Like many other “nasty women” out there, I’ve been listening to the people call me bossy since around age four.
In the 1980’s, little girls were encouraged to play with Cabbage Patch dolls and watch Disney movies. We were expected to be sweet and agreeable, not to boss around the rest of the kids in the neighborhood. We were told that we could grow up to be mommies or even princesses, but not presidents or CEOs.
I didn’t buy it.
A couple of weeks before the 2016 presidential election, I joined forces with another woman who is a strong advocate for gender equality. We were both deeply hopeful that our nation could soon elect its first female president. We live in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a progressive city in the middle of a swing state, so we decided to do something.
We set our sights on producing an impromptu, independent mini-documentary featuring Columbus-based women, to uncover what electing the first female president might mean to them. We reached out through out social networks, found women from various backgrounds and invited them to speak in front of the camera.
We were not emotionally prepared for what happened after we hit “record.”
One by one, the women we interviewed expressed stories of trial and triumph — from surviving cancer to finishing law school with a newborn in tow. These experiences were shaped by struggles that are uniquely female. More than one of them had left a desirable job to escape advances from a coworker or boss. Every single one of them had been catcalled or harassed. Many had been shamed or belittled after asking for equal pay. Many spoke about the almost impossible task of balancing a career with motherhood, and the astronomical cost of childcare. Many had been passed up on jobs, raises and promotions for which they were over-qualified, in favor of male candidates. Every single one of them worried about the current war on our reproductive rights as women.
In the workforce, the majority of our interviewees had journeys into and through their careers without many female footsteps to follow. They spoke about the difficulty of navigating cultural systems in order to succeed in professions that were originally constructed for men — public policy makers, professors, executives and lawyers.
As we filmed, we spent the day laughing, crying and hanging on to every last detail. After we wrapped, the importance of electing our nation’s first female president was crystal clear in my mind. Although women have come a long way toward achieving equality, our society is still far from equal. Additionally, there are many groups and organizations currently threatening to “turn back the clock” on our fundamental rights. Putting a woman in our nation’s highest office would be a giant, positive step in the right direction when it comes to improving our country’s perception of women. The alternative — electing a candidate who had openly practiced sexism and misogyny — seemed unthinkable.
Before this election, I can only recall crying at work once during my entire career. It was the day of the Newtown shooting. After the election, I spent the entire day sobbing in my cubicle. Snapshots of my conversations with the women I had interviewed played and replayed in my mind as I grappled with disbelief.
Like many other women in this country, the election of Donald Trump left me feeling like refugee in my own country. My fundamental safety, reproductive rights and hope for gender equality all seemed to be under attack. I felt deeply betrayed by the place I call home.
My post-election grief was not only centered upon Hillary Clinton‘s loss. Donald Trump had built a platform based primarily on messages of hate, oppression and self-interest. He had bragged about treating women as sexual objects to be grabbed, owned and used. And he won.
In the weeks that followed, one light shone at the end of the tunnel. It was the Women’s March on Washington.
Through all of the disheartening truths that I’ve learned about my country through this election, the Women’s March is proof to me that I am not alone. Millions of women across the United States are willing to stand up for themselves — both in our nation’s capital and in their home cities. They are willing to stand in solidarity with each other, and defend important issues like reproductive rights and protection against domestic and sexual violence. They will standing up to support each other.
So this is where I leave you, for now. I will be marching in Washington, D.C. with five other brilliant women from Columbus, Ohio, the day after the inauguration of our 45th president. We will be participating in a movement that will hopefully make the world safer, more equitable and full of unbiased possibility for future generations of women.