Mothers of American Daughters: Look for the Heroines

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 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.

36 thoughts on “Mothers of American Daughters: Look for the Heroines

  1. So true… and to think of all the amazing women who did get elected to the Senate and House and other positions! Small victories, but victories nonetheless…

  2. I find it horrifying that your daughter had to experience that, and that it’s even still something people say. Because that was my first introduction to politics at eight years old, in 1988, when a kid on my bus asked me if my parents were Democrats or Republicans. I had no idea, and told him so, because I didn’t even know what those words meant–to which he replied, “Well, I hope they’re not Democrats, because Dukakis kills babies. You don’t want to be a baby-killer, do you?”

    I had to go home and ask my parents to explain why people in politics had anything to do with babies. What followed was one of the most confusing conversations of my life, a conversation that left me with a sour taste in my mouth that has never entirely gone away–the idea that politics turn people mean, is how I thought of it then. Now, with the incredibly divisive election behind us, it’s easy for me to see how the current political climate encourages not just meanness, but actual hatred.

    I don’t hate my political opponents. I think many of beliefs they adhere to fall on the spectrum anywhere from misguided to harmful to downright immoral, but I don’t hate them, because they’re still people. I refuse to dehumanize them to make myself feel better, or *right*.

    It doesn’t make me like the political arena any better, but it’s helping me keep my head on straight when it would be so easy, right now, to spiral out of control.

    My best to your daughter, and my hopes that we can fight to make this a country where she never needs to hear those horrible things again.

  3. Actually crying over this post. I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

    I work down the street from where the huge rally in Philadelphia on Monday night was held, and as I was on my way to the train I saw so many women, especially women of color, with their daughters heading home from seeing Hillary Clinton speak. Everyone was smiling. It felt so hopeful. On Tuesday, I saw so many women proudly wearing “I Voted” stickers, groups of friends taking photos of each other. All the poll workers and volunteers at my polling place were black women, and they thanked me for voting, but it was seriously the least I could do. I thanked them for being there, for taking a whole day to help.

    On Wednesday, I woke up to a Facebook status from one of my college friends wondering how she’s going to explain to her baby daughter that she can be anything she wants, that her appearance isn’t the most important thing about her, that no man should ever tough her without her consent. I think I’m going to link my friend to this post.

    I’m so scared. But I’m trying so hard to be strong. Thank you for this post, Jenny. Your daughter having hope gives me hope, too.

  4. This bothers me so much! In so many ways. I didn’t vote for Trump because I have a love of white supremacy. Why would anyone leap to that conclusion? There were many reasons he was elected. Many reasons why people from all races, socio-economic status and ethnicities voted him in. Talk about stereo-typing? In the sea of supporters of his, I saw every race and ethnicity. It wasn’t a KKK rally for sure! So, the white supremacy is a myth! When I looked at the ma of the US, it was a sea of red states.

    When Obama was elected I remember people saying “he isn’t my president”, “I’ll never refer to him as a president”, etc. I thought that was so mean and ill spirited. I didn’t vote for him but, he was still my President. Somehow this doesn’t relate though to people who didn’t vote for Trump. He can be talked about anyway and it doesn’t matter to anyone that he was rightfully elected. Doesn’t really matter if it was a popular vote or not. Under our constitution, he got the vote, electoral or not, he is the President.

    1. That man repeatedly targeted minorities in his speeches, depicting them as the problem with our country. He called Mexicans rapists and criminals. He wants Muslims to have to register with the government. He was endorsed by the KKK, and he and his sons repeatedly shared antisemitic memes from white supremacist groups on their social media accounts. He mocked the disabled and refused to speak to members of the press who work for Spanish-language publications and networks.

      Now, maybe you don’t agree with all of that stuff. Maybe you think it’s horrible. But whatever your other reasons you had to vote for him, in your mind, you were able to rationalize away the fact that his platform was run almost entirely as an appeal to white supremacists. You were willing to let your fellow humans face real danger from our government because you, what, dislike having to pay for insurance? Because you’ll get a tax break?

