“I’m With Her”: those were the words plastered on the sides of buildings nationwide.
Those were the words affixed onto t-shirts donned by men, women and children. Those were the words spread across the back windshields of cars and posted on signs that were proudly displayed in front yards. Those were the words that symbolized standing in solidarity with a woman, a feat that had never before been done of the same magnitude. Those were the words that bound 65,844,954 people across the country who voted for the hopeful first woman president together during a time when everyone had been so divided.
But those words, once a beaming sense of hope and pride, ceased to exist once Hillary Clinton was not elected. The amount of young girls who had dreams and aspirations of one day becoming president, or seeing a woman in the role today, has steadily been decreasing since the results of the November 2016 election.
I can personally recall my kindergarten teacher asking me to draw what I wanted to be when I grew up. In response, I sketched an intricately detailed, for a 5-year old, picture of the White House. My goal? I wanted to be the first woman president.
I don’t know what the appeal could have been to me back then. Never say never, but I don’t really remember being familiar with women’s empowerment at my young age. I just knew that I wanted to be the first woman president. Three months ago, if you had asked a girl of the same age what she wanted to be when she grew up, you would have heard many comparable answers: “I want to be a teacher,” “I want to be a lawyer,” “I want to cure cancer,” “I want to” this and “I want to” that.
Ask them the same question now, and I’m not sure what their answers would be. Maybe they still strive for bigger and better things. I would like to think that there is still a flame ingrained in the hearts of young girls who believe they can accomplish anything and everything they want to, to the same extent as men.
But the defeat women of all ages faced after Donald Trump was elected affected much more than the outcome of one election. I fear it has shown girls who are just beginning to form their own opinions and beliefs that no matter how hard a woman fights for something, no matter how much support she has, a man will ultimately win.
And this is not just any man, but a man who has even been accused of sexual assault more than 10 times, a man who continues to publicly degrade women and minorities. This is a man who does not deserve respect and who has no political experience, but somehow prevailed to become president.
He was running against a strong woman who has served the majority of her life in public service. She has always been outspoken about her thoughts on women in power and has gained worldwide encouragement. She is someone who had all the cards stacked against her but was still able to overcome and run for president twice. And yet, she still lost.
What message does this send to the young girls who watched the electoral debates and thought about how exciting it was when they saw a woman up there with all the other men? In a time so imperative to development, how does it look to those same young girls who will now have to listen to someone who bragged about violating a woman on live television for the next four years? I want to be optimistic, but I can’t. I know how detrimental not growing up with a beneficially influential person as a role model will be for the future generation.
It’s 2017. Over 70 countries around the world have had a woman in power, but the United States is not one of them. We’re still considered to be the most powerful country in the world, but instead of moving forward, we have begun to move backward. If we want to avoid the inevitable decline that will result if we stay on the same path, we have to surge past those who try to hold us back, and choose the most responsible people to lead our country.
Barack Obama lead me out of adolescence, and he was the perfect candidate for the job. Obama was respectful, intelligent, and motivational. Hillary Clinton was present and ready to preserve Obama’s legacy. In her 2016 concession speech, she said, “To all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”
That is what we need from a president; someone who builds up those who need to hear it the most: the next generation. And not one, in contrast, who parents will have to shield their kids from, fearing what he’ll say on live T.V. What does that say about our country and our future?
Photo: courtesy of New York TImes