A couple months ago, Hillary was responding to a question about women in leadership positions and our tendency to see them as bossy. As I listened to her answer, I realized that I had never heard a woman in a position of that much power talking about the female experience with true understanding.
So many of our experiences are brushed off as melodramatic or based on a false premise, but she accepted the premise without question, because she has lived it herself. I could see myself in her, and until that moment, I didn't realize how sorely that representation was lacking in our leaders.
I knew it intellectually, but I didn't yet know what it would feel like to be reflected in the highest levels of power. This election matters to me for so many reasons — for my right to get an abortion, my right to marry whoever I love, my right to fair pay and paid leave, etcetera — but it is most vital to me for the opportunity to see myself reflected in the most powerful person in the world.
Two months ago, one of my close friends was raped by a friend who felt he had the right to do whatever he wanted to her body. She's one of many women I know who have been sexually assaulted, and every time it happens, my male friends are surprised. Over and over again.
Hearing Trump's tapes made "rape culture" a term we could discuss openly, and it caused a flood of stories that has been both hard to hear and vitally important.
Because of this election, we're talking about how we view women in power; we're talking about the double standard; we're talking about men interrupting women; we're talking about so many problems that usually have a pink fence around them.
I don't think Hillary's election will be the end of sexism in our country. In fact, it will probably have the opposite effect — a backlash. But it is a huge step forward in a long fight for equality, and I hope it will pave the way for female leaders who are accepted as full human beings. I hope we can legitimately consider a female candidate who is angry, or far left, or unqualified, or any other measure of flexibility that we have allowed men.
I've had the hardest time watching her during the debates, especially the town hall. It's so deeply insulting that a capable, accomplished woman with a lifetime of service to her country and unprecedented expertise has to stand alongside the most unqualified, volatile, dangerous candidate we've ever seen, as if they are peers, and as if they are both legitimate candidates to lead the free world.
I can't help seeing in those moments many of the gendered obstacles I’ve faced in my own life — every time I was held to a higher standard than the men around me; every time I had to stand and smile while I was being bullied; every time I had to walk a thin tightrope just to reach the same goal that men walk a wide path to reach; every time I tried to voice an opinion in the face of a man screaming his opposition. I see family members, former bosses, former classmates. It's brutal, and I find myself reliving the memory of those moments. I'll be grateful when this election ends, if only to reset my stress levels.