      If I offered you a free seven-course meal with the caveat that you had to eat all seven courses, but the first one was cat shit, would you eat the meal? That’s what you did when you overlooked the climate of hate and violence that he encouraged.

      Yes, people who aren’t white supported him. But being white isn’t a requirement for taking actions that reinforce and elevate white supremacy. People of color showing up to his rallies does not excuse the way he talked about them.

      Voters said, “You know, I realize that this man has based his platform on targeted hatred to the point that the KKK enthusiastically endorses him, but gosh, I really like his stance on this other policy.” Now you don’t want to be called a white supremacist? You might not consider yourself a racist or a white supremacist, but you aligned yourself with them. You find their actions acceptable enough that you want them in charge of the country. No one owes it to you to respect or forgive that.

      1. Jenny, will you marry me? This is everything I wish people understood about this election. It’s not about Republicans vs. Democrats; it’s about a violent, racist misogynist vs. the lady with the emails. Maybe you really, REALLY hate those emails, but you don’t get to pretend Trump is “just like any other candidate.” We’ve NEVER had a candidate like this, and while I would’ve been disappointed in a President Romney or President Rubio, I wouldn’t have been terrified like I am of President Trump.

        Trump is special, and he should defy party lines. I have no idea why he didn’t, but that scares me more than what he’ll do. I don’t want this election to normalize or excuse that kind of behavior.

      2. Yes! This! All of this! Your position of white privilege allows you to overlook the hateful rhetoric of non-white, non-Christian, non- strictly heterosexual hate speech that Trump spewed. I’m not gonna give you sympathy at your dislike for being calling racist, homophobic, xenophobic etc at the cost of my real fear for my life and the lives of my loved ones. For you to think it’s owed to you is the basis and real problem at the core of white privilege and white supremacy in this country. You don’t get sympathy; you get disdain and pity at your ability to overlook the lives of others for your effing tax break! No apologies.

      3. This!! So this, Jenny! All Trump voters may not be racist mysoginists, but being a racist mysoginist is not a deal breaker for them. Must be nice to overlook that which threatens the lives of others, but not you…

    2. Maybe you didn’t vote for him because you personally love white supremacy – but by voting for him, you gave your implicit approval of it. Of white supremacy, cultural stereotyping, rape culture and sexual assault, bullying, general sexism … so many things. You didn’t stand up and say, “These things are great!” but you did say, “These things are acceptable.”

      1. ‘You didn’t stand up and say, “These things are great!” but you did say, “These things are acceptable.” ‘

        Thank you. It feels like I’ve been saying this to people for two days. I’m in Britain and we’re all in shock that America made an even worse decision than we did this year.

        1. I saw a meme that said:
          England: Nobody can do anything stupider than we did this year!
          America: Hold my beer.

          I laughed and then I felt sad.

        2. I hate to bring Hitler into this conversation, but I remember sitting down with my great-grandfather (who fought in WWII as a Navy sailor) and he brought out his copy of Mein Kampf. And he told me that the scary thing about Hitler is that ‘a lot in this book made sense to people, and it probably made them think that maybe if they voted him in, then they’d get more food and a better hope for the future’.

          I guess I’m glad that my great-grandfather had passed away in 2012, so he wouldn’t have had to see or hear about this (and even watch other Americans go, “Well, sure he’s awful! But his other policies make sense, and maybe it’ll make *my* life get better!”.

    3. Maybe you didn’t feel you were voting for white supremacy, but you definitely felt it was acceptable to have a president that calls Mexican people “rapists and criminals”, who sexually assaults women, who makes fun of someones disability, etc. He was endorsed by the KKK, an endorsement he never disputed. There’s a reason they are so wholeheartedly behind him. So, while you maybe didn’t feel like you were voting because of “white power”, you did endorse a “white power” mindset and all the ideals he platformed on during his campaign, including making Muslims register or putting them in “camps” (that sounds eerily familiar doesn’t it).

