For those who say the 2016 presidential election shouldn't be about gender, here's a history lesson for you: it has ALWAYS been about gender.
If you're a woman, you have been at a proven and systemic disadvantage since the moment you came into the world, and that disadvantage is even greater if you're a woman of color. The world has looked at you differently, judged you unfairly, and expected more while giving you less. You've been sexualized since childhood, been told "you can't" simply because you're a girl, and there's a decent chance you've been sexually assaulted.
But things weren't always this bad for women. They were far worse.
Less than 100 years ago, women were denied something as simple and fundamental as representation and participation in government. It wasn't until 1964 that women were protected legally from discrimination in the workplace. The right to control our own bodies, a right many take for granted today, wasn't made legal until 1973 after the landmark Supreme Court case known as Roe v. Wade. And until the mid-'70s, men could legally rape their wives in all 50 states. The truth is, women — especially women of color — lived as second-class citizens through most of the 20th century.
Although none of this is news to you, I'm sure, it certainly isn't the world millennial women like me grew up in. Yet many of the less obvious forms of gender discrimination have carried over into the present. In 2016, we still don't have a proportionate number of women in ANY representative government body, women are paid 80 cents to every dollar for equal work, and one in five women will be raped or sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Again, probably not news to you.
Some people — even women like Susan Sarandon, who recently said she wasn't voting with her vagina — hold that this election shouldn't be about gender; it should be about "the issues."
Well, gender is a fucking issue.
When you invest in women, you invest in your country. When women prosper, we all prosper. But above and beyond that, making gender equality a top priority — an issue — is simply a huge part of what this election should be about for you. As Hillary Clinton famously and courageously declared in 1995, “Women's rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.”
This election is most certainly about gender, but it's not Hillary Clinton or any other woman who made it so. It's men who made it so. The male employers who denied jobs to qualified women made it so. The male judge who gave Brock Turner a slap on the wrist for raping an unconscious woman and leaving her naked and bloody behind a dumpster made it so. Donald Trump when he bragged about grabbing women "by the pussy" — simply because he can — made it so.
Since the dawn of time, straight, cis men have given other straight, cis men opportunities that were denied to virtually everyone else. This is the time for women to finally take the equal power they deserve and give a woman — a highly qualified, capable woman — this long-overdue opportunity by voting with and for our gender.
Simply put: It's OK to vote for Hillary just because she's a woman and you're a woman. It's what men have built great power and wealth on. It's what they've been doing all long: putting their gender peers in similar positions of power and wealth.
And it's that kind of patriarchal behavior that has led us to Donald Trump, a man who has built his entire private and now public career on the exploitation of women, using systemic and inherent inequality to profit financially. He has cheated his way out of paying his taxes, directly contributing to inequality by not supporting social programs that many women, children, and families depend on. He has rated women on their appearance. He has bragged about sexual assault. He has approved of his own daughter being called a "piece of ass" — all to further his own brand. Not surprisingly, this man has built a presidential campaign based on gender inequality, tapping into America's deep-rooted misogyny and normalizing it — encouraging it.
I want this country to be gender blind more than anyone else, but here's the harsh reality: WE ARE NOT TREATED EQUALLY. And ignoring gender inequality doesn't just make it go away; it makes it worse. The only one of these two candidates who can effectively combat gender inequality and discrimination is Hillary Rodham Clinton. She gets it in the way only a woman can.
I understand you may not "like" her; you may hate her laugh or her hairstyle or her pantsuits. You may, despite 30 years of the harshest scrutiny anyone in public office has ever faced, think she's "crooked" or belongs in jail. But ask yourself what that's really all about. Ask yourself if she can do the fucking job. If "emails" are all you've got, think harder. What if she had commented on a bus about grabbing men by the cock because she's rich and powerful — what would you have thought? How would our nation have reacted? The unfortunate truth is that we're all a little bit sexist deep down inside, whether we're willing to admit it or even realize it.
The double standards of the sexes are so intrinsic and fundamental to the lessons we teach our children: boys will be boys, but girls must be ladies. So it should come as no surprise that every single thing that Hillary Clinton is — and isn't — is a product of the inequality she experienced growing up as a woman in the middle of the 20th century. If she has blood on her hands, it's only because she had to claw her way to the top of a mountain built by the agents of the hate-filled ideologies we all claim to be against. Considering the struggle it took for her to succeed in a male-dominated world and profession, the fact that all odds were (and still are) stacked against her, how impressive and exciting is it that she's being considered for a job held exclusively by men since the inception of our country?
At the same time, though, how shocking and depressing is it that this has never happened before?
So yeah, this is about gender. And it will continue to be about gender until women are treated 100-percent equally, both on paper and in spirit, and until we finally break through that highest and most elusive glass ceiling of all. If it doesn't happen this time, it will happen eventually, but we have to keep fighting every single day. We have to keep honoring and remembering the plights of all the nasty women who came before us. We have to stick up for each other and stand together against bullies. We have to command the respect we deserve and not settle for anything less because it's what we're used to or think we're worth.
But mostly, we have to keep fighting back against the men who seek to bring us down, denigrate us, reduce us to sexual objects, touch us without consent, and try to make us feel unworthy, stupid, less than. No matter what happens on Tuesday night, we must keep fighting men like Donald Trump. And when I vote tomorrow, I'll be doing it with that exact issue in mind.