The annual Election Day tradition of posting stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s grave in Rochester, N.Y. gained international attention this year. After all, this was the year we were supposed to elect our first female president. People lined up for hours to pay tribute to our hometown hero who helped secure women’s right to vote. This was a special, long-awaited moment.
Something didn’t feel right. I tweeted my misgivings about the massive celebration at Mt. Hope Cemetery. There was no joy in my heart about going to the polls the next day.
Easy to put a sticker on a grave. Harder to change culture that often questions women who want to get involved in politics beyond voting.
— Rachel Barnhart (@rachbarnhart) November 7, 2016
Maybe Clinton lost because she’s a woman. Maybe she didn’t. We all know she was a flawed candidate. That’s not the point. The point is that during this campaign, Clinton faced the same sexism women face every day in America.
A Clinton win wouldn’t have erased what happened during the campaign. A Clinton win wouldn’t have prevented other women from enduring sexism when they jump into politics or seek a promotion. Just as Barack Obama’s presidency didn’t end racism, a Clinton presidency wouldn’t have ended sexism.
In America, it’s okay to demean women candidates. Republicans and Democrats engage in this behavior. Men and women are guilty.
“Trump that bitch.”
“Such a nasty woman.”
“She’s likable enough.”
Entitled. Power-hungry. Ambitious. Corrupt. Controlled. Bitch.
We don’t question the motivations of men who seek political office. But we pick apart women. It doesn’t seem natural for women to seek power, so she must be up to no good. Women are held to a different standard. Women pay a heavier price when they’re attacked or they falter.
The worst part of this kind of sexism is it’s not always easy to see. Good people who believe in equality can be guilty of devaluing women — myself included. Gender tropes are insidious in our culture.
I’m enormously proud to live in a city that cherishes a feminist icon. There’s no doubt Anthony would have loved to see all those women lined up at her grave. But Anthony would have been the first person to tell the hopeful throngs that their work is not done.
Anthony said in 1893, “It is because women have been taught always to work for something else than their own personal freedom; and the hardest thing in the world is to organize women for the one purpose of securing their political liberty and political equality.”
Use those stickers to stick together.
My book, Broad, Casted explores the role of gender in my journalism career and campaign for state assembly. It is available in print and digital editions.