Thursday, June 9, 2016

Hillary Clinton Is Historic, And Your Meme Can't Take That Away

An amazing, incredible, absolutely historic thing happened last Tuesday.  For the first time in history, a woman clinched the nomination of a major party and she has a chance to win.  Women (and men) I know in Underground Hillary Clinton Facebook Groups (yes, that is a thing--more on that later) rejoiced.  After months of her supporters being tormented, threatened, bullied into silence on social media--and in real life--Hillary Clinton received enough pledged delegates to call her the presumptive nominee for the office of President of the United States of America.  A truly amazing, incredible feeling.  

I came home from voting in the Democratic primary energized, and alive--and happy.  Truth be told, I didn't always like Hillary Clinton. Then, I did my research.  But, that's not exactly important for this post, because that's not what this post is about.  This post is about the fact that a historic moment happened on Tuesday, and instead of being allowed to revel in our joy, to revel in the fact that little girls growing up will now know what we only thought was true: that there really can be a woman in the highest executive office of the United States of America.  Instead of being able to soak that all in, the assault Hillary supporters have been facing for months continued.  The same assaults that drove us to places like Underground Hillary Clubs in the first place continued.

How dare we celebrate this momentous occasion? How dare we gloat? You're going to need us in November! The Bernie Clan said. Thanks for voting with your vagina. I get the impression you're only voting for her because she's a woman. (this last line was actually said to me, via Facebook, by a coworker. we're no longer Facebook friends). 

These sentiments gave way to very passive aggressive statuses like this one being shared on social media:

The minute I saw this, I immediately felt rage.  It was posted by a MAN on my newsfeed, an ardent Bernie supporter, and I nearly lost it. It was all I could do to not release a string of profanities in the comment section.  Because, honestly, no one needs you to mansplain women's history to me, or any other Hillary Clinton supporter.  Hillary Clinton has not lost sight of the women who have come before her, and neither have we. If you have, that's your thing. And I damn sure didn't see anything like this when Obama was the nominee back in 2008, and everyone was rejoicing at his success as the first African American nominee who was a true contender for the White House.

And the above compilation wasn't the only thing that tried to dampen our joy.  "She's not the first woman candidate for president!" No. I--and many others--admit that.  You're right.  She's not. But, how many of you had to SEARCH for these women you're now using against us to say that this isn't a historic moment? I certainly didn't learn about them in U.S. History in school. Beyond that, while Hillary is not the first woman to run for president, she is the first woman who is the nominee of a major political party who actually has a [very good] chance of winning the presidency. 

Then, there were the 'there are female leaders in all of these countries, so it's really not a big deal! (proceeds to list countries such as Germany, Africa, Saudi Arabia etc.)' group. Yes. You're right.  There are.  That's amazing, isn't it? That we, the United States of America--a country that prides itself on being industrialized, and forward thinking hasn't had a female in the highest branch of government? Can you believe that?  I can't! Besides, doesn't that make it an even bigger deal?

But, I know, I know.  You're not a sexist.  Gender doesn't matter to you (oh how lucky you are, O Wise Male One, that gender cannot matter to you).  So let me just spell it out for you.  That there have been other female candidates for president in the United States of America does not, for one instant, take away from the fact that History is being made right now.  Because we have the first truly viable female candidate for President.  And I don't care what little memes you make about women you took five seconds to research. I don't care what other female leaders you googled.  I don't care what other woman you would vote for in this election you use to demonstrate that you are not sexist.  I don't care about any of it. You will not take this away from her, from us, from me.

Yes. Women before her have helped beat the very rocky path Hillary is walking today--but she's gone much further down that path than any before her--and she's not just weed-whacking. She is BLAZING A TRAIL. So that my nieces, my daughter, my granddaughters might someday walk it with ease.  She is making the journey easier for every single one of them--so that when we bounce them on our knees and tell them "you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up" they know that we mean it, that it's true.  They won't have to walk the narrow dangerous path, tripping over rocks and skinning their knees, breaking bones, only to arrive bloodied and bruised at the end to see a big fat sign that says "No Girls Allowed."

In honor of that, here's a little bit of information about the women you are using to further your misguided purpose:

Victoria Woodhull: A famed magnetic healer, she was a leader of the Suffrage movement. Her candidacy for President was in 1872 for the Equal Rights Party, almost 50 years before women were even allowed to vote.  Do you know how many electoral votes she received? Zero. There is conflicting information regarding the popular vote, but she didn't get much of that either. 

Lenora Fulani: She ran in 1988 for the New Alliance Party.  She received 250,000 votes.

Linda Jenness: She ran in 1972 for the Socialist Workers Party, and she did not qualify because she was only 31 and did not meet the Constitutional presidential age requirement.

