Girl Power

By Hannah Babcock (Harvard College Undergraduate)

When I was 10 years old, I wanted to be the first female president of the United States. I prayed that no woman would be elected within the next 25 years, because as soon as I turned 35, my campaign would begin. Today, I would like to go back to that 10-year-old girl and warn her that this fight would be a lot more difficult than she imagined. 

We have made remarkable gains in feminism, but they are very, very frail. So frail that they can be destroyed by a man who brags of grabbing women without their consent, mocks and belittles women who have fought battles to build a career, and classifies women as objects that either are, or aren’t, worth his time. Donald Trump, you proudly declare that you love women, that no one respects women more than you. One who loves and respects women does not judge them by their appearance, degrade their achievements, and brag about sexually assaulting them. 

Many of my friends will disagree with me. Some of my close friends voted for Donald Trump. But this is where the Twitter wars and Facebook feuds must end, and the hard work must begin. This is the time to invite others into the conversation, rather than kicking them out with hatred. I’m disheartened to see many women justifying their vote because “Trump would never take away women’s rights! He has a wife and a daughter.” To these women, I ask you to define yourselves in terms of being a person, not by your relationship to a man. On this same token, while it’s wonderful that so many men are speaking out about gender violence because “these things could happen to our wives, our daughters, our sisters”, please remember that women are people too, who exist independently and should be respected because they are people, not because they exist in relation to men. In short, there are a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump who are outwardly racist and sexist, who champion the superiority of the white race and believe that Meninism is a legitimate movement. But there are many who aren’t, and it’s just as ignorant to sit back on Facebook and attack Trump supporters as being racists, sexists, or bigots, rather than inviting them into a conversation about what sexism and gender equality really is.

Hillary Clinton is not perfect. I don’t condone every action she has taken in the course of her lifetime. But I worry deeply, now more than ever, about what it says about our country when a former US senator, First Lady, and Secretary of State is defeated by a hateful man with no political experience because he promises to “Make America Great Again”. Tuesday night confirmed my fear that deep down, half of our country is simply not ready for our president to be a woman. And I’m afraid of what this means. While our country has outwardly made progress in overcoming sexism over the past decades, implicit attitudes remain. Catcalling a girl on the street telling her she’d be prettier if she smiled, shaming women who choose careers over motherhood, and, yes, voting for Trump because “you just can’t vote for Hillary”- all serve as reminders that sexist undertones still exist in every aspect of our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that the argument goes the other way, as well. I’ve heard too many people criticize Hillary supporters for voting for her “just because she’s a woman.” Well, yes, Hillary is a woman. But there are plenty of women who are not as fierce advocates for feminism, gender equality, and women’s rights, fighting to protect the gains others have worked so hard for. There are plenty of women who have not spent a lifetime in politics. A woman should not be elected president because of her gender, but rather, because of what she has done for her gender and done for this country. Another disheartening argument against Hillary I heard was “Well, I’m all for a female president, but Hillary’s just not the right one.” News flash: there is never going to be a perfect woman to run for president. But a man on trial for child rape is just as far from perfect, and it’s time to stop holding women to an impossible standard. 

Three short months at Harvard have given me the hope that we will change these attitudes about women in our country. More than anything, I believe in the power of education. I’m encouraged by the community of scholars around me who recognize that women’s rights are human rights. I’m inspired by the faculty I get to learn from each day, such as my teaching fellow who, after election day, told us that crying was too easy, and instead, we now had to work harder than ever, or my seminar professor, who has fought for Title IX, bringing to light the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, and advocating for the rights of survivors. Looking back at social media posts prior to Tuesday night, I’m hopeful when I see men and women bringing their daughters with them to cast their vote for a female president. While this outcome is not what I wanted, the fight is just beginning. Donald Trump, you may have won this battle, but we will win the war. Somewhere out there watching these events unfold is the first female president of the United States. And I’m with her.