I wasn’t all in for Hillary from the get go. But in the months leading up to the election, I made up my mind and once I did that my passion ignited. A spark was lit that had sat dormant in me for years. I am a feminist! I had all but forgotten.
I was raised on Marlo Thomas’ Free to be You and Me record and book set, its gender-smashing message woven into the fabric of my identity. As a little girl, I fantasized about independence. When I played house, I wasn’t married with kids. I was a working woman who had bought the place myself. As an undergraduate, I studied Women’s Studies at UC Berkeley, earning a minor from that newly formed academic department (along with a Political Science major).
In my daydreams, I wasn’t rich or beautiful or sexy; I was taken seriously. I commanded respect. I went on to earn two Master’s Degrees, the second at night while I worked full time.
I moved to Washington, D.C. and began building a career. My first boss made promotion decisions based on who played in his pick-up games of basketball, to which no female employees were ever invited. I got bitter. Then I got a better job.
Aside from issues, I didn’t like how Trump treated Hillary, how he kept blurting “Wrong!” while she was talking. I found him creepy, disrespectful. The 10-point scale he applies to women based on looks? That crap he said about Heidi Klum no longer being “a 10” now that she’s over 40? Wrong!
I thought women would be the backbone of Hillary supporters. But in the aftermath of the presidential election, it is clear that the one group that could have propelled Hillary Clinton to victory is the one to which she belongs and the one that seems to have failed her most spectacularly: white women. The majority of white women did not vote for Hillary Clinton (43 percent to 53 percent). Our younger counterparts are not to blame. Clinton won women 18 to 29 years old 63 percent to 31 percent.
The problem appears to have been with white women, like myself and Heidi Klum, who are dancing around middle age. I sat in a stupor all day Wednesday. It was like I’d had a stroke and the world no longer made sense. My first thought when my synapses began to fire again was: traitors! How could these women turn their backs on the progress of the women’s movement? We had inherited greater equality and rights from the work of Hillary’s generation. Now what of our legacy?
I knew I had to talk to these women—for my own sanity if nothing else. I want to understand and accept points of view other than my own. A None’s Story is based on this bridge-building approach. In it, I worship with people of numerous faiths, including fundamentalists. Many of the people I encountered could not have been more different from me and, yet, I managed to maintain an open mind. I had emerged with respect for their beliefs.
Somehow, this felt like an even greater challenge.
I put a call on Facebook for anyone with ties to a white woman who voted for Trump. Immediately, contact information began to flood in. I quickly had three interviews set up for Thursday, three more on Friday, and several since. These have been in-depth conversations, lasting anywhere from one to almost three hours. My focus has been women born in the 50s, 60s, and—like me—70s.
Mary was born in 1953. She has been a small business owner for 30 years. Most of that time, she had a little shop where she built custom art frames. She struggled to make ends meet but three years ago her prospects began to look rosier when she opened a retail marijuana store in Washington State. She is divorced and chose not to have children. She says she’s not crazy about the word “feminist” but admits that her life and choices are in line with those ideals.
In Trump’s impulsiveness, Mary sees her own. He says things that are stupid sometimes and she does the same. Her mouth has gotten her in trouble all her life. She says her vote had nothing to do with gender, though she does admit that whatever mystery lurks in a man is less mysterious than what you might find in a woman.
Mary and I approached the conversation from such different angles. Where I saw in Clinton a powerful and hardworking woman, she saw a member of the “old boys club” who had gotten rich greasing palms and patting backs. Where I saw a dangerously deranged billionaire; she saw a vulnerable underdog. Bogus businessman; a guy who reinvented and rebuilt his empire again and again. Tax dodger; money smarts.
I was at the looking glass. Beyond was a world where the translation for statements I knew to be true sounded like gibberish.
Could I listen until it made sense?