    4. The behaviour you walk past is the behaviour you accept.

      It’s really that simple. If you know someone plans to target minorities if they have the power, and you actively give them that power, then you have accepted the attacks on those minorities. You support those attacks becoming reality.

    5. “This bothers me so much! In so many ways. I didn’t vote for Trump because I have a love of white supremacy”

      So then it’s cause you hate women or LGBTQ folks. Cause that’s all his platform is about – hatred of anyone who isn’t a straight white male. Why white women voted for him at all is baffling, but probably cause they’re the weak and pathetic sort who just want a man to look after them. They don’t care if they’re throwing all other women under the bus.

      You’re the lowest of the low. And we see through you.

    6. We have a right to say “not my president” to trump, just as people did to Obama…but here’s the difference: I’m not disrespecting trump because of his race, gender, religion, etc. I truly despise all that he has done and said, and plans to do. He has to earn my respect, and I find that at this point, there’s not really anything he can do to redeem it. He could have run as the outsider who “tells it like it is” (BS), but he didn’t have to be a lying racist xenophobe misogynist, feeding into hate and fear and giving validation to the worst in our society. But tell me again about the emails. SMH

  5. My 14 year old sister told me yesterday when she got home from school that kids in her class were writing Kool Kids Klub (KKK) on their binders, and at my brother’s school, kids are harassing a Mexican-American student for wearing a T-shirt with Mexico’s flag. They are especially pissed because they themselves are not allowed to wear the Confederate flag.

    Meanwhile my (entirely white family) is disgusted and hurt that I would dare imply that they are racist for voting for Trump and his platform.

  6. This made me cry too. I’ve been crying off and on the past two days. I have little cousins and I wonder what to tell them. What can I say to my baby cousin due to arrive soon? How can I tell them that people put the promise of
    money above the respect of other people? The term blood money comes to mind. I have cried and I’m getting angry at this shit I’ve had to deal with 41 years of life. But I think my anger is going to go to signing petitions and donating money to Planned Parenthood, NOW, the ACLU. Thank you, Jenny for the reminder that true heroines are still out there.

  7. I cried when I heard Hillary’s concession speech. I cried when I realized that there are so many hateful people in this country, and so many more that are apathetic. I cried when I realized that two women I loved dearly, my grandma and cousin, never lived to see a woman president. I am so heartbroken for all the people Trump will gleefully hurt. And I’m heartbroken by all the people who support him.

    But this post gave me hope. Thank you, Jenny.

    1. My Egyptian husband told me that Hillary’s concession speech was shown on Egyptian television in Arabic. Millions of girls worldwide saw her telling them that they’re valuable, that they’re powerful and that their dreams are worthwhile.
      It’s at least something.

  8. Hillary has made progress so our daughters can make more. A woman on the ticket for President as a major party candidate, we needed that first step to get to the finish line. She has taken that step for us. She is also a woman who has won the popular vote for President of the United States. It would have been even better if she had been able to win all the way, but her accomplishments have moved us forward already.

    Thank you for this post, Jenny. We can’t go back, but we can find the Heroines that are already here and know that there are more rising every day.

  9. Thank you for this, Jen. I’m not even American and I’ve just felt drained and so desolate after all that happened. I’ve cried, and I’ve ranted and everything else in between. I’m so sorry for anyone who’s in fear with this maniac at the helm. I’m even sorrier that I’m not there to help anyone who is fearful. All I’ve been doing since Tuesday night /Wednesday morning is repeating my new mantra. I will not lose my sense of humour or my capacity for kindness because of this. It’s hit me hard, so I can’t even begin to imagine how you all must be feeling in the US. Sending all of the internet hugs xxxxx

  10. The day after the election, I kept reading think pieces by people I admire. I felt like I was coming to, not acceptance of Trump or anything he stands for, but at least accepting the outcome and looking for a way forward. But every morning I wake up with a panicked feeling, my stomach clenched and my heart racing. And I spend each day slowly unclenching, by turns despondent, dismayed and defiant. By nighttime, I feel a glimmer of hope. Then I wake up again in a panic the next morning.

