A Message to Our Lennys:
"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences."
I woke up on Election Day like a bride: rosy, thrilled, a little controlling about just how MY perfect day would be spent. After working on the Clinton campaign for eighteen months, I was ready to celebrate, and sure that by nightfall I'd be knocking back glasses of champagne and creating a story to tell my unborn children. Maybe I'd even get close enough to Hillary Clinton to hug her, to whisper "Thank you." I had dreamed about it every night for the last two weeks.
So on Tuesday — Jesus, it's almost embarrassing to remember — I smugly selected a baby-blue sweater with a not-so-subtle pussy motif and headed to vote with my boyfriend, smiling at the elderly socialists on my block like it was Sesame Street. I packed my HRC 2016 memorabilia into a brown box with my I VOTED sticker smacked on top. I spent the afternoon phone-banking with friends, and it felt more like icing on the cake than urgent business. Because as horrifying as I found Donald Trump's rhetoric, as hideous as I found his racism and xenophobia, as threatening to basic decency as I found his demagogue persona, I never truly believed he could win.
I'd been traveling the country for the last few weeks, in swing states like North Carolina and Colorado. While I'd dealt with a few irritating email questions (those fucking emails, as if they were a worthy corollary to fraud and sexual assault), the resolve and passion of students, many of whom had made their way over from the Bernie Sanders campaign, gave me a sense of hope that got me downright high. I didn't see how with faces this bright, diverse, wise, and passionate anything but the best — the only — result could prevail.
The three hours I spent at the Javits Center Tuesday night, surrounded by campaign staffers and fellow surrogates for Hillary Clinton, are blurred and spotty. At a certain point it became clear something had gone horribly wrong. Celebrants' faces turned. The modeling had been incorrect. Watching the numbers in Florida, I touched my face and realized I was crying. "Can we please go home?" I said to my boyfriend. I could tell he was having trouble breathing, and I could feel my chin breaking into hives. Another woman showed me her matching hive, hidden by fresh concealer.
I hugged the women I had spent eighteen months with, laughing and plotting and spreading our love for Hillary Clinton and her message. My party dress felt tight and itchy.
By the time we'd made it over the bridge, a friend called. "It's over," she said. "I love you." I was frozen. We stopped at the diner. No one was speaking as they ate, no one in the whole place.
At home I got in the shower and began to cry even harder. My boyfriend, who had already wept, watched me as I mumbled incoherently, clutching myself. "It wasn't supposed to go this way. It was supposed to be her job. She worked her whole life for the job. It's her job."
Over the year and a half I worked on the campaign, I received threats and abuse at a level I could not have imagined. My Twitter mentions went from rude to downright violent. My phone was hacked, and I was sent images of aborted fetuses, weapons. I was called a fat whore, a retard, told I should be killed in front of everyone who knew me. My experience mimics that of so many women who organized for Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump, most of them not celebrities. We wanted a female president. We wanted guaranteed control over our own bodies. We wanted equal pay. That made us nasty. That made us targets.
But we kept going, thinking these were the dying moans of the dragon known as the patriarchy being stabbed again and again in the stomach. We believed that on November 9, they'd be licking their wounds while we celebrated. It is painful on a cellular level knowing those men got what they wanted, just as it's painful to know you are hated for daring to ask for what is yours. It's painful to know that white women, so unable to see the unity of female identity, so unable to look past their violent privilege, and so inoculated with hate for themselves, showed up to the polls for him, too. My voice was literally lost when I woke up, squeaky and raw, and I ached in the places that make me a woman, the places where I've been grabbed so carelessly, the places we are struggling to call our own.