I feel a lot of things about the Democratic primary process. Sadness. Pride. Anger. Relief.
I am in awe of the history we Democrats have made. I voted for Hillary Clinton in my primary. I will vote for Barack Obama in the general election. That will represent two firsts in my voting lifetime: my first vote for a legitimate female presidential candidate and my first vote for a legitimate African-American presidential candidate. Thanks to them, American presidential politics looks a little more like America.
And while the significance of this moment in our nation’s racial reconciliation will be written about in history books from here until eternity, I can’t help but feel a lingering ache about what the history books will no doubt ignore. And what they will ignore is this. Many, many women in America feel hurt by this primary process. We feel berated. We feel marginalized. We feel – as Hillary mentioned in her final primary speech Tuesday – invisible.
And as news of Hillary’s impending concession on Friday makes the rounds, we can’t help but think that many, many men in America are thinking: “Yes, we’re finally rid of that woman!” Or to put their sentiments less charitably (but possibly more accurately): “Thank God, the bitch is gone!”
The misogyny that has existed in this campaign is not a question. There is no, “Was there sexism in the primary process?” That is simply a part of a large chunk of the rhetoric and coverage we were bombarded with every day.
It was there in the depiction of Hillary to every man’s first wife in probate court. It was there in the oh-so-charming Hillary nutcracker. It was there in the she-devil graphics. It was there in the comparisons to Glenn Close’s psychotic stalker in “Fatal Attraction.” It was there in the insistence, for months and months, that she should quit even while she was still winning. (For the masochists among us, relive the greatest “hits” on Shakesville’s excellent 104-part Hillary Sexism Watch series. And then to feel better read Melissa’s terrific “For the Record.”)
She handled all of that with grace and strength, just as Obama handled the racist attacks against him with grace and strengths. I refuse to play the “my otherness is more important than your otherness”-game. No African-American or woman has ever run as the major party candidate in a presidential election, let alone been elected. Yes, both made mistakes and, at times, played the otherness card. Yes, there was mismanagement and missteps in Hillary’s campaign. But no amount of strategizing can overcome a problem that people simply refuse to admit exists.
I feel the media’s coverage and presidential primary became a de facto referendum on the question of whether we still have gender discrimination in this country. And I feel like we lost the argument. It’s not they’re right and we’re wrong. It’s that too many people just didn’t want to hear it. What are you talking about, woman? You’re equal enough, honey. Love the paintsuit, babe.
What I mostly feel tonight is exhausted. I feel emotionally drained and I feel a little ashamed at my relief. Yes, I wanted Hillary to win. But after seeing the bruising, relentless, unabashed negation of the very concept that there might still be sexism in our culture, I’m tired of fighting. I know I shouldn’t feel this defeated by the bludgeoning blowhards who insists it’s our problem, not theirs. But I am.
While emailing back and forth with friends Tuesday about Obama’s clinching the nomination, one mirrored my feelings perfectly. She said at least they won’t have Hillary to kick around anymore. I’m glad she won’t have to face the assault anymore. I’m glad I won’t have to hear it anymore. But I hope that amid her own disappointment she has the time to feel proud of what she has accomplished. Record-breaking turnout. Unprecedented number of votes. Nearly half of all Democrats. She has earned the right to celebrate her successes and thank her supporters. She has earned our respect.
Often, while reading about Hillary’s supporters and successes, I was surprised by my own visceral reaction to each accomplishment. In a way, it felt like Hillary’s success was my success. That her triumph was our triumph. Maybe that highest and hardest glass ceiling she spoke of could finally be shattered. I can’t tell you the number of times I got a lump in my throat thinking both of her supporters born before women even had the chance to vote and the next generation looking to her as an example of the limitless possibilities of our gender. When done right, politics is and will always be deeply personal.
What the history books will probably fail to mention is the incredible impact her candidacy has had on women in this country. While I feel disillusioned and worn out today, I hope that ache soon will be filled with a pride and determination that a woman can and will be president in my lifetime. And when she takes the oath of office, if it’s not Hillary herself, I hope she thanks Hillary for blazing the trail and taking the hits.
I’m proud I got to vote for her. I am proud of her. Thanks, Hillary.