It had seemed so appropriate, back in October, that the first woman president would be elected by triumphing over a misogynist ogre recorded boasting to a near-stranger about his precise tactics for forcing himself on subordinate women. That only made it more devastating when she lost the election to him—“lost,” that is, by winning nearly 3 million votes more than him. May the best man win! Or, at any rate, the man.
We have had two months to weep. There will undoubtedly be more of that to come. But now it’s time to think about solutions—for feminism, women, all of us. We asked three writers to reflect on what the 2016 presidential election revealed about the state of feminism today, what might come next, and, most importantly, what should.
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A Feminism of Perseverence
Most mornings it takes 30 minutes and much cajoling to get my daughter out of bed. Not so on November 8, 2016. All I had to do was whisper, “Let’s go make history,” and she was up like a shot and ready to head to the polls. I will never forget the feeling of her hand in mine as I marked my ballot for a female presidential candidate. Nor will I forget her voice later that night when she turned to me, tremulous and incredulous, asking, “She didn’t win?”
What happens to a feminist dream deferred? Is there any chance that, even as a Trump presidency has dealt feminism and feminists a crushing blow, it might help us cultivate a more potent feminist agenda and a new generation of activists and leaders? In the bitter soil of this defeat, might we sow the seeds for a future gender revolution?
Even as we grapple with this defeat, progressives should also celebrate our victories. And there were victories on November 8. We elected the first Latina senator, the first Indian-American senator (who also happens to be California’s first African-American senator), the first disabled female senator, and the first Somali-American Muslim woman to serve as a legislator. These are extraordinary gains for women and a more inclusive vision of America.
We should also remember that Hillary Clinton ran on the most unabashedly feminist platform ever. She promised to advance workplace equity and equal pay—not just for women but also for LGBTQ persons and people of color. She vowed to preserve Roe v. Wade, and, just as importantly, she insisted on the repeal of the Hyde and Helms Amendments, which prohibit the use of federal funds for abortion and foreign family-planning programs, respectively. Finally, her campaign did more than pay lip service to the virtues of the American family; she promised to strengthen families by raising the federal minimum wage and securing paid family leave.