Editor’s note: I’m having a hard time thinking about gardening just now, so we’re moving in a different direction. You’ve been warned.
Get over it! Your candidate lost. What’s the big deal?
I’ll tell you what the big deal is: Watching a woman who was arguably the most qualified presidential candidate in, oh, I don’t know, ever lose to a bullying misogynist feels like a direct assault on women.
I was raised to be a good girl. Good girls don’t make a fuss. Good girls go along to get along. We swallow our pride and our pain lest we offend someone. We work our asses off to be sure we’re taken seriously. We don’t cry. We do our best not to complain. We don’t ask for raises or promotions because that would be pushy. We don’t speak up or challenge male superiors because that would be bitchy. We laugh politely at jokes that make us uncomfortable because doing anything else would prove we’re uptight and don’t have a sense of humor. We swallow it all. Well, enough of that. I’m tired of saying nothing, or saying my piece only to people I already know will agree with me.
I have a long history of saying nothing.
When I interviewed for my first job after college, the manager told me he viewed every female applicant as a potential mate for his son, and every male applicant as a potential mate for his daughter. I stared dumbly and said nothing. I got the job. After I’d moved into a management position and started wearing suits to work, a supervisor in another department told me I had nice legs. I had to work with the guy; our departments needed to get along. I stared dumbly and said nothing.
After a few years, I was promoted to the top job in my department. But I didn’t get the same title as all the men who’d preceded me, even though I was doing exactly the same job. Nor was I offered membership in one of the city’s two country clubs—not that I wanted that, but it was a given perk for that position. But I was a girl, so.
When I was ready to move to a bigger city, the male interviewer asked why I’d gotten divorced; had we sought counseling? I knew he wasn’t allowed to ask those questions, but I wanted the job. “We grew apart,” I said, staring dumbly. “And yes, we got counseling.” I got the job.
It didn’t take long to figure out this was another old boys’ club. Only a handful of women had management positions, and they weren’t going anywhere. So I applied at another company. During the salary talk, I asked only for what I would’ve gotten with my next raise from my current employer. To the dollar. Asking for more would’ve been pushy. I got the job.
Newly remarried and ready to start a family, I perused the onboarding information and found nothing about maternity leave. When I asked the man in charge of benefits about it, he said, “We don’t really have a maternity policy. We don’t have that many women of child-bearing age. Why? Are you planning to have a baby?” This wasn’t the dark ages; it was 1989.
There was still no policy in place when our son was born the following year. I asked my boss if I could take off three months, with the balance beyond the legally required six weeks unpaid. He hedged, but finally said, “OK—but don’t tell anybody.” (Like, what, no one would notice I wasn’t around for three months?)
All that was a long time ago. Most of the employees (and managers) in my current workplace are female. It’s an empowering, supportive environment. But I suspect we are atypical. Many friends and colleagues have far more frightening stories of their treatment at work—male colleagues who assaulted them, asked probing questions about their sex lives, campaigned to get them fired. We all have these stories.
But things are getting better! There are laws to protect us! We convinced
ourselves the landscape was continuing to change for the better—that we were respected for our work, that our contributions and our dignity mattered. And when a woman finally won a major-party nomination for president, we were giddy. Could that have happened 20 years ago, even 10 years ago? We’d come a long way, baby.
And yet here we are.
When it became clear Tuesday night that our champion—a woman we admire for her brilliance, her public service, her tenacity, her grasp of how government works (hell, how the world works) would not break the most impenetrable of glass ceilings, we wept. Her loss was our loss. If Hillary couldn’t get the electorate to take her seriously, what hope is there for the rest of us? If a man with so little respect for women could be elected president, what hope do we have of hanging on to the small gains we’ve made?
I will never chant “not my president.” He is my president, for good or ill, but that doesn’t mean I respect him. I don’t, I won’t, I can’t. I am too fearful of what his victory means for women, for people of color, for the LGBTQ community, for the environment, for our standing in the world, for our country.
I don’t believe all Trump supporters are hateful, or misogynistic, or bigots. But there’s no denying some of them are. And it’s that emboldened, terrifying band of hate-filled Americans I worry about. Anyone viewed as “other” is a target. At the moment, it feels as if women are “other,” too.
Tonight I went to the same gas station I’ve patronized for more than 25 years. There’s never been any weirdness there, unless you count people complaining that having to prepay at the pump is a damned inconvenience and what the hell. Tonight, an unkempt, overweight white kid was walking out as I was walking in. As he passed me, he did an elaborate backward karate kick, farted long and loud, turned back to make sure I’d noticed, then leered and went on his way. “Classy,” I spat at him, although he probably didn’t hear, or care.
If we want respect, it’s clear we’re going to have to fight for it. I’m done being a good girl.