The Things We Don’t Let Ourselves Feel
This morning, I watched Hillary Clinton’s last ad for her campaign. You can see it here. As is typical for me when everyone is raving about how great something is, I started out cynical. It’s well done, but it uses words advertisers could and probably would us for any candidate, including her opponent. Yes, it’s more true for her, obviously, but still…unbelievable as it is, there are people who would honestly say that about him.
And then I got to the end. Where you hear Hillary’s voice saying, “I’m Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message.”
And I started tearing up. It took me a second to realize why, and then I got it. Because it was a woman’s voice saying those words. For a campaign for the Presidency. A super smart, capable, practical, get-things-done woman. And, once again, as has happened to me so many times since Hillary won the primary, it came home to me how over-ready I am to have this happen, to have a woman in the White House. How much it really, really means to me.
Logically, I have always known that life is harder for women, as a group. My mother was one of the first women to be accepted, attend, and graduate from UC Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine. And it’s not just in my personal life, it’s all around us–look at the numbers, look at the imbalance, look at the subtle, “well-meaning” comments. But I’ve also stayed out of that imbalance, in many ways, for myself. I have a father who thought it was a dream come true that he met a woman in the same field of his, a woman who wanted to join him in running their own business. I have two sisters, no brothers, so–if there was going to be even a subtle, unintentional bias in my own family–it didn’t happen. I majored in fields that were heavily populated by women and that were, in all probability, discouraging to the men who wanted to be there. And, overall, I have pursued careers that have a high percentage of women doing the job. But I can see and I can interpret. I know sexism is out there, I know it still governs so very much of the way our world operates. And as I get older, I get angrier.
Still, I have been surprised every time, in the past few months, that the tears have come. Surprised at myself for wanting this so badly, for craving the possibility so deeply. Because why?
Because we so often don’t let ourselves feel the emotions. We have to work in and through this world, we have to deal with the realities of the way things are. And so many of the people we know, who might not get how important this is, are nice…very nice. And funny. And engaging. And we have conversations that don’t include politics, and they like and respect us and we like and respect them. And we push down the need, the craving, and the anger, so that we can function in the society we have.
It’s not just about women’s rights and women’s opportunities, obviously. I grew up knowing a relative who had been in a concentration camp, other relatives who had left Germany to escape them. I know that the world Clinton’s opponents see as “great again” is anything but, and that it is truly, truly possible. Eight years ago and four years ago, I voted for Barak Obama, and I thought–how must it feel, to be Black and to see this finally happen. Is the weight lifted? Is it made heavier by knowing how long this has taken and that the world isn’t going to change overnight, maybe not over a decade or a century? What are all the layers African Americans in our country must have been feeling?
I think I may have a taste of that answer today. I may have tried to push the want away, tried to tuck it into boxes of Well, we’re making some progress or It’s better than it used to be, but the want doesn’t actually go away. Sometimes it’s a feather tickling our brain, sometimes it’s a rock sitting in our stomach, sometimes it’s a dark cloud messing with our mood for days on end. But it’s always there.
It’s what brings the tears.