THE WEEK AFTER
On January 6th, 1920, the 19th Amendment was signed and women’s right to vote was established. Nearly 100 years later, we still have not “shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling” of electing a female president. To the shock and chagrin of so many of us, that glass ceiling, referred to by Hillary Clinton on the achingly painful morning of November 9th, remains. Yet dignity prevailed in Clinton’s concession speech and a powerful note was struck––women of today and tomorrow must not give up hope, nor cease believing that all opportunities will one day be equally available to them. The dream must not die.
As I reflect on the nation’s missed opportunity to elect the first female president, I emerge from this election cycle with a redoubled commitment to the mission of gender parity in our political system. Now more than ever, the relevance of Power in Place is clear. We have a mandate to nurture and sustain the hope Secretary Clinton so poignantly referred to in her departing speech.
Regardless of one’s party affiliation, we can all agree that the nation is better off for the fact that a woman dared to ascend to the highest of all political offices. Secretary Clinton proved that women can possess the leadership qualities of tenacity, competency, endurance, intelligence and coalition building on par with their male counterparts.
Most importantly, Hillary Clinton has become a vital role model. Her historic run has brought forth in us a desire to confront gender politics and political parity. She made us hunger for a nation where women are represented as equals at the seat of power. She has brought forth in us a need to empower our daughters by allowing them to believe in the acceptability of ambition and confidence in all endeavors under the sun.
The current zeitgeist of female empowerment was very evident on election day. Facebook was awash with images of moms and dads bringing their children (and especially their girls) to the polls. They wanted them to be included in an historic moment and let them behold a woman’s name printed on the ballot for President of the United States. They wanted them to know that their names could be there too, someday.
Here is a sampling of posts from my dear girlfriends from childhood. They are women who not only choose to have a family but also continue on as professionals in the workplace—a successful doctor, a news producer, and an advertising executive. All very inspirational women and true role models for girls and young women alike!!!
"We waited to fill out our ballots (Oregon has all mail-in ballots) until the girls got up the Saturday before the election. Since we felt this was so historic, to vote for the first time ever for a woman for president, we wanted our 5-year-old daughters to be a part of it. Each girl filled in the circle for Hillary Clinton. We told them one day it could be them."
––Alison Conlin, MD MPH Medical Oncologist, Portland, OR
The girls (and women) in these photographs are exactly who Secretary Clinton was reassuring when she dedicated her presidential run "To all the young women who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion... And to all the little girls watching right now, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world."
Images and their attached stories have a transformative effect. The photographs of Hillary Clinton as the first major party nominee will seep into our collective psyche and challenge us to create a more equitable society. Images of women in political leadership, especially within our communities, help us envision ourselves in positions of political influence. The unofficial credo of PiP, "If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” sums up the heart of Power in Place. Whether we like it or not, the younger generation is increasingly communicating with itself through images. That’s why it is so important to reach girls through a medium that speaks with immediacy to them, crafted with positive reinforcement, dignity, and aspiration, and existing in contrast to the constant deluge of demeaning and limiting imagery of the commodity culture.
Finally, with a heavy heart but a newly affirmed sense of duty, I roll up my sleeves (along with the PiP team, and hopefully with all of you, our amazing supporters!), and continue the work at Power in Place––Women in American Politics and Settings of Inspiration.