Cynthia McKinney: She ran for the Green party in 2008, where she received 161,797 votes.

Jill Stein: She ran for the Green party in 2012.  She received 469,501 votes in the election.

This is not an attempt to minimize the contributions these women have made to the political process.  Every step a woman makes towards the white house is one step closer to breaking that ultimate glass ceiling.  But, suggesting that Hillary Clinton's achievements in 2016 are any less impressive, relevant, or groundbreaking because there have been women who have come before her is reductive.  And, frankly, it's ridiculous.

Combined, these women received fewer than one million votes. Hillary Clinton received nearly two million votes in California alone on Tuesday. Two million men and women voted for a female candidate for President.  Hillary Clinton received--from one state--more votes than all of the prior female presidential candidates you are using to discredit her accomplishment combined. To not call that historic is not only completely inaccurate, but it is a complete and total disservice to the above women you claim to be representing/defending.

You are not progressive with your pointing out of other female candidates--you're gaslighting, and undermining a powerful woman in the most socially acceptable way you can find.

No matter how you slice it, when you look at the facts and get right down to it: Hillary Clinton has already made history.

We have been waiting 240 years for this--we have had 44 presidents, all of whom were MALE.  You will not take this away from us with your obtuseness.  You will not take this away from us with your ire.  This is a BIG step for women in the United States. 100 years ago, women couldn't even vote.  And now? We have a woman, just endorsed by our current Commander-in-Chief, poised to take the White House next January.  And you want to tell us that her achievement doesn't matter? Is somehow dulled because there were women that came before her?

I don't fucking think so.  And this is not up for discussion any more. I am done listening, and no amount of 'but, but, but...' will dampen my rejoicing in this historic moment.  None of it will dampen the fact that someday I can tell my children--I was there. And I was happy.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The First Thing I Ever Heard About Hillary Clinton

Well, this election season sure is something else, isn't it?  And, yes, I am definitely using 'something else' in the same way your older relatives use to describe someone or something they don't like, agree with, or respect.  "You sure are somethin' else, aren't you?"

There's been a lot of hate and vitriol spewing between friends, strangers, enemies, and even the political candidates themselves. I'm used to this, though--I really saw it come to a head during the 2012 Presidential year.  But, there's something different about this one, isn't there? There seems to be a lot more in-party fighting than in previous elections--at least, there's a lot more hatred and mudslinging behind it.  The 2 party system has always been like this, I suppose--first you have to defeat your same party candidate, before you even begin to worry about the other party's candidate. But among my Facebook friends, support for Bernie Sanders has been pretty consistent.  Which is fine: to each his or her own. But, this "support" for Sanders has one problem, in my book: it takes shape via attacks/articles against Hillary Clinton.  I have found that the Hillary Clinton supporters are silent--I actually posted an article about this awhile back, and I still wholeheartedly agree with it (you can read it here).

But, there is something even more troubling to me: any time a Hillary Clinton supporter mentions that something is sexist, or could be perceived as sexist, we are told NO.  NO NO NO NO NO. That is NOT what it is, absolutely NOT.  Nope.  Nope! It's not sexist--it's just facts, it's just x, y, or z, but it's NOT SEXIST.

So, I thought I would share the very first thing I ever heard about Hillary Clinton.

Now, I was born in the late eighties, and couldn't vote until 2004. So, when Bill Clinton was first in office I was 7.  I didn't know much about politics, the president, congress, the government--or really, life at all.

But the very first thing I heard about Hillary Clinton, the First Lady of the United States was this: she is ugly.  Boy, is she ugly.

It was a joke someone in my family said--not really a joke, but a statement.  And it is one that I repeated, to other family members, probably to my peers, and it was always met with the same response: snickers and sneers.  It is one that I saw repeated in the media for years. Never did anyone say that how she looked didn't matter--that she was smart, tenacious, and powerful. These are things someone would have told me about a man. "He's ugly," would have undoubtedly been met with "It's not his looks that are important--he is a good leader, he is a good ____, a good ____, that's what matters."

And when the news of Bill's scandal broke in 1998, the jokes got worse.  Of course she couldn't keep her man.  Look at her.  And that's the thing, isn't it?  We did look at her.  When we should have looked anywhere else.  And we looked at Monica Lewinsky, too. We looked at her and said, "her? Really?"

I was 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12--and all I heard about Hillary Clinton was how ugly she was, about her perceived failings as a woman.

And now, 20 years later, I'm being told by even liberals that NO. It's NOT SEXIST.  Couldn't possibly be.

But... couldn't it?

People don't care about Bernie's hair--that it flies about wildly is endearing.  Meanwhile, memes circulate about Hillary Clinton's thighs, and if her hair EVER looked like Bernie's did, with a single strand out of place, she would be crucified.

