It’s been a shocking week. Just like many of the women in #pantsuitnation, Tuesday at 11 a.m. I was waiting giddily in line in my “suffragette white” pantsuit to vote for the first woman president. By 11 p.m. I was convulsing on my couch, entering a state of extreme disorientation.
As I tried to reconcile what happened, I felt my insides cleaving for this woman who had fought so hard, having to contort to downplay her brilliance and what must have been fierce righteous indignation along the entire campaign as she was forced to fight a buffoon who showed up to each and every opportunity to greet the American people with some strange and dangerously stupid new version of locker room talk.
Then, my heart began breaking for smart women and girls everywhere. Do we ever win? I wonder. Can you devote your whole life to public service, sacrificing everything, standing up against false and irresponsible narratives, recriminations, hatred, and sexism, spending a year and half crisscrossing the country, only to win the popular vote, yet lose the presidency that was supposed to be your due.
I immediately began thinking of Parks and Rec’s Leslie Knope, one of my favorite TV characters, whose hopes get dashed harder and harder throughout each season. She does at the end. And she brings her rag-tag team, and all her Pawnee political foes, right along with her.
Fighting for what’s right—going high—is her path to success.
But it didn’t seem to in real life. Not this time.
In this life, it seems as though smart women are sacrificed.
Do smart women ever win?
My heart continues to shatter over and over as I continue to grapple with the question.
Yes, they win in the private sector. They win at the local and state levels. They win in other countries. But, do they— will they—ever win in the most concentrated way as the leader of the free world?
But then when I saw the pic of Hillary walking in the woods in her Chappaqua town, happy and looking like a weight had been lifted, like she had, in some way, fulfilled her mandate, another thought popped in.
Smart women win differently.
The wins aren’t showy. They aren’t a victorious flash-bulb Rocky moments with hands up in the air amid throngs chanting them on. They are quiet. They are slow. They spring up when we’re least expecting it. They come in unexpected forms.
By their very nature, they aren’t concentrated. And therefore subject to logjams. They are diffuse. And spread their fire quickly.
To do the most good.
Yes, a Javits Center ceiling coming down in a million glittering pieces would have been so, so sweet, but that was never the goal, as Hillary said in her concession speech. Reuniting the country was. And that win has begun whether a sexist, racist, xenophobic buffoon is in office or not.
They come in the form of 3.6 million women signing up for a secret Facebook group, organizing within the span of a few hours and creating on-the-ground efforts in their communities in days.
They come in small, yet wide, acts of solidarity to stand up and act as bystanders against hatred targeting vets, the disabled, women, immigrants, muslims, and all other minority communities and a new resolve to protect their rights.
They come in the form of our elected officials and responsible journalists vowing to be vigilant in the face of authoritarianism for the coming years.
They come in young people taking to the streets to protest, chance to fight for the planet and human rights, to continue the movement that calls them to a new courage.
They come in showing those of us who hadn’t yet recognized our privilege and complacency to face our own blind spots, acknowledge the real work that needs to be done, and start engaging with it.
They come in renewed pledges to reject smart-phone activism and get involved in state and local races to create real, lasting change.
Most significantly, through her example women everywhere gained a new script and playbook for facing personal, professional and planet-wide misogyny with grit, grace and dignity.
Make no mistake: this new playbook isn’t squishy. It’s not soft. It accepts the new reality, but doesn’t acquiesce. It’s assuredly focused, but can not calm down because if one’s life—political friend or foe—is in jeopardy, we all are.
We are now all prepared to sacrifice. We’re all prepared to fight.
Hillary may not have won, but she woke us up.
Her candidacy drew up malignant hatred and fear, which we can now see and radiate.
This is the legacy of the smart woman. This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton.
Standing strong together. Not walls of division.
This wasn’t wasted. We can’t let it be wasted. Now the onus is on us.
It would have been so nice to see Hillary take office. I can still picture that moment in my mind’s eye, and maybe there’s a chance it will still happen. It would have been great to have a champion leading and emboldening us, but, as her Hilary has demonstrated her whole life, we don’t need a permission slip to start taking action.
We deserve safety, but we’re not promised it. We deserve civility, but we’re not owed it. We deserve the win, but we don’t need it.
Smart women do win, but the real win is the privilege to fight in the arena.
I will tell my friend.
THREE WAYS TO TAKE RIGHT NOW:
*Find out the names of your state reps, congressmen or women, senators, and governor, and program their numbers in your phone so you can make weekly calls to speak out against violence and hatred. Per Congressional Staffer Emily Ellsworth (@editoremily), calling is more effective than writing.
*Consider running for public office.