    I think it will be like that for a while. I hope to channel this into something forceful and enduring. Fuck if I am going to let the crotch grabber win. If he wants to light a match and burn this country to the ground, I will do what I can to hand him a flamethrower and blow on the coals. The sooner he self-destructs, the sooner we can rebuild. Watch out, you son of a bitch. Half of us didn’t vote for your disgusting agenda, and we are coming for you.

  11. At the physical rehab facility where I live there is an elderly person who was in the Navy. That horrible morning this person turns to me and asks what my political beliefs are. I said I didn’t like to discuss politics at breakfast. He said well obviously you’re ashamed because you won’t admit what you are. I put my fork down and said I’m a proud Democrat. He then asked what did I think of our new president. I asked him did he really want an honest answer. Of course he says. I then proceeded to say, I believe the first thing he’s going to do is start a nuclear war. I’m glad that I’m Christian so that when the bombs drop and I die, I’ll go to heaven. He looked stunned at me, shook his head and said that “people” who think that way are horribly misinformed, to say that politely. He’s our president and WE should be doing everything we can to ensure he succeedes. THIS THIS THIS coming from the same man who never once called Obama President Obama. Always “That man in the White House”. Yet you want me to back a ignorant intolerant failure of a business man who degrades women and minorities?
    He left on this last jab: well your people will have to learn how to deal with this for the next four years.
    Guess which one of us was the younger black bisexual handicapped female?

    1. God, I’m so sorry that you had to go through that awful lecture. Like seriously? We gotta suck it up? If we’re supposed to do that whenever someone’s in the white house, then the people that fought in the American revolution had died for nothing (Especially since…you know, they were effectively spitting at 18th century governmental propaganda that claimed that British royalty were ‘chosen by God’). I’d also eat my hat if these same guys didn’t keep their mouths shut when the Clintons and Obamas were reigning the White House.

      It also saddens me that yet ANOTHER guy from the military has endorsed the Cheeto. Trump has NO respect for our troops, and the damn guy was born after WWII and lived through the Vietnam War era. Yet he’s made fun of war veterans, torture survivors, and even claimed that it’s *impossible* to trust soldiers around women (even though pedophilia happens in army bases, as well as male-on-male rape in the military). He’s essentially claimed that our troops are all nothing else but like the ‘Minipax’ from 1984 (dangerous, harmful, turns on their own comrades and their own country’s civilians, yet are still weak and whiny losers if they disagree with him). Considering how people in the military are pushing and working hard to shut down the ‘boys will be boys’ club in their troops, I really feel awful for them because in 4 years they might wind up with rookies who fervently believe in ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’ or ’round up the muslims’ because their president does it.

    2. I’m not scared so much about a nuclear war as I am scared life will get worse for minorities, including women, LGTBA folk, and people of different faiths. I find it truly appalling that a man who is so hateful calls himself a Christian. The only thing I can do is stand with those who are being targeted by Trump in the days ahead.

      My dad also tried the “That’s just propaganda” routine on me. It’s only propaganda if it’s not conservative, I guess. I had to put a kibosh on political discussion, because he doesn’t want to entertain my point of view. I think it’s good you shared your viewpoint, and you don’t have to debate with him again and again. He asked for your opinion, you gave it, end of discussion.

  12. Wait! There’s still something we can do! The electoral college doesn’t actually vote until December 19th, and the president doesn’t enter office until next year. There’s still time for them to change their vote and refuse to support Trump. There’s even a petition if you don’t mind my posting it:

    If we can’t reverse the damage at least there are other steps we can take to try to minimize it:

  13. ^^ addition to previous comment: Anyone 13 or over can hold an account to sign petitions on This would be a good chance for younger members of the country to learn the value of adding their voice if they are interested in making a change that will impact their futures.

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