But I am a woman...
Published: Jun 7, 2008 by Maria Gwyn McDowell
On May 20th, 12:56 am, I complete my Oregon Ballot, and cast my vote in the Democratic Primary. I was so conflicted that I left the presidential candidates for last. I actually sealed both the envelopes (in Oregon, we do a mail in ballot, one envelope for ballot secrecy, the other to mail) and was doing dishes when I realized that I had completely forgotten to fill in my little bubble for president. I opened the envelopes carefully, stared once again at my choices, and cast my vote. I rather sadly sealed my envelope, signed the seal so they would know that it had not been tampered with (and actually called the ballot office the next day to make sure I did it correctly, in time to run down and fill out a new ballot if necessary), and the next day, dropped it in the A-Boy parking lot drop-box.
Along with many other Oregonians, I voted for Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton. I have many reasons for that choice. But it was, and still is, a sad choice. I am a feminist, and I did not vote for the first female candidate for President (I wasn’t old enough to vote for Geraldine, but I remember her running! Besides, it was for vice-president). I think race mattered (and will continue to do so) and I think sex mattered, both in complicated, sometimes ugly, and often unconscious ways. I can’t quite escape the feeling that I lost something, that I compromised a value I to which I am deeply committed, the full participation of women according to their real gifts, not merely those perceived by blind tradition and ancient stereotypes. I still think my reasons for choosing Barack are good, and I will stand by them. I only hope that what Hillary says below comes true, that we really can “build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us.”
When I was asked what it means to be a woman running for President, I always gave the same answer: that I was proud to be running as a woman but I was running because I thought I’d be the best President. But I am a woman, and like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious. I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us. I ran as a daughter who benefited from opportunities my mother never dreamed of. I ran as a mother who worries about my daughter’s future and a mother who wants to lead all children to brighter tomorrows. To build that future I see, we must make sure that women and men alike understand the struggles of their grandmothers and mothers, and that women enjoy equal opportunities, equal pay, and equal respect. Let us resolve and work toward achieving some very simple propositions: There are no acceptable limits and there are no acceptable prejudices in the twenty-first century. You can be so proud that, from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories, unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the President of the United States. And that is truly remarkable. To those who are disappointed that we couldn’t go all the way – especially the young people who put so much into this campaign – it would break my heart if, in falling short of my goal, I in any way discouraged any of you from pursuing yours. Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in. When you stumble, keep faith. When you’re knocked down, get right back up. And never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on. As we gather here today in this historic magnificent building, the 50th woman to leave this Earth is orbiting overhead. If we can blast 50 women into space, we will someday launch a woman into the White House. Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it. And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time. That has always been the history of progress in America. Think of the suffragists who gathered at Seneca Falls in 1848 and those who kept fighting until women could cast their votes. Think of the abolitionists who struggled and died to see the end of slavery. Think of the civil rights heroes and foot-soldiers who marched, protested and risked their lives to bring about the end to segregation and Jim Crow. Because of them, I grew up taking for granted that women could vote. Because of them, my daughter grew up taking for granted that children of all colors could go to school together. Because of them, Barack Obama and I could wage a hard fought campaign for the Democratic nomination. Because of them, and because of you, children today will grow up taking for granted that an African American or a woman can yes, become President of the United States.