I never imagined -- in my lifetime -- that I would be able to vote for an African American president. Or a woman.
And yet here we are. Hillary is the Democratic nominee.
I'm 71 years old. For some of you reading this post, it might be hard to imagine the rules, policies and laws that defined our personal, political and economic power, those that bring me to this unimagined place. And what they meant.
In the very least, it meant that my college girlfriends and I were required to wear skirts to campus. If we were caught wearing long pants, even when it was 10 degrees below zero in 2 feet of snow, we could get sent back home. There's the absurdity of clothing choices being dictated to 18-22 year-old women. And there's the economics of it: our clothes cost more than the jeans-wearing boys' did, unless you wore the same skirt everyday. Skirts meant that on warm days, our attention had to be focused on keeping our legs crossed in class, as much as on learning about this new field of study: Ecology. And on one of those beautiful spring days, it meant getting ejected from the sorority I joined in a moment of first year loneliness. It seems that riding on the back of my male cousin's Moped, in my long pants, was "illegal." Not "ladylike." No, we weren't on campus, and Yes, I was in a sorority. Briefly. My cousin continued to enjoy his ride to campus everyday. In his blue jeans.
It meant that when I got married in 1965, I wasn't allowed to have a credit card in my own name for the next 9 years, even though I was the breadwinner and breadmaker for a big chunk of that time. And, of course, the house was also in my husband's name. The second time I got married in the early '80s, I made sure my newly reclaimed birth name was on my own credit card. A few years later, after a stressful couple of weeks as a newly designated single parent, I presented the card to pay for a newfangled microwave oven to help make my life easier for my two adolescent children and me. The card was rejected. It seems that my soon-to-be ex husband cancelled it, and the law, or lack of it, allowed this. My children still talk about that day, the day their mother lost her mind and started screaming at the cashier, at the bank manager, and anyone else who got caught in the crossfire as I charged my way down the mall concourse. And by the way, don't try to roast a chicken in a microwave.
It meant that a future male employer asked me what kind of birth control I used because he didn't want to hire a woman who would get pregnant. It was legal to ask that question, legal to fire me if I did get pregnant, and illegal to have an abortion. And, of course, I was always paid less than the man who sat next to me, even though we did the same job, I had more experience, or in one rare blip, was his boss. Mad Men should have come with trigger warnings. I never made it past a couple of episodes.
Those were the obvious inequities and indignities, the ones that had ripple effects through our daily lives and imagined futures. But the more subtle indignities, those we now call micro-aggressions, are too numerous and ridiculous to recount here. And just as limiting. For most of us, glass was something we rubbed squeeky clean, not tried to shatter. When we did, we got injured from the debris of broken marriages, angry colleagues, bosses who humiliated us for asking for a raise -- Men need raises for their families, not women -- and the loneliness that comes with that territory.
We can never afford to forget.
Like 2008, this election offers another historic moment in our/her/history. Will it be identity politics or values politics? Will I vote for Hillary because she's a woman? I had that chance in 2008 but vigorously campaigned for Barack Obama because I thought he was right for that moment. I still do. He articulated a vision for our country, a hopefulness, a clear-eyed view of the world, a moral compass and an elegance that spoke to me. Michelle Obama took no prisoners with a strength, brilliance and optimism of her own. Their family made me feel full of promise after eight years of elitism and war.
This time, I want Hillary Clinton to win. Our county's future depends on it. But to tell you the truth, I can't generate the same excitement about her nomination as I did about Obama's. And I feel cheated. And disappointed. This campaign season just doesn't have it for many reasons. She owns some of that. But this election cycle has been more brutal than any I can recall, and it promises to go to ugly places we have never been.
This time, I will vote for Hillary because she has championed women and children all of her life. She has endured the humiliation of macro and micro aggressions and indignities -- always on the public stage -- and has survived every attempt to knock her down and take her out. Like the time in 1979 when a male newsman berated her throughout the entire interview for not taking her husband's name, and blamed her for the few percentage points he lost in a landslide victory for governor. She has come back stronger and wiser each time, and I want a president who knows how to do that.
She is the most experienced candidate in modern history. But the rules, policies and laws she grew up with, intertwined with the male-dominated political world she has been inhabiting all her adult life, have forced her into a political transgendering of sorts: She's has had to assume a false masculine identity in order to survive.
Now, as she has finally claimed her identity as a full on woman candidate, as she did in a recent speech, she might also feel liberated to embrace policies she really believes in. Is she truly a hawk? I don't know. Does she really believe that some people should get the death penalty? I don't know. But, like the song that carried her through the crowd and to the podium -- "Say what you want to say...I want to see you be brave" -- I want to see her claim the woman that she is. Finally. I will campaign hard for Hillary.
I like the view from up here.