So, forgive me for not believing that SEXISM has absolutely nothing to do with the things that are said about Hillary (or, perhaps more accurately, the WAY things are said about Hillary), but I guess you and I just grew up in different worlds, because the FIRST thing I heard about Hillary is that she was ugly.

And that this was the first thing I ever learned about our first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has stayed with me.  And it should have stayed with you--maybe if it had, you wouldn't be so quick to nullify any claim that even begins to whisper sexism.  

Monday, March 14, 2016

That Time a [Former] Teacher Blocked Me

I remember the moment very vividly. I was sitting cross legged on a pull out bed, and I was on vacation with my mom.  (Who, by the way, woke me up every day at 8am to watch animal videos she found on Facebook). Anyway, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw it.  Someone had tagged a former teacher of mine in a post, and I realized I couldn't click the name.

I remembered a few months ago searching for this teacher on Facebook, and being unable to find her.  I was sad, but assumed she must have deleted her Facebook account.  I may have even messaged another former teacher to tell that first teacher I said hello, or possibly even sent an email to her school email account. I'm not really sure, I can't remember that detail now.

Never, in my wildest dreams did I imagine that she--someone I thought of as a mentor to me during high school--had blocked me. But, sitting in that hotel room, I knew that's what happened. I tried to search again, to be sure, and nothing. I logged in from another account, and was able to see her--that's when I knew for sure, without a doubt, she had blocked me. That information hit me like a ton of bricks. 

I distinctly remember my mom asking me what was wrong, and I tried not to cry as I told her "Mrs. _____ blocked me on Facebook." My mom didn't remember her, but she could tell I was upset, "Don't let it bother you." She told me, no doubt knowing that was futile--everything bothers me.  I searched through this old teacher's profile for the last post I remembered seeing, and then tried to correlate it with something controversial I had posted on my Facebook around that time. I really could find nothing, and I started to cry.

Now, it didn't ruin our vacation or anything even close to that, but it bugged me for awhile.  It's no secret that I am a very sensitive person, and so having someone block me on Facebook might sting no matter what.  But, this person was a mentor, someone I really looked up to in high school, someone who wrote me a letter of recommendation for college, someone I named in a blog post about good teachers, so it felt even worse--felt even more personal. Never mind that 8 or 9 years had passed since I was even in high school, and I had become a much different person than I was back then (this teacher probably had, too).

But it still bothered me. I couldn't fathom what I had done to make her block me--and, you know? I still can't.  Sometimes I still see her tagged, and I think 'I wonder what I did?' But then, something else comes to mind: I don't care.  I really genuinely do not care anymore what I did, or even that she blocked me in the first place.  Which is actually kind of a revelation.

You see, my whole life I have been a people-pleaser. As far back as I can remember, I remember being (and enjoying being) the teacher's pet.  I was kind to teachers, I looked up to them, and just like [most] everyone else, I wanted them to like me (and often wanted them to like me the best).  Now, whether they did or did not like me the best isn't really the point (and, I really don't know/care now whether they did or not). But, truth be told, I was a good student--and I loved school, so teachers held a special spot in my mind--they were on a pedestal.  In high school I used to debate with family members telling them that teachers should make way more money than they make (I still believe they should).  At several points, I even wanted to be a teacher.  So, even 8 or 9 years later, being blocked by a teacher I really liked in high school genuinely bothered me.

But it also taught me a couple of lessons-- we are not who we were 8 or 9 years ago.  None of us are.  And knowing why I was blocked doesn't really matter in the long run.  Who I was then is a part of who I am now, but I don't have to let it rule--I don't have to be that same girl who seeks approval from her teachers (past, present, or future. Or even from her peers--but maybe that's a different blog). And it's okay if these people don't approve of me, even if they did at one time.  People are allowed to change.

Social media is really great sometimes.  It allows you to keep in touch with people you wouldn't have otherwise, and some days I am thankful for it (other days, I swear I'll delete it).  And if the day ever comes where I do hit that little delete button, I'll probably be relieved, and yet thankful for the lessons it taught me.

Had that teacher not blocked me, I might never have learned that it's okay if I leave the past in the past.  She and I were close (ish) a very long time ago, and she was a pretty good teacher most of the time, but that time has come and gone--and that's okay.  I'm different now, and truth be told, I like who I am now a hell of a lot better than I like who I was then--and if that teacher, for whatever reason, decided the opposite was true? Oh well.  I haven't lost anything except another reason to cling on to the past.

And, as sad as I was for a few days, the truth of the matter is this:
How I feel about the blocking now (and, indeed, all blockings)

So, thank you, Teacher, wherever you are--for the past, and for the present. For the lesson it taught, I am happy to not know you now.