I remain devastated by the recent election, in part for how it relates to being a woman. Much has been said about the message Hillary Clinton’s loss sends to young girls. But what about me? What about other women my age? What about the message her loss sends to us?
I’ve always worked. From the time of my college graduation, which coincided with my now almost 50-years-long marriage, I held a job. I was the one who got the graduate degree while working part-time to pay the rent while my husband focused solely on getting his law degree. When said degree translated into endless hours in the office, I raised our children largely alone, cooked and cleaned and paid the monthly bills. When money was tight, I worked to help pay those bills, even with three children at home. When marital challenges arose, I made the concessions good wives make. As a homemaker, I sacrificed female friendship, a.k.a. lunches with friends and girls’ weekends, for the sake of making sure my family had clean clothes and hot dinners. As a writer, I worked around the kids’ schedules, typing away at dawn, during school hours, and late into the night. I was chronically exhausted. But I must have done something right, because my three children are now gainfully-employed men with solid marriages and children of their own.
My story isn’t unique. I’ve heard similar ones from other women who never expected to have careers but simply did what had to be done. These women were on the front lines of the work-home struggle. And where are we now?
I’m 71. All these years later, I thought things had changed. I thought women were finally on equal footing with men. I thought we had earned that right.
Apparently not. Apparently we’re only good as wage earners when it benefits someone else. Apparently our work is appreciated only until it threatens the status quo.
Call me self-pitying, but there it is. I feel used. Isn’t this what today’s Women’s Strike is about? Are we truly indispensable?
Every woman I ask claims that given her qualifications, had Hillary been male, she would have won the election. Every man I ask waffles. Well, he says, I don’t know. You have to admit, he says, that she isn’t warm and fuzzy. You have to admit, he says, that she is ambitious.
Here we are, in 2017, and this is how they see the world? I remain stunned by that. I thought America was better. I thought we were more enlightened, more respectful. Apparently I’ve been living in an alternate universe – one where intelligence is valued and hard work rewarded – where honesty is key, and religion means decency – where cream rises to the top.
I’m an optimist. But the loss I feel now, as a woman, is profound. Will I stop working in protest? I considered doing it for the sake of solidarity. But I love writing. No man tells me to do it. Actually, women do. I write for many reasons, but prime among them is that my audience appreciates — no, waits for each book I write. My readers make me feel valued.
That’s it. You all make me feel valued.
Of the many books I’ve had published, consider one from 1997. It’s about a woman whose successful career so threatens her husband’s ego that he sues for divorce and custody of the kids. My own title for it was When Being Everything Wasn’t Enough. My publisher instead chose A Woman’s Place.
A woman’s place. Talk about irony?
Of my nine grandchildren, five are girls. They are being raised to value education and hard work, are being taught to take initiative and accept responsibility. At 4:30 in the morning on the day after the election, one of my sons texted to say, “Mom, what do I tell my daughter?” He is an educator, and after saying something to his five-year-old, he had to say something to his students.
I didn’t have an answer then. I still don’t.