I’m addressing just one of the many concerns Americans have raised in the past two, awful days. We cannot blame the election of that man solely on sexism, as some are quick to do; voters who picked him didn’t do so out of hatred for a woman, but out of love for white supremacy. But as the results came in, women all over the country asked themselves, “What will I tell my daughter?” Some of them asked themselves this because they’ll have to protect them from racism, homophobia, ableism, transphobia, xenophobia, and hate crimes in practice, not theory. I’m not one of those women, and I don’t presume to speak for them. I recognize that the horrors they face run so much deeper than mine. But I think all of us, no matter our individual circumstances, were frustrated by what we saw early Wednesday morning. We saw an intelligent, qualified woman come in second to a stupid man with bad ideas and no experience. It’s a cruel scenario so many of us have lived in our own lives, but this felt like group humiliation on a global stage.
On Tuesday, I proudly took my eight-year-old daughter with me to vote for our first female president. I remembered the joy I felt when, just four days after my daughter’s birth, my country elected Barack Obama. I just knew I was going to feel that joy again, not only at the relief that the election was finally over and we would all be rescued from the Tangerine Menace, but because I was going to be able to share a historic moment with my daughter and watch as she saw the world change for her.
The next morning, I put on a cheerful face when I woke her to get her ready for school. Yawning, she asked, “Who won?” My heart broke to tell her. She was sullen and quiet as she got dressed for the day. I started to doubt myself. Maybe I shouldn’t have talked about the election so much. Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten her hopes up. Maybe I was the source of her disappointment.
When she came home–after a day at school during which other third graders told her, “Hillary wants to murder babies,”–she shuffled up the driveway head down, shoulders slouched.
“How was your day?” I asked her cautiously, and she mumbled that it was okay. I took her into my office, where I told her that even though Hillary lost, she had a special message for little girls. I showed her the video, in which Clinton directly addressed the young girls of America:
““To all the little girls watching…never doubt that you are valuable and powerful & deserving of every chance & opportunity in the world.”
For the first time I’d seen since that morning, my daughter’s face brightened up. “Yeah! Like Ellen Ochoa!”
I have to admit, I didn’t know who that was. My daughter explained, “She was an astronaut. When she was little, she wanted to go on Apollo, but everyone said she couldn’t. Then she got bigger and said she was going to space, and they let her!”
Ellen Ochoa’s mission on the space shuttle Discovery made her the first Hispanic woman in space. She’s now the first Hispanic director of the Johnson Space Center, and its second female director. My daughter, who upon hearing that Hillary Clinton had lost, turned to this heroine she had been keeping quietly in her heart, and saw hope for her own future.
That’s what we have to do now. We have to look for those heroines for our daughters. We have to remind them that Clinton and Shirley Chisholm and all the women who came before them did not fail, but made leaps in progress. We have to point them to Tammy Duckworth, whose faithful service to her country started in our Armed Forces and continues in our United States Congress. We can show our daughters how women have shaped the United States from its colonial days, beginning when Lydia Taft cast the first legal vote by a woman in 1756. From the moment when, in 1851, Sojurner Truth demanded votes for women of all races. When Gloria Richardson pushed aside a National Guard bayonette in 1963. When Diane Humetewa was confirmed as the first Native-American woman to serve as a federal judge in 2014. When Bree Newsome climbed a flagpole in 2015 to remove a symbol of hatred and treason from her state capitol. And when Hillary Clinton became the first woman to gain the nomination of a major political party.
Women of all races have a legacy and a place in our history. Hillary Clinton may not have become our first female president, but that doesn’t we have been defeated. And we’re not going anywhere but ahead.