By Sophia Franco
Managing Editor of Features
In my sophomore year at South, I was fortunate enough to participate in Close Up, a program that provides guided tours and learning opportunities in Washington DC for students from across the country. I, along with a group of about 12 other students from South, spent one week in March touring the historic and beautiful city. Our stay included attending speaker series, taking trips to Capitol Hill, and even getting a chance to meet our congresspeople. As a lover of all things political, I couldn’t have been more thrilled.
Not only were we getting to know the political process through lessons about the past, we were getting to watch it unfold in real time on the hill. My favorite moment of the whole trip was meeting Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. She was dynamic, intelligent, and funny, everything I believed a good politician should be. She took time to answer some questions and I got to ask one that had been on my mind for many years.
“Why is it that the US is one of the few remaining developed nations that has never had a women president?”
She paused for a moment then gave her answer. She spoke of how even she, in the true blue state of Massachusetts, had been told she couldn’t be senator, that voters wouldn’t be accepting enough. She spoke of overcoming the odds, of proving her detractors wrong. She spoke of winning, and of hope. As a women then aspiring to be a politician, it was everything I hoped to hear.
On the final day of the trip, our group convened in a shopping center where we perused cheap chachkas that would serve as mementos for our visit. It was then that my friend and I spotted a display for baby onesies. We smiled at the adorable clothes, that is until we read the words embroidered on them. On a dark gray one, the words “Future President” were stitched in red and blue above an image of the flag. Innocuous enough. It was the onesie displayed next to it that caught our eye. This one was light pink with hot pink stitching. Everything was the same as the first one, except for the message. Instead of reading “Future President”, this onesie read “Future First Lady.”
Of course there were many things wrong with this display, but the worst part of the experience was the fact that it took us several minutes to register the subtle sexism being marketed. Not only did it become apparent that the seemingly gender neutral gray was intended only for boys, it was also clear that being the designers saw nothing wrong with the idea that girls’ highest aspiration should be to marry a successful man, and not to be successful themselves.
In spite of this somewhat disheartening experience, my friend and I were still able to hold our heads high, and walk away with the final laugh. After all, they’d have to change those onesies in two years when our first female president, Hillary Clinton, was elected. We were confident that our country was ready for change.
Obviously, we were wrong.
After the election, I was hit with the full range of emotions one would expect upon learning that their country was filled to the brim with anger and hatred. I was furious that a person who I thought was a blatantly bigoted and incompetent man could be awarded the honor of the presidency. I was heart broken that a woman I’d been rooting for for years had been stopped dead in her tracks by a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic real estate diva. I was scared for my friends in minority and oppressed groups who could very well soon become victims of government turned against them. And, yes, I was sad that my 240 year old country had yet to elect a female leader.
That being said, I can’t say I’m pleased with the recent attempts to empower women made on news sites and social media accounts. “Maybe you’ll be the first female president,” someone hoping to be encouraging wrote on the whiteboard in the girl’s locker room. While I understand the intention I must say this:
I don’t want my granddaughter to be the first woman president. I don’t want my daughter to be the first woman president. I don’t want to be the first woman president. There have been more than enough women who have passed through the halls of Congress, more competent than the man poised to assume office in January. I will not be settling for getting a woman president in 40 or 30 or 20 years. I wanted one last week. I want one now.
However, seeing as the 2016 election is over, I’m setting my eyes on 2020, a year which I believe holds the possibility of redemption. In the meantime, I’ll be rooting for women currently in office– from Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, to Tammy Baldwin and Kate Brown, to Tammy Duckworth and Kamala Harris, to Pramila Jayapal and Lisa Blunt Rochester and Stephanie Murphy and every woman in between.
In the words of Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton, “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.”