When the Ceiling Doesn’t Shatter

Gif sent to my BFF at 9:12 last night. The feeling persists.

Last night, my husband held me while I wept, realizing that we were not electing our first female president. Instead, we were elevating the unqualified playground bully to the highest elected office in our country.

This morning, I woke up with that nagging feeling that I can’t actually be whatever I set my mind to. My “Who Run the World? Girls!” tank, featuring a drawing of HRC in that iconic shades-on texting photo, seemed so very sad. (It’s also so comfortable.) I asked my husband what we would tell Veronica and Xiomara (our hypothetical daughters–Xiomara won’t stick, but I call dibs on Veronica). I felt so low.

I haven’t posted to Ph.D.s and Pigtails in over a year. In that time, I’ve gotten married, moved twice, finished my Ph.D.–It’s Dr. Pigtails now, thank you–and started a job that I love. I won’t talk about that job here, for security reasons (it’s not as fancy as that sounds), but I feel like I am doing what I am meant to do, even if that’s taken me outside of the academy. The quickest way to make me angry is to remind me in any unintentional way that I worked my ass off to get that Ph.D. in a culture that now so clearly wants nothing to do with intellectuals. Fuck. that. shit.

And yet, I do still have this Ph.D., and a dissertation that I’m quite proud of about girlhood in American literature and citizenship discourses. So, I feel galvanized in my heartache to come back to this space and reflect regularly again about what our culture is telling girls and young women about their possibilities and the value placed on their contributions.

Today, it told them that even if they spend their whole lives working hard and doing the homework and fighting hard for their rights and the rights of others, a grossly less qualified and less principled man can still swoop in and take over. I can’t accept that. I won’t.

I am tired of “outrage culture,” as, I suspect, are many other people. I feel outraged, nonetheless. I have always aimed to avoid knee-jerk reactions and to instead think through implications and contemplate what we could do better.

Today, I am so impressed by the people I know who have written and spoken eloquently about what we can do to change for the better. To be there for those who are vulnerable. To use privilege as a platform for standing up for others. