raised in New Jersey while my father was in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Beyond the global political implications of this election, which were still of great concern to each of us considering this planet is really quite small, Hillary Clinton gave us — as parents — hope that we could show a role model to our daughters, whom we’ve tried to raise from the very beginning to become strong, independent women. Women who could, if they so chose to, become leaders in their own rights, in their own fields.
Perhaps we were idealists. We had a little bit of faith that our generation would be the one to witness and welcome a woman to one of the most powerful offices on earth. Because, as Justin Trudeau put it, it’s 2016.
But the American public chose otherwise. No matter how qualified she was, she wasn’t better than the notorious TV-personality billionaire. And that says so much.
Last week I was watching a short documentary that asked the question “who are our female mentors?”. Who are the women who have made it to the office before? I was surprised to find out that there have only been about 50 elected women heads of State in the world.
Even when we look at women leading teams of creatives and in the advertising industry, my field, you can become quite disheartened. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I have been privileged. My parents didn’t raise me with the subtext that I would have to work a little longer or try a little harder or speak a little louder because it was a girl. It wasn’t a topic of conversation. (Is that really privilege though?)
So why is it today?
Why is it impossible for us to log onto social media and not have a day where we don’t read an article about girls and women being sexually assaulted. How am I supposed to raise daughters in confidence that she will not be a victim of sexual assault or harassment like I was? Or of misogyny, sexism, without mentioning racism, xenophobia, classism, etc.
Thankfully my daughters are only one and four years old. Their exposure to the misogyny, racism and xenophobia in these American elections is practically null beyond this moment I managed to capture when my daughter saw their faces for the first time.
But what it has created for them is an atmosphere of women who are afraid, women who are angry, and the men who are afraid and angry for them – mixed with people who just wish it was the 50s all over again. And yet again, we are privileged. We do live in the free world. We do have the right to vote and the right to express ourselves and the right to have jobs. And we do not have to fear for our lives for speaking out or falling in love. We have come further than our grandmothers before us, largely because of them. Our North American rights as women are different than the rights of women across the world. But although our distinct struggles are different, they are real and they impact us daily.
Let’s be clear, though: rights do not equal opportunity.
And so our job as the current generation, whether you are Gen X or a Millennial, female or male or other, is to shift the conversation and action from Rights to Opportunities. And moreover, we need to shift from a conversation to action. We can’t just watch the feminist activists take the charge for us. We need to actively seek, grab and create opportunities in our daily lives. It can be as simple as the way we describe women and what they do to our children (beyond how pretty they are), or as involved as joining groups and organizations that seek to improve the lives of women.
My husband and I have been blessed (and sometimes cursed) with two very strong little girls. One of whom thinks being a ninja would be the best job in the world, only after being an astronaut. She has shown herself to be a natural leader, the one who tries to get the whole group playing a game that she’s created. She is the first to run to her friends if they get hurt and to help them stand up. I guess that’s just the first step as a parent – teach them empathy, confidence, humility and service. But what do we do now?
The truth is I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go along and looking to others for clues. I’m hoping that both of my daughters will value critical thinking, will value their voices, and will value their peers. And I honestly hope the same for our generation’s sons.
The general sentiment this morning, as we empathize with Hillary and our mutual loss, will hopefully become a great motivator to not accept the status quo. If the main reason behind why so many millions of people voted for “Change”, what exactly was that change that they’re looking for? Because if history has taught us nothing it’s that you cannot move forward while looking backwards; we cannot go back to “the good ol’ days” because women will lose out. People of colour will lose out. People at disadvantages will lose out.
And so, my husband and I guess that the best thing we can do for our daughters is teach them strength. Because they will have to be strong to ensure how much more they’re going to have to accomplish and how much better they’ll have to be to succeed. Because, Let’s face it, Hillary was over qualified for this job and she still didn’t get it. Instead some guy with a reality TV show and enough charisma to convince banks to lend him money and then default and claim bankruptcy time after time, who grabs women by the genitals and kisses them without their consent and then boast about it, that’s just not the world I want my daughters to grow up in. I do not, and they should not, have to accept that that’s the way it is.
A couple weeks ago someone asked me what do I want out of life? My response was “I want my daughters to be proud of me”. The person then asked me “but what does that mean?” …and I didn’t know at the time. Today I think I have a better idea: I want to be a good role model. I need to walk the walk that I’m going to talk to them about. No matter what they choose to do in life, my sincere hope is that they can breakdown any barriers preventing them from achieving their goals. And I mean tear them down with one hard kick.
I will work my ass off to help them rise and will hopefully teach them how to rise up for themselves and for others.
So Hillary may have lost, but like dust we will rise. And our daughters will rise. So long as we rise ourselves.