For a minute there, it did really look like history was in the making. The polls and the mood seemed aligned. The election night party Hillary Clinton had planned at the glass-ceilinged Jacob K. Javits convention center in New York City was filled with women—mothers and grandmothers and little girls wearing campaign logo pins.
There were grounds to believe that America could and would elect a woman to its highest office, especially when the choice was so easy: On the one side, the single most qualified candidate in recent memory, perhaps in all of US history; on the other, an almost unpresentable contestant, with such a profound lack of decency and respect—for women, for minorities, for people with disabilities, you name it. Surely, this was a no-brainer.
And it should have been—it would have been—had Clinton been a man.
Had she been a man, there would have been no questions about her likability. Had she been a man, the scrutiny of the many years of her public service would have focused on her outstanding list of accomplishments, and not focused on the things she got wrong.
But America would rather have a president who calls its women pigs than elect a woman. It would rather vote for a man who brags about sexual assault and unapologetically objectifies other people, rather than vote for a woman who has spent her life trying to convince her country, and the world, that “women’s rights are human rights.”
And so, there was no big feminist party for the women who had hoped tonight would be their night. No party for years to come, but instead a rude awakening: This election wasn’t lost to the men in their country; it was lost—and this is where it hurts the most—to the women, too.
Women all over America voted for Trump in enough numbers to see him to victory. In doing so, they have condoned everything that Trump stands for, and have absolved a sexist society (and a xenophobic, homophobic one) of its ills. They have shown that they have, if not a lack of respect of their own rights, then a sense that their own rights are not their most important priority.
Never mind the feminist excitement, the enthusiastic voting in pantsuits, the stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s tomb. The possibility of a female US president was never all that close. It now it will be at least four more years before America can prove it again.