My mother was raised in Oklahoma in the 50’s and 60’s in a conservative, Southern Baptist family. In her teens, our country invaded Vietnam and she watched the Civil Rights Movement gain ground. In college, she read the Feminist Mystique. From her own college campus she heard of the students killed protesting at Kent State College, and participated in marches and sit-ins. She was deeply disturbed by the lengths to which officials went to prevent black Americans from voting. She argued with her mother about Martin Luther King Jr. She was awakened (her words, we’d call it “woke” today) to the issues facing women, minorities and LGBTQ Americans.
“What it would mean to you to see the first woman president elected?” I asked my mother. “It would make me proud,” she simply replied, but I could hear her voice breaking. She described how important it was to her grandmother, a woman who was in her mid-20s before she legally gained the right to vote, that women exercise their right to vote. With her grandmother’s voice in her head, my mother instilled in me that we have a duty to honor the work of our foremothers by voting and protecting this right for future generations. I vote because my great-grandmother wasn’t born with the right to vote. I vote because women died fighting for my right to do so. I vote because, on Wednesday morning, I want to wake up in a country I am proud to call home.
As my mother described her awakening it struck me how eerie and frightening it is that many of the issues my mother described are battles we are still fighting today. I imagined how easy it would be to turn back the clock on progress if the wrong person was elected. “We’ve survived Republican presidencies before” my mother sighed, “This is a whole different level of terror.” My mother is right. This is different. Civil rights are at risk. Our national security is at risk. The progress our nation has made for women, minorities and LGBTQ Americans is at risk, not to mention the progress we have yet to make.
I agree with the women arguing that we should not “vote with our vaginas” (although, if I’d done enough kegels to make it possible, I would absolutely cast my vote with my vagina). I am not supporting Hillary Clinton because she has a vagina. I am supporting Clinton because I have one and I believe that she is the best candidate to serve my interests and the interests of this country. Just as, in 2008, I believed Barack Obama was the best candidate, and I supported him rather than Hillary Clinton in the democratic primaries. I remain supremely proud of that vote. Now, I am proud of my support for Hillary Clinton.
As exhausted as I am that I continually have to declare my equality, I can only imagine how my mother feels, and how her mother and grandmother felt. She’s fought longer, harder, and against greater odds. I will do everything in my power to do my mother proud and make our mother’s, sister’s and grandmother’s sacrifices worth it. I will vote for progress and against hate. In the 240 year history of America, no woman has ever been president. It’s about damn time. I believe Hillary Clinton will be a fantastic president because of who she is as a person, much of which, I’m sure, is informed by the fact that she’s a woman, but not solely because of her gender.
On Tuesday, after decades of fighting for women’s rights and a perhaps the hardest fought election in modern history, I pray my mother can watch the first woman be elected president. Please vote vote vote, if, for no other reason, than to make my mother proud.