I confess: I’m one of the sore losers. I have skin that crawls when I hear the word “president” preceding the name “Trump.” And I simply cannot abide people who say we have to “move on” or “get over it.” They suggest this as if the election were like the Dallas Cowboys losing to the Baltimore Colts in the final five seconds of the 1970 Super Bowl, thereby marking the precise moment when I stopped caring about football. But electing a president is not a game. And while I can still watch football with detachment, I can not regard the upcoming Trump presidency unemotionally.
My mind whirls trying to explain his victory. In one of the most significant elections in our history, American voters were asked to choose between a man who knows nothing about government and a woman, widely acknowledged as the best prepared candidate ever — and the know-nothing man was elected. Was it just an aversion to a woman who isn’t wearing an apron, offering food, or one who’s not clad in underwear and wings? Was it that this woman didn’t “look” presidential (code for “not a man”)? Was she too smart? Did the anti-Hillary voters even know what a server is? Did they really believe that having a computer apparatus in a basement is worse than a crotch-grabbing letch who would assault their daughter, sister, wife, or herself, if he found them appealing?
To those who say move on, I say the loss of Hillary Clinton (in the electoral college) is simply unlike any other election loss. It signifies the death of an ideal that I wanted to be true: that respect for our democracy would motivate American voters, as a group, to choose reason over ignorance . . . to choose love, tolerance, and inclusiveness, over meanness and hate . . . to choose in accordance with their religion, remembering an American president singing “Amazing Grace,” in a voice from his soul, at the funeral of the Charleston Church victims.
But equally significant, this loss represents the end of a personal dream of mine and many other women across this country. It wasn’t a dream of unimaginable proportions, like space flight to another galaxy. It was the dream of seeing an American woman – one of admirable credentials, intelligence, and experience – finally breaking through the highest ceiling and taking her place in the Oval Office.
While this is now a vanquished dream of many women, it’s particularly heartbreaking for women of my age because this President Clinton would have been the crowning achievement of our struggle for gender equality, begun in the 1960s. Like other young girls at the time, I grew up while the idea was being brewed that we could do anything, that our mothers would be the last of the 1950s housewife model, and that it was totally reasonable to expect gender equality. We had birth control, after all, that saved us from being accidental and serial producers of offspring and allowed us to actually plan our lives independently of a man. We’d go to college, take jobs, become professionals, and wait to marry until it was right for us. We could belt out the words to Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman, Hear me Roar!”
And, throughout the 70s, the evidence kept piling up that equality was within our grasp. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), passed in Congress in March 1972, would become an actual part of the U.S. Constitution (as soon as 38 states ratified it). In 1973, Roe v. Wade wrested control of our bodies from the government in abortion decisions. The 1974 passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act allowed married women to apply for credit without the signature of husbands. Beginning in 1977, a woman could bring an EEOC complaint of sexual harassment in the work place. And in 1978, pregnancy was proscribed as grounds for dismissal from the work place.
Who suspected that we were being set up for heart ache? The backlash began almost immediately after Congressional passage of the ERA, spearheaded, in part, by women themselves — Phyllis Schafley, in particular (recently dispatched to that special place in hell for women who don’t help other women, as Madeline Albright would say). Her “Pink Ladies” flooded state legislatures spouting their parade of horribles, including single sex bathrooms, the drafting of women, gender integration of the Girl and Boy Scouts, to name a few! By the end of the seven-year deadline for ratification of the ERA, only 35 states had ratified it, and five of those subsequently rescinded their ratification. Congress extended the deadline for 3 more years, but no more states stepped forward to ratify.
As for Roe v. Wade, the last 40 plus years have witnessed countless politicians attempting to whittle away at abortion protections. We’ve cringed as Republican legislatures across the nation have done everything possible to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship relating to abortion. We’ve monitored, with bated breath, the challenges to these interferences making their long, lumbering trek to the U.S. Supreme Court.
While most of these challenges have been successful, politicians intent on controlling women’s decisions keep thinking of new ways to impede us. After losing in the Court, Texas – it’s Governor, in particular – wasted no time coming up with the most preposterous ever. Pursuant to new rule, an aborted fetus must be given a burial or cremation based on the rationale that a fetus deserves more dignity than the disposal provided for an amputated limb or other excised body part. Forget the silliness that women, like most people, are more attached to our limbs than any grouping of cells in the uterus! No dignity for arms and legs? But more seriously, what about women being accorded basic human dignity when deciding for their own bodies, their own consciences, their own gods! The level of audacity and arrogance of these lawmakers using the word “dignity” in the service of harassing and denigrating women defies measurement.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court is still holding relatively firm to the Roe precedent, but how much longer will that last? After this election, all it would take is a couple of Supreme Court picks by the groper-in-chief to swing the court in an anti-Roe direction. So, I ask, after 44 years of watching sustained attacks against the principles of Roe, am I really supposed to “get over” the loss of a Hillary Clinton presidency, a woman who has known all along that women’s rights are human rights? A woman who fervently supports equal pay for equal work initiatives, believes in the work of Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics, and who’s made us proud on so many occasions while supporting our rights?
The results of this election bring to mind Ann Richards, another woman who made us proud, and her famous observation that Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in heels. Hillary, like Ginger, did everything that a male candidate would do, only she had to contend with Russian government-backed hackers, Julian Assange’s Wikileaking, and a rogue FBI director all working against her. Imagine the victory, if with all those aligned against her, Hillary could have scraped together the small number of votes in those three states that narrowly went to Trump! I can still taste the possibility of her victory when I close my eyes at night.
But when I awake, I see the little girls who will not grow up with the shining example of a woman president encouraging their success. As I ache for them, I also mourn for the promise surrounding the start of my own womanhood some 45 years ago, and lament that I don’t have another 45 years to wait for a woman who has the fire in her belly and who has been sufficiently hardened by the trials and tribulations of Hillary Clinton. Who else could run the almost impossible presidential gauntlet and get elected? When will HER time come and permit us to rest from the constant struggle and yearning for real equality? I’m pretty sure I’ll be gone before that dream can be realized . . . and that saddens me.
So, I won’t “get over” this election or “move on.” I plan to resist Trump because his views regarding women are abhorrent to me and even if I accept the reality that we aren’t moving forward, I will resist any movement backwards. The war continues. I will not opt out. I am woman, hear me roar.