It is customary for media organizations to prepare a piece of writing for both candidates on the night of an election, and Jezebel did. You can read our statement on President-elect Donald Trump here, but you will never read what we prepared in the case of a victory for Hillary Rodham Clinton because, nearly a century after American women fought for and won the right to vote, we chose not to elect a woman president. Last night, Hillary Rodham Clinton lost. We lost. You lost.
In Clinton we had, arguably, the most qualified person ever to run for this office: a former Senator and former Secretary of State. Her achievements are well trod, but with a sigh, some wondered if the first woman President must be a former First Lady. First Lady, though, is not a demerit. It’s a line on her resume, and an indicator of how deep a woman’s reserves of pragmatism must be to succeed in this wicked world. She took her husband’s name because it eased her way and his in Arkansas politics. She baked cookies on command, and dragged herself through every indignity 1998 brought about. Her sacrifices earned her derision, but she ran for office anyway and won, was appointed Secretary of State, and served her country during two wars. For her efforts, she was labeled an untrustworthy warmonger who could not use email.
President-elect Trump, on the other hand, bragged about assaulting a woman. He called Clinton a “nasty woman” for next to nothing. He argued that women should be punished for exercising their right to choose. He vowed to ban Muslims from entering this country. Men spoke loudly and wrongly during his campaign, and refused to be criticized for it. At their hands, women suffered. Women of color, trans women, sick or disabled women, women senior citizens, and poor women suffered most of all.
Jezebel covered this election for 16 months, during which the writers here were abused for our work over and over. We anxiously anticipated the day we could be done. We were called “pieces of shit,” “dirty whore cunts,” and “dumb bitches.” Readers wished rape and death upon us. The President-elect led the snarling pack and stoked the fires that burned us—that burned you—with a campaign that proudly and steadily hated women. The country affirmed that message with its votes, and you have the right to be scared.
The Clinton campaign itself responded to Trump’s historic hatred with an ad that featured young girls listening to Trump’s words as they inspected themselves in the mirror. The ad’s implicit promise was that a vote for Hillary Clinton might unsay Trump’s words and deliver us a nation in which little girls can get dressed for school without ever having heard Donald Trump’s voice in the other room saying, “A person who’s flat-chested—it’s very hard to be a ‘10.’” Your vote, the thinking went, might have protected young girls from hearing a man say “she ate like a pig,” or “she’s a slob” on television.
It didn’t, of course. Besides, what he said cannot be unsaid, and a woman President would not have dulled misogyny’s sharp edges that have cut you, your friends, your mother, and your sister your entire lives, and raised Donald Trump up to be a millionaire and the next President of the United States. But in her concession speech, this morning, Clinton spoke directly to those young girls: “To all the little girls watching, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful.”
Perhaps in that, you heard a directive to raise up our daughters in the shadow of this defeat with courage, integrity, warmth, and bravery. Perhaps you felt stunned, knowing as we do now that white women voted overwhelmingly in favor of white supremacy and patriarchal power. You may also have heard a note of resignation to the facts of adult life in America for women. On on your path from growing from a girl to a woman, you’ve been touched by the poison of injustice, then told you were not.
You have battled sexism without fanfare for as long as you can remember. Maybe hearing Trump brag about grabbing Jill Harth “by the pussy” brought to mind your own sexual assault and injured you again. Maybe you were quietly laid off after you had a baby. Maybe you had to hold it all day because you feared that as a trans woman, you might be bullied just for using the bathroom. Perhaps you stood in front of a judge and were told you were worthless because you chose to be a mother full-time instead of a breadwinner. Maybe you watched your male coworker take credit for your work so many times that the only thing you could think to do at the end of the day was cry. Maybe you can’t quite name the pain, and almost can be convinced it isn’t there. Maybe your uncle said you were “lucky” to have graduated from such a good college. The slap from your boyfriend, the grope on the bus, the cold of your house keys between your fingers when you walk home at night are sensations that a woman president will not dull.
In her concession speech, Clinton spoke with the grace you have mustered more times than you can count. You have been forced to congratulate the corrupt king on the castle he built around himself and to praise the monster for his claws. You received no recognition for this grace because it was expected and invisible, and neither will she. Clinton performed the grace every woman has performed in the face of profound injustice, and perhaps as you watched her do so, injuries you can barely name ached anew.
In the months that follow today, you may be told that those injuries are imagined. Do not listen. Ignore it when you are told it was all in your head. It’s likely that whatever distorted version of the Republican party takes control of this nation will attempt to distance itself from the hurt Trump caused in the name of “unity,” wagging their fingers at you if you dare remind them you are bleeding. Do not let them.