Trailblazers, Go-Getters, and Ceiling-Shatterers: American Women Will Continue their Strides of Progress

By Mackenzie Scurka (Dartmouth College Undergraduate)

Part I: Feverish and Fleeting Hope

I woke up at 9:00 a.m. on Election Day with a sore throat and a runny nose. Crap. I thought I left the “freshmen plague” behind me with the rest of my first year woes here at Dartmouth. My head was throbbing and I had a four-hour lab section ahead of me, but nothing was going to ruin today. Today, the United States of America was going to elect its first female president. I looked up at the glossy poster crudely taped but proudly displayed above my dresser—“DARTMOUTH TO ADMIT WOMEN”—the headline on the front page of the college’s school newspaper back in 1972. Today, oh glorious today, another ceiling was going to be shattered. 

With a wad of tissues in my coat pocket for nose-blowing on the go, I headed off to the Life Sciences Center. Scrolling through my Instagram feed on the walk over, I double tapped every #ImWithHer caption and “just voted!” selfie. I had already sent my absentee ballot back home to Northern Virginia, but I secretly wished I could be a part of the mobs of Hillary supporters flooding the Hanover polls. I noticed that there was not a single Trump supporter on my feed. Even though I wasn’t surprised, I smiled with pride at the people I surrounded myself with, both back at home and here at Dartmouth. 

I started lab with a cough and a sniffle here and there, but as the section progressed, I felt worse and worse. My body began to shiver and my thoughts clouded over. I could barely keep one eye open to identify the dead stream invertebrate floating in the petri dish under the microscope before me. “Mackenzie, are you ok? I think you should go home.”

I woke up at 7:30 p.m. with a temperature just under 102°. I had slept through a club meeting and the first poll closings. Double crap. I felt lightheaded and sweaty and my face was bright red, but I sat straight up to livestream CNN. Things were not looking good, and they did not get better. I spent the rest of the night listening to Wolf Blitzer and his stupid anxiety-inducing key race alerts while falling in and out of sleep and sinking further and further into my own fever-induced delirium. Somewhere in between dreaming that I was traveling back in time and stressing out over incorrectly answering a lab question that was never asked, Trump’s collection of battleground states piled up like the tissues in my recycling bin. Before passing out once again, I texted my boyfriend, “Do you ever think about if we’re actually the wrong ones and the Trump supporters have it right? What if he gets a bomb ass cabinet and they’re actually able to accomplish things?” He replied simply, “You must be really sick.” I chugged an entire Nalgene full of water and officially went to sleep.

My fever was gone the next morning but the deliriousness was not. What. Happened. To. America. I glanced at my poster once again. I never noticed how close it hung from the ceiling. 

Part II: Pantsuited vs. Ill-suited

I have never felt so aware of my womanhood. Growing up in my progressive, intellectual, and truly amazing hometown of Arlington, Virginia, I think I would be exaggerating or lying if I claimed that my gender has ever been an obstacle to any of my most personal goals. In high school, I was the class president, producer of the school’s broadcast journalism program, vice chair of my county’s philanthropy initiative, and a straight-A student. Along the way, my gender was never an issue. I didn’t even consider it potentially being one. Of course, I’ve experienced sexism in the classroom in other, smaller forms. My comments in class have received a few eye rolls that weren’t given to my male peers’ equally opinionated words, and my reminders to the more, lets say, sluggish group project members I’ve worked with have occasionally been met with a “bossy” remark, but I’m truly fortunate to never have been discriminated against by any of my teachers or classmates. That is something I have taken for granted until recently. Our country’s most prepared and qualified woman was defeated by one of our least-prepared and most publicly sexist men. I walked around campus on Wednesday feeling more connected to my fellow females than I’ve ever felt in my life. We shared headshakes, red eyes, and temple rubs walking by each other. It was deeper than politics. It was more personal. 

Hillary Clinton is not a perfect candidate. She has had her fair share of scandals, and I’m sure she owes a lot of people favors. In all honesty, I think there are probably quite a few more female politicians out in this country who could be better presidential candidates. However, it boggles my mind that half the country believes Donald Trump is still more well suited for the job. I’m not going into any details here because you have already heard my opinion shared through Facebook, Twitter, angry television commentators, and from the mouths of all your liberal neighbors and friends. I agree, and I am frustrated. There is something more going on here. It’s visible in the “TRUMP THAT BITCH” t-shirts, the Twitter attacks on Megyn Kelly because of her “blood coming out of her wherever,” and the criticisms of Clinton’s supposedly “shrill” voice. And those are just some of my personal favorites. 

Every day of this political season, I have grown more aware that my hometown is a bubble. I am privileged to have never faced serious sexism. I always thought Trump was a crazy outlier. His comments about women are disgusting, but truthfully, I was never that personally offended by them. He was just some crazy, KKK endorsed guy on TV that beat the odds and riled up the worst in America. No. I now recognize a new, substantial side of the country that does not view me the way I view myself. It was not until November 9th, 2016, that I realized Arlington is not just a nice place to grow up—it’s an oasis. My conversations with women in my sorority, dorm, classes, and clubs opened my eyes. They have already experienced the Trump-esque lewdness and injustice of America. They experienced sexism inside their classrooms, social structures, families, and scattered throughout their social media feeds. Meanwhile, my Facebook timeline strictly consists of social justice hashtags and funny animal videos. It was safe to say they had seen and overcome more negativity in the world than I had. Dartmouth women just happen to be ambitious, smart, and resilient as hell. While I’m nervous to enter a workforce full of people who will judge me before I even open my mouth, I am empowered by every woman I meet on this campus. Your stories inspire me. 

Part III: Grab Her by the Optimism

In two years, I will graduate college under a Trump presidency and into a Trump economy. The future holds so many variables and so much unknown, but there’s something so beautiful about that. For all we know, Trump could actually make America great again. He could become one of our greatest leaders of all time. There is so much unknown. As much as I dread the man now, I want him to succeed more than anything. I want him to mend his relationship with women (and all other groups he offended or targeted, for that matter) and show the rest of the United States that we deserve equal pay, opportunities, and respect. And if he doesn’t do that, then I will. I am promising myself now that I will do everything in my power to be nothing but a role model to the girls in the generations after me, and I challenge all my ladies reading this to do the same. From here on out, I’ve set three goals for myself:

  1. Stop saying “sorry,” “basically,” and “kind of” so much. Be unapologetic as hell.
  2. Stop automatically nodding every time someone expresses an opinion in casual conversation. Challenge viewpoints.
  3. Go for every job, leadership position, or opportunity I think I could be good at. Never be intimidated by failure.

I know the women in this country are going to be just fine because of the many strong trailblazers, go-getters, and ceiling-shatterers ahead and behind us. This election seems like a bad head cold right now and there is feverish anxiety in the air, but we will get better. There are many other issues of importance at stake, but I have tremendous hope that American women will continue to make strides of progress because of the strength we will find in each other.