“We lost the election,” I remember telling my daughter. “Our Hillary didn’t win.”
I pulled her as close as she’d allow, but as a newly minted 2-year-old, she was all wiggle and jiggle, boycotting the stillness of her mother’s embrace. I said it again, “Hillary Clinton isn’t going to be president, my love. There won’t be a woman in the White House—yet.” The gravity of the moment was lost on her, but she nevertheless noticed my eyes, wet with tears. I couldn’t help but cry. I was stunned, and my heart felt like it was about to break into a million pieces. We didn’t shatter the glass ceiling, but I felt shattered nonetheless.
As Inauguration Day approaches, the emotional tidal wave that was Election Day keeps replaying in my mind, a bizarre, broken record that sounds as chillingly improbable now as it did then. Over and over again, I relive the boundless joy that turned into such profound pain, and the limitless promise that was never to be, a dream cut short by a startling reality I didn’t, and still don’t, want to face.
For weeks, I had practiced the name “Hillary” with my 2-year-old daughter. She was a late talker, and the mere fact that she could even say the name (and say it rather clearly) was a pretty major triumph. “Hill-ry!” she would squeal, pointing to the book “Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born To Lead,” which I’d read to her countless times. No matter that the words were far too sophisticated for her little ears, she still clamored for this picture book. I loved reading it almost as much as she loved listening.
In those intimate moments leading up to the election, I would often imagine my daughter and I assuming our places in the distinguished chain of women’s history. We would carry on the legacies of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, of Eleanor Roosevelt and Betty Friedan, of the suffragettes marching and the second-wave feminists storming the halls of Capitol Hill. My imagination would run wild with portraits of extraordinary women, all of whom had given a piece of themselves in service of this remarkable juncture in time, all of whom had shed blood, sweat, and tears in order to make the world a more just and equitable place. Their tireless work took decades to bear fruit, and we would be their most indebted beneficiaries. They sacrificed everything so that my little girl could be anything, even President of the United States.
I would say to my daughter, “When I say ‘President,’ you say ‘Hillary!’” She played along with me, humoring my rampant enthusiasm. Oh how desperately I wanted her first real exposure to the presidency to be with Hillary Rodham Clinton. Oh how I yearned for her first genuine impression of the “Commander in Chief” to be of a woman in command, a woman in charge, a woman at the helm. She’d never bat an eyelash at the thought of a woman president because it would be all she knew. And as she climbed through that open glass ceiling to peer down at the history that came before, she’d have the privilege of saying; I was there when it happened, there when the final glass shards exploded into nothingness.
But that was not to be. It is not to be. We will not be inaugurating a woman into the White House; we will not be swearing in the first female to lead this awesome nation. The ceiling, even with its 18 million plus 65,844,954 million cracks, is still stubbornly fixed in place. Our work, as far as we have come, is not over yet, not by a long shot.
This week, we will inaugurate into the presidency a man who has been caught on record referring to his daughter as a “piece of ass,” a man who has bragged about “grabbing [women] by the pussy,” a man who dismisses his sexist, misogynistic remarks as mere “locker room talk.” He is a man who has spoken openly about sexually violating the women he encounters (“I just start kissing them… I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything,”) and he has routinely abused his power to intimidate and bully these and countless other women. Most regrettably, our next president will be a man who embodies the very worst impulses of human nature.
But, his inauguration will not break us, nor will it silence our cries for equality and justice and respect for every body and soul. His inauguration will not crush our dreams of possibility, or our hope for a better, more inclusive, more righteous world. As women under this administration, we will remain steadfast and vigorous, and we will be as resolute as we are relentless in our pursuit of women’s rights.
In Jewish tradition, we end each book of Torah with the words: “Hazak, hazak v’nithazek: Be strong, be strong and we will be strengthened!” As it so happens, we ended our first book of Torah this past weekend and this week, the next chapter begins. We seal that transition, from one book to the next, with a prayer for strength as we continue the journey ahead. This week, we too must gather all the strength we can muster, as we forge ahead into our next chapter as a nation.
To that end, on the day after the inauguration, over one million women (and their supporters) from all around the globe will greet the new President with a monumental show of feminine solidarity, as we march in Washington D.C and in 616 sister marches as well (and counting!), to claim our space in the public arena, to protect our rights as women and mothers and daughters and sisters and partners and workers and citizens of this great nation, and to stand in strength together, with people of all backgrounds and belief systems, creeds, and heritages. Hand in hand we will make our voices heard and our causes known. We will stand proud and we will not be forgotten.
As I look my daughter in the eye today, I say these words to her: “We may not have a woman in the White House now, but never, never doubt that we will.” Our feminist story will not end under this administration. In fact, it is only just beginning.