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How Do I Feel Voting For a First Female President? Angry (and J’Accuse-y) that it Took So Long

As I hope many of you did as well, I voted for Hillary Clinton this morning. I wish I could say that this was a moving, overwhelming, emotionally fulfilling experience. But… not so much? I was beyond excited to vote for Clinton – for someone with her experience, qualifications, and positions on numerous issues. But I’m not excited, exactly, about having voted for a first female president. Rather, I’m angry. I’m not angry that Clinton isn’t the perfect candidate — no one is! I’m angry that this is, in 2016, a “first.” I’m angry that it’s taken so long for a woman to be a major-party presidential candidate in the first place. I could see being excited, as a Jew, to vote for a first Jewish president, but ack, this isn’t the same. Women are not a marginalized minority. We’re a marginalized half of the population. I’m frightened of the possibility of a Trump presidency, but angry at the notion that I should feel grateful if a fellow woman wins.

I’m angry about what Clinton’s candidacy only being a “first” tells us about the place of women in our society. About the message sent to girls, that anything really important is done by men.

I’m angry at the right, for running a potential Misogynist in Chief, with no apparent qualifications other than embodying aggrieved entitlement. (On the “merit” issue, see Kat Stoeffel on the Cut: “Watching Trump debate Hillary infuriated me because he reminds me of every male clown who bulldozed me professionally by being louder, simpler, and embarrassingly self-aggrandizing.” Yep.). I’m furious that this election campaign has become a referendum of sorts on whether women are, in fact, human beings. I’m outraged that I’m vaguely nostalgic for the days when the GOP ‘only’ wanted to do things like ban contraception.

I’m annoyed, too, at the left, for effectively deciding that sexism doesn’t count, except maaaaybe as it intersects with other forms of oppression. The socialist left is concerned with economic status, and hey, some women are rich! And the more identity-focused, campus-activist-type left isn’t so sure, either, because some women are straight, white, cis, Christian, able-bodied, and so forth.

And… as important as it is for mainstream feminists to look at sexism in conjunction with other forms of marginalization, which is indeed how sexism operates, it’s crucial for the rest of the left not to lose sight of the fact that even the most otherwise-privileged woman (such as… Hillary Clinton), even an elite woman, is still, as a woman, a part of a marginalized caste in our society. Those of us who are feminists and on the left need to find a way to make feminism more inclusive, more engaged with battles that don’t necessarily involve glass ceilings. But we need to do so in a way that doesn’t give the mistaken impression that as far as Clinton-demographic women are concerned, feminism’s work is done.

And I’m annoyed at myself, for having internalized the sexist belief that there’s something unseemly about female ambition. For having used the term “self-promotional” derisively (if only in my mind) in reference to women more than to men. We’re all in this sexist pit together, but together, maybe we can break free.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood, and can be reached at [email protected]. Her book, The Perils of “Privilege”, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in March 2017.

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