When I woke up the morning of Election Day 2016, I was so excited that I donned a t-shirt I hadn’t worn since buying it in West Hollywood in 2009. It’s hot pink and in white lettering it says, “This is what a feminist looks like.”
I was self-conscious about wearing it because even though on most days I’m a proud 54-year-old feminist, I grew up with messages that if I declared it out loud men wouldn’t like me very much. They’d feel threatened. Even now, when I know lots of terrific progressive men, that’s hard to shake.
But this day, when the most qualified candidate on the ballot for President happened to be a woman whose values aligned with my own, I felt emboldened. Hillary Clinton deserved this. I even took a rare selfie and posted it on Facebook and Instagram, declaring #imwithher. It felt great to own my joy.
I had known all along that I would likely support Secretary Clinton in this race, but it wasn’t until the last two months or so that I became enthusiastic about it. My admiration for her increased with each passing day. Still, I was surprised when I walked out of the voting booth and was so choked up I could barely speak. I went to greet a friend standing in line and realized I had to hold back a sob.
As I walked back into the streets of my town and strolled, my thoughts reverted to the 1990s. At the time I was a sports writer/columnist for a daily newspaper and I really thrived in the work. Deadlines, the chance to write about victory and loss, meeting lots of people. I worked hard and built a nice following.
Back then, one of the basics of becoming a sports writer meant that you started by covering local high school sports. I became known for positive coverage that focused on people and issues as opposed to statistics and wins and losses. I was proud of filling the scrapbooks of young women who were competing and giving it their all.
One day I was covering a meeting at the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) office and I was informed that I was to be named the Sports Reporter of the Year for my positive coverage of high school athletics. In the whole state! What an honor. I was overjoyed. I wasn’t in it for awards, but recognition felt so good.
When I got back to the newspaper office, I told my supervising editor the good news. He looked at me and said, “They must have wanted to give it to a woman this year.”
My stomach dropped. This is the person who would be accompanying me to the dinner where I’d receive my award? This was how he really felt? They couldn’t be giving me this award because my writing is solid or my coverage is special? Even now, writing this, it’s a little disheartening.
I hadn’t thought about that moment in years, but something about going into the voting booth and hitting the button for a highly qualified woman brought the memory back. This is the kind of stuff we learn to take in stride as women. I had been suppressing so much and the candidacy of Hillary Clinton brought it bubbling to the surface.
In sports writing, I learned to just keep pushing through it. Early on, I heard, “Kid, you’re taking a job away from a man. You should be home baking cookies.” Much later, I stared down the college football coach who clearly wasn’t happy I’d been assigned to cover his team; he had really liked my work when I was covering women’s sports. Imagine my sense of accomplishment when at the end of my first season covering his team, he called me and said, “That is the single best story that’s ever been written about any team I’ve been a part of.”
Hillary Clinton may not have won her election, but she gave millions of us hope and a moment where we thought sexism might just melt away. I am ever so grateful for that glorious, glorious moment.