There's no good reason why Hillary Clinton shouldn't be allowed to write a book about the 2016 presidential election. Likewise, there's no good reason why she shouldn't be able to promote that book. But Clinton's What Happened book tour is killing me, forcing us all to reexamine exactly what happened in November 2016.
Let's get the question of Clinton's permission to write and promote a book about the election out of the way. A lot of people with veiled or not-so-veiled sexist mindsets don't think Clinton should have written this book. These individuals are, well, idiots, if you ask me. If anything, Clinton should've been encouraged to write this book. Like it or not, 2016 was a historic election. Donald Trump aside, Clinton was the first female presidential nominee of a major party in the United States. That's monumental. So history needs to hear her perspective. And considering the election of Trump, history really needs to hear Clinton's perspective. To argue otherwise would be to wholly misunderstand how the study of history works. I mean, if everyone with a Twitter account is allowed to voice their opinion about what went down in 2016, why should Clinton be denied that? Do you really think she's less informed on the topic than you, or me, or anyone else?
It's also pretty much the norm that when you run for elected office, you write a book, whether or not you win or lose (but definitely if you lose). These books may not all be literary masterpieces, but that doesn't stop the pattern. Why should Clinton be treated any different? And of course, after writing and publishing her side of the story, she should be free to promote said book. That's what you do when you write a book.
For those who remain unconvinced, however, and request that Clinton "shut up" and "let the Democratic party move forward," it seems like everyone needs a reminder that she was the one who won the Democratic primary election. She still has a voice, and clearly she has a place in the Democratic party's path. Stop trying to silence a woman because she makes you uncomfortable. And finally, on the question of whether or not Clinton needs the public's permission to do anything? Allow me: Clinton is an America citizen with rights to free speech, and she can use it as such. A book is a way for Clinton to have command over her words and her story, more so than she would have in an interview or a speech. She has a story to tell -- and an important one at that -- and she has every right to tell it.
Here's where things get tricky. Despite my support for her to write and promote What Happened, I find myself wishing that Clinton would just stop it all.
Nov. 8, 2016 was traumatizing for a swath of the country. The unexpected presidential results that came in that night verified a lot of truths about the United States I did not want to face (and that I had the luxury of not having to face). The reality that a majority of the Electoral College would be OK with promoting a man with no political experience who pushed a racist conspiracy theory against the country's first black president, used language applauded by white supremacists, and bragged about "grabbing women by the p*ssy" was a punch in the stomach.
Leaving Clinton HQ at the Javits Center in New York City after 2 a.m. on Election Night, I was heartbroken, shaken, and terrified. As a young woman -- and especially as a young female journalist -- I felt like the country endorsed making me a target for physical and sexually violent attacks. Of course, as a woman, I pretty much always feel that threat, but it was considerably heightened by the endorsement of Trump. Reports from my female journalist friends leaving the Javits Center didn't do much to assuage those fears either:
Other accounts of discriminatory harassment in those post-election days followed:
In the weeks that followed Election Night, that increased terror was paired with a feeling of existential rejection. By voting for Trump, people implicitly rejected the progress of women by stopping the possibility of a first female president. They also implicitly rejected the rights of refugees -- like the brave individuals I'd met months earlier -- and immigrants -- like my family and my friends and their families. This was made clear with Trump's "Muslim ban" and limit on refugees' entrance to the United States. They rejected the rhetoric of love and kindness for all people, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, and immigration status, which was the platform Clinton ran on.
As a straight, cisgender white woman, I'm privileged to not be personally threatened by these policies. In an imbalanced exchange, I have to contend with the 53 percent of white women who voted for Trump, a data point that continues to baffle and shame me.
On an individual level, I felt as if everything I had done at work for the previous year was a waste. I busted my ass going around the country, following the election and writing over and over again that Trump's rhetoric was dangerous and that he should not be trusted to help anyone but himself. I pushed for better voter registration efforts and urged millennials to go vote. All the while, I was reporting on reproductive rights and the very real threat they face every day -- and how we have to do everything possible to protect those rights, especially in the Supreme Court, which meant starting with the presidential election. And then Trump made an enemy out of my chosen profession and reminded us that nobody really cares about facts.
The results of the election made me feel like no one was paying attention to anything I was saying, so why bother? I fell into a malaise through the winter, wondering why anything was worth any effort. It's not like I was ever going to be able to achieve anything real as a woman anyways, no matter how hard I tried. That's what the election taught me. (And, again, as a white person, I realize my privilege in having that hope to begin with, and I realize the privilege inherent in this election being the thing to make me really and truly know that America is not all that great.)
In the months since, I've recovered, to an extent. I got excited about working and putting in an effort again. But now Clinton is forcing us all to relive November 2016, and I feel myself slipping back.
On top of dredging up the old, frustrating intra-party Bernie Sanders fights that reek of internalized misogyny as well as bringing back petty slings from Trump, Clinton's reminding me of all those rejections, the heartbreak, the fear. She's reminding me of that lesson, that no matter what I do, it won't be worth it in the end, because this remains a patriarchal country, and that glass ceiling is still up there, mocking me.
I want to end this on a positive note. I want to tell you that Clinton reminding us of these feelings is a spur to keep up the work, keep fighting for rights and humanity, keep pushing at that ceiling -- progress takes time. But the truth is that all she's doing is making me want to give up again. I selfishly wish she would've stayed in the woods, so I could've kept pushing these thoughts out of my memory.