Two women, both young and white and fond of hair accessories, were captured at the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia, as they let the flood gates open and publicly discharged an avalanche of tears as Bernie Sanders took the stage.
Both are named Jessica and are from Iowa. One of the Jessicas had a Go Fund Me page to raise money to send her to the DNC explicitly to cheer for Bernie, the candidate who had, days earlier, seceded his seat and zealously endorsed Hillary.
“Help Jesica carry out her mission; help her make Bernie the DNC nominee for President,” the fundraising page read. “She was/is the most active, most passionate, most deserving SUPER volunteer to represent Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention.”
The fundraising page revealed the warped egos that allowed the Jessicas to believe that somehow two young girls from the Midwest could usurp the democratic process and crown their man Bernie king. The whole thing stunk of something that resembled a Frankenstein meets LSD version of social activism.
Jessica Fears and Jesica Butler were clearly millennials with some semblance of social awareness since they were moved to latch onto the likes of an old white man with socialist ideals who has been a cog in the democratic wheel since before the Jessicas’ parents were born, but the truth is, they are sorely misguided.
When I was a kid, I was taught to respect the President of the United States and the democratic process. Sure, I went through part of my youth – when I wasn’t completely self-absorbed in the social stirrings of my own little world – believing that the system was fucked and that the only way we could truly create the kind of country that would care for everyone was to burn the whole damn thing to the ground and start over again. Only I knew that wouldn’t happen unless something catastrophic, more disruptive than 9/11, the world’s most intense hurricane with Washington D.C. at the epicenter, or the election of a fascist liar would create. I didn’t cry. I didn’t try to change the system from within the system.
Perhaps more importantly, as a kid I knew that becoming president wasn’t an option. I knew I probably wouldn’t become a CEO either. Or a pilot. Or a famous professional athlete. Those positions were reserved for men. And although I watched my incredibly strong and intelligent and beautiful mother rise through the ranks in her career and be the boss of our house, I also knew there was always a man who out-ranked her. I knew she was the one who cooked and cleaned and packed our lunches and attended our school plays and awards ceremonies. And my dad was the one who sat on the couch and watched TV. He cooked dinner once in a while, but it was usually steak on the BBQ. How stereotypical.
As irony would have it, now that we’re facing perhaps the most critical moment for women’s rights, one in which the ground work has been laid by countless subjugated women empowered by the notion of equality who came before us, the youngest female voters have dropped the torch on Hillary’s feet. They don’t see the pivotal moment in front of us. They don’t understand that their tears shouldn’t be ones of sadness over another white man in power, but years of joy that a woman finally beat out a white man for the highest seat in the house.
Women still make 79 cents on the dollar, which means we earn hundreds of thousands of dollars less than men in a lifetime. Only 4% of all Fortune 500 CEOs are women. And we still get raped and molested and harassed in startling high numbers – one in six women will wear this badge of shame – and we’re often made to feel like it’s somehow our fault. We’re expected to take us less space than men, have a quieter affect, balance careers and lead our families without complaining – all traits that take us farther away from leadership positions.
These statistics are appalling for a Western nation, especially the richest one in the world. Other countries are embarrassed for us. In Michael Moore’s new documentary, “Where to Invade Next,” he sits down with three business leaders from Iceland – all women – who describe just how equal their culture is. Their first female president was elected in 1980; they elected the world’s first openly lesbian president in 2009. There are equal numbers of men and women in positions of power in Iceland, and a woman can truly strive to be anything she wants with no gender barriers. One of the business leaders, when asked what message she had for Americans, said with disdain in her voice that she would never move to the U.S., no matter what she was offered.
She also said something that struck a deep note in me and jostled me into awareness about just how far away we are from true gender equality in the U.S. She said that one woman in the room isn’t enough. One woman is a token, two are a minority, and that it’s not until you have three women in the board room that you truly have the ability for women to influence decision-making.
If Hillary becomes the first female president, if parents and teachers and mentors really do start talking to our boys about how to respect women, and if women continue to rise in the ranks with our assertiveness respected rather than characterized as shrill, then we have something to be hopeful about. We’ve come a long way from being men’s legal property, powerless against decisions made on our behalf, but we haven’t yet arrived. Men are still filling the majority of seats in Congress and voting on laws that govern our bodies. Men are still occupying the vast majority of leadership positions in business. And men are still raping women and getting away with it. And men are still making young women cry, convincing them that somehow they know best how to rule over our bodies, our minds, and our souls.
Jessicas, please wipe your tears and open your eyes. Let’s carry the torch of equality all the way to the finish line. The White House is ours for the taking.