Dear Hillary

Let me start with the polarizing part of all this. This is not about the election. This it not about politics. That said, let’s get all that out of the way before you jump to some conclusions about the intent of this.

I did not vote for Hilary Clinton. I did not vote for Donald Trump. I did vote for Gary Johnson, a vote I cast knowing full well that Johnson had zero chance of becoming president. Further, I didn’t vote for Johnson because I wanted him to be president – frankly I didn’t – I voted for him because, based on my values, I knew I had to vote. It’s a right that I refuse to take for granted. I also knew – again, based on my values and my political views – that I could not vote for either Clinton or Trump. Frankly, I didn’t vote for Clinton because I disagree with her political views. I – like most women – don’t have the luxury to vote based on gender. I didn’t vote for Trump because the way he conducted himself, and many of the views he expressed did not align with my values. I voted for Johnson to vote against Trump and Hillary, and to express my dislike for the two party system. Period. 

Alright. Can we calmly move past that? Because, like I said, I’m not writing this to talk my political preferences. This isn’t about why I didn’t vote for Clinton. This isn’t about Clinton’s qualifications. This definitely isn’t about Trump. Let me say that again. I’m not writing this about the election, or as a critique of a candidate. We’ve seen so much of that this week, and it’s so exhausting. And, really, that’s all a very different conversation. I’m writing this because it’s something personal that I just have to get it off my chest, so I can move forward. This is about me.

Dear Mrs. Clinton,

In your recent concession speech, you said:

And to all the little girls who are watching this; never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance in the world to pursue your dreams.

This quote has wallpapered social media, as many of your supporters try to work though the loss of what could have been. It’s a powerful message, and I’m glad you said it. However, every time I read it, I want to cry, and not for the reasons you probably are thinking.

Hearing these words, from your voice, makes me think back to when I was little girl. Specifically, it makes me think back to the first time I felt betrayed by a political figure. It was 1998, and I was nine years old. I was playing in our home office, while my mom worked. She worked from home for most of childhood, balancing the worlds of motherhood and professional obligations. The radio was on, and we were listening to news. I remember this particular day because they were reporting breaking news. They were reporting about how your husband, the President of the United States, had an affair and lied about it.

As an adult, I find myself thinking back to the challenge that my mom must have faced in that moment. How do you explain this to a nine-year old girl? Certainly, while I don’t remember her actual words, though I remember she focused on the lie instead of the sexual part. People are mad because he lied. It’s not ok to lie. I’m sure she told me that he cheated on his wife, and lied about it. I’m sure she did not get into the graphic details that we are all so familiar with. The dress. Her age. His power. 

I’m sure my mom was upset, and angry, but I don’t remember her emotions. However, I remember mine. I remember feeling like my heart was broken. I felt betrayed. I had liked the president, I had believed in the good of our government (after all I was only nine, I didn’t know better). I remember going to my room, and finding my Presidential Fitness Test certificate – something that I had cherished, it was from the president!!  – and scribbling out your husband’s signature. I felt so hurt. I remember this so vividly because it’s the first time I remember feeling such strong, raw emotions over a situation so far away.

Today, it makes me think of all the little girls, and little boys, across the country who are feeling those same – probably stronger – emotions knowing that our country elected someone who says such hateful and ridiculous things. Someone instead of you. But this isn’t about that. Like I said, this is about me.

I’m sure that watching, and then learning about the situation as I aged, your response to your husband’s actions influenced me. Yes, your husband’s actions also influenced me, and my understanding of politics and power and trust and sexism and misogyny. Understandings that still influence me today. However, this letter is to you so I’m going to leave my thoughts about your husband for another day.

Certainly, I had incredible role models in my life and I still grew up to become an adult that knows that I am valuable and powerful and deserving.  Both of my parents were (and are) loving and respectful and kind and empowering. I grew up in a family where I had no idea that my gender might be a limitation, and it wasn’t until college that I consciously realized not everyone felt that way. Today, I am quite successful, though I am still reminded day in and day out about how society limits women. I work for a department where 80% of the staff are women, yet 60% of the people who sit at our highest level of management are men. Anyways, I’m getting off topic.

As I grew up, I vaguely remember hearing updates about the situation – impeachment, Monica, define sexual relations – and learning that you were staying by his side. I had assumed, as a small child, that you would leave him. I was young and certainly did not understand the complicated mess of love and marriage and politics.

Instead, I learned that you would support him, even when he disregarded you. Even when you were public humiliated. Let me be clear, I do not mean to blame you for your husbands actions. If this comes across this way, it is simply a fault of my writing. The choices that Mr. Clinton made are his, and his alone. I also do not mean to say that you should have left him. I understand that I will probably never understand everything that went into that decision. Now that I am married, I can’t even say that I would leave (or stay) if my own husband cheated on me. Relationships are so complicated, and I can understand that I will never understand your specific situation. I respect that you had, and still have, the right to choose how to respond. However, I want you to know that you made a choice – the choice to stay – and that choice impacted me. Remember, this whole thing is really about me.

I learned from your actions. Your actions influenced my understanding of this world. I learned that men are superior, and women are there to support them, no matter what. I learned that “locker room talk” behavior is something we must expect, and tolerate, from men. I learned that women are only valuable and powerful and deserving if a man decides that they are.

Certainly, your actions alone did not impact my future. However, those lessons were rooted into the deep, dark corners of my mind at a young age, and then compounded over and over and over by our societal culture. If you don’t satisfy your boyfriend’s “needs”, he’ll get it from someone else, and that’s on you. How are you supposed to be loved if you can’t keep him happy? How are you supposed to be valued if you aren’t loved? Subconsciously, those messages built themselves up, and impacted my behavior. I’ve had bad relationships because I put up with too much, because I thought that was normal. I’ve been hurt, because I didn’t understand I was valuable enough to walk away.  I’ve past up opportunities, because I did not believe I was deserving. I’ve changed my speech and tone, so that I don’t come across as powerful.

Let me be clear, that’s not on you. It would be ridiculous to imply that was it. However, I want you to know that every time I see your quote –

And to all the little girls who are watching this; never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance in the world to pursue your dreams.

–  it reminds me of that little girl who was hurt by your husband, and influenced your actions. And it makes me want to cry. Where were these words -still meaningless without action to support them – when I was a little girl?

– KK

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