8 November 2016 – There were tears in my eyes when I voted for Hillary Clinton.
9 November 2016 – There were tears in my eyes throughout the silent ride to school. My carpool of strong women could think of nothing to say. Like many of my colleagues, I cried at work that day. I sat in a school-wide meeting called by our director, stunned, as he explained to the students that at our school, we value dignity and respect. We accept everyone, he emphasized, and we do not believe in hate. How to explain this to middle school students who, like the rest of us, had just watched hate win?
10 November 2016 – Our carpool was no longer silent. Shock and despair turned to anger and we realized the most important of lessons: Our voices were all that we had. I had the good fortune to be living in New York City and I was well aware that life would remain largely unchanged, despite the persistent chill in my chest.
22 November 2016 – It took about two weeks to accept that I was afraid.
December 2016 – Plans were formed and we waited.
18 January 2016 – Preparations finalized and we waited.
21 January 2017 – Women’s March on New York City. Women’s marches everywhere.
February, March, April, May, June 2017 – The carpool to and from school became an opportunity to call government officials at the local, state, and federal levels. We gave donations, signed and circulated petitions, read the news aloud, listened to the radio, joined online interest groups. We attended marches and protests. We spoke up because we could. We spoke up because we could not stop reading about people living in places that had become openly repressive and dangerous. We spoke up because these people could not speak.
And we realized, our voices were all that we had.
My political awakening came during the Obama years. I voted for the first time my first year in university, there was a financial crisis and promises for changes afoot, and I was studying to be a social studies teacher. Politics took on a relevance it never had before and I was excited to be involved. By the time Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Party nomination for president, I assumed the United States was ready to join the nations that had already elected women to the highest offices. It was 2016, after all.
Like more than half of the country, I was wrong. The people may have been ready but the Electoral College was not, and it is the Electoral College rather than the people who make this decision. So much for demokratia. The people hold power . . . except when they don’t.
This was not an issue of politics. This was an issue of women.
I have watched from afar, in horror, as the United States has increasingly restricted what can be taught in schools and what books are available for young people. I have watched from afar, that sinking feeling again in my stomach, as the nation’s courts deny women the right to their own bodies, again and again and again.
And I ask: What are they so afraid of? What are they running away from? What are they scrambling to hide?
I am a student and teacher of history, and this is the pattern of the world repeated over and over.
So I answer: Power.
After all, we do not silence people who we do not fear. We do not delegate inferior status to those we exclude without repercussion. When we do not feel threatened, we need not respond at all. In fact, we likely don’t even notice.
This leads me to the conclusion that men in power fear women. They fear opposition. They fear ideas that could harm the illusion they have built around themselves. And this illusion? That whatever power they think they have is, in fact, theirs. If it were, if that power were rightfully earned and positively utilized, there would be nothing to fear. Nothing to hide. Nothing to silence.
Clearly, there is a great deal to repress.
And this says a great deal about power.
Criminalizing a woman’s right to her own body suggests that the people making these laws are afraid of everything that makes a woman. And so I ask: If this is the case, who actually has power?
Head held high, I needn’t answer. I need only act. With my very self as the threat, my existence proves stronger than your resistance. Power lies in me and of me and through me. And no amount of you can take that away.