Years ago, when Barack Obama first came in as a potential Democratic presidential candidate, I was still very much for Hilary Rodham Clinton. I’m not American but I liked her style and I really wished I could vote for her. She was tough, she stood for things I believed in, and I just felt like she had proven herself many times over. But Obama was charismatic and smart, and he swayed me and I thought, “well, there’s always the next time. And she’ll be the next US President.” I was absolutely sure of it then.
Eight years later, that certainty has most certainly dimmed. The most qualified presidential candidate in the history of the USA lost to this ridiculous candidate who should have been shut out from the onset. And yes, it signals a lot of things - that terrorism is playing such a large part in our lives, that people are scared and turning to more basic responses, that xenophobia is winning out. But for me, it mainly feels like we haven’t accepted gender equality. A lot of people, though by a close margin, are still not ready yet to have a woman hold the most powerful position in the world. The toughest thing for me to accept about today isn’t the inevitability of a POTUS Trump. It’s the fact that for me, a candidate like Hilary Rodham Clinton should have been a done deal against someone like Donald Trump. And yet she wasn’t.
As this day winds down and this new world order sets in, I wonder if other women will agree with this sadness I’m feeling. If Hilary Rodham Clinton couldn’t break the highest, toughest glass ceiling, then who could?
To be fair, the Philippines has had two female presidents, but not one that I could really relate to as well as Clinton. Cory Aquino was a housewife thrust into the spotlight because of the death of Ninoy Aquino, while Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s corruption superceded everything else. Clinton had her own career and her own family. She was a person who needed to define her own path twice over after her husband’s presidency and scandal. She was a woman who was trying to have it all.
And like many women, I work really hard to have that too. I work really hard every day to be looked upon on an equal footing as anyone else in the room. To have a career that takes me away to countries not as comfortable as my own, while balancing it with a partner I value more than my job (even if I love that too much to give it up and stay closer to home right now). I work hard to be tough but fair, and still connect with people I work for and with. I work really hard to try to be good at what I do in a way that doesn’t differentiate me from anyone else in the room. Not in spite of my gender or my nationality, but because of my skill and intelligence. To be thought of as good because it’s me and not in spite of being a ‘she’. I try to do all of that evenly, knowing I can get more things done with a smile on my face than with sternness in my demeanor. Because goodness knows, I could get pegged as a “nasty woman” albeit one who gets shit done.
It’s a testament to my upbringing that it’s only as I get older that I’ve finally started recognizing when I’m being compared as less to a man. Only now do I feel the need to tread lightly when I have a strong opinion, so I don't come off as emotional or weak. To have to force myself to be okay not just in determining my bottom line for my safety as a woman, but in stating it out loud in practical terms. To recognize when I’m being mansplained to death, even if I am perfectly intelligent enough to know what the discussion is about.
Today is the kind of day when you think “what are you working this hard for? The world is obviously not ready for this idea of a woman being powerful.” Perhaps if Bernie Sanders ran against Trump, then the Democrats would have won this by a slight margin or even overwhelmingly. But at the end of the day, it was Hilary’s qualifications that secured the nomination. It’s an eye-opener to realize that my certainty of her nomination because of the strength of her candidacy wasn’t actually shared by majority of the people.
To a lot of others, the indignation and protest may just be because Trump is probably the worst incoming President in the history of the USA. But for me, it’s the realization that the world just wasn’t ready enough to have a woman be their President, yet willing to accept this farce of a leader. It is strange how a day like today cements your idea of feminism, on a day when you just get the wind knocked out of you over the absurdity of current events. On a day when the complete opposite of this concept happens.
It’s tiring. I feel resigned. Maybe it’ll happen in the next four years. Maybe it’ll happen in the next 20. All I know is, I better remember this damn day when I’m raising my daughter to be tough as nails and unapologetic, and my son to think he’s not entitled to anything for his gender but because of his merit.
Abbi is a petite human, blogger, amateur photographer, permanent humanitarian, avid traveller, culture addict, giant bookworm and impossible foodie.