Hillary Clinton and Other Strong Women
By: Sam Mathers, News Editor
On the second stop of her 15 city book tour, Hillary Clinton spoke to a room of about 5,000 at the Enercare Centre in Toronto on Thursday. The talk was advertised as Clinton letting her guard down for the first time, no longer under the public scrutiny she has come to know so well. And that is exactly what she did. Clinton was honest, vulnerable, and funny. She spoke of the things she wished she had done differently, which included whirling around at that second debate and telling Trump: “back off, you creep!” She spoke about the challenges faced by women in politics. She spoke about what it was like to experience such a devastating loss and what it was like to get back up and move forward, saying: “I’m not going anywhere.”
I was fortunate enough to be one of the 5,000 captivated by Hillary Clinton on Thursday night. If you know me, you know that I did not take this lightly. I’ve often tried to justify to others why I was so invested in this election and in Hillary, but it is difficult to fully capture why her campaign and her loss affected me so deeply. At the risk of sounding dramatic, the morning after Trump was elected I felt like someone died. I think it will go down in history as one of those “where were you” moments. I was on the third floor of North Residence, watching alone in the lounge and crying silently as I realized they would rather have a racist, sexist, inexperienced bigot than a woman.
Growing up, I had no idea that the world placed less value on me because of my gender. In fact, I fortunately didn’t know about sexism for a long time. My mom and her best friend told me weekly that I had to grow up to be a strong, independent woman. I didn’t know there was a specific reason it was so important. I didn’t even know what the phrase “independent woman” meant, only that I had damn well better become one. I didn’t know about sexism, and then suddenly, I did.
It is more prevalent as I get older. As I become more educated, as I grow professionally, as I voice more opinions. Someone tells me that I’m “not just a pretty face” when I succeed. Someone else suggests I am going copy off my male colleague instead of doing the work myself. Someone else doesn’t take me seriously when I ask them to improve the work they give me. We’ve all experienced it – a variation of the same narrative, always leading us to the question that lives in the back of our minds: would you have said that if I were a man?
I remember the first time I ever called myself a feminist. I was around fifteen and my cousin was writing an assignment on feminism for a Women and Gender Studies course. I said I wasn’t sure if I was one. She told me it is simply a belief that men and women are equal, to which I replied, “OK. Then I am.” It has come to encompass so much more than that since then, but that was the first time I ever felt truly empowered.
Hillary Clinton empowered me. Her campaign, her message, her willingness to push forward through all the bullshit. The idea of a woman at the forefront of the country bordering mine was revolutionary to me. I thought of what it would do for little girls and what it would do for women young and old, who for so long have not been able to recognize themselves in their leaders. And I was so sure she would win. As devastating as it was, even her loss empowered me. I saw masses of women coming together to grieve, then to heal, and then to resist.
I was raised in a matriarchy of strong women. The women in my family are hard working. They are educated. They are informed. They have beat cancer, they have been through divorce, they have suffered loss, but they have always embraced each other and come out the other side stronger than before. And maybe that’s why I identified with Hillary’s message so much. Stronger Together. I have this vivid memory of my cousins and I dancing around the living room with our aunties to the Spice Girls covering Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.” The notion of sisterhood and togetherness has been engrained in me. I’ve got all my sisters with me. Stronger together. I have known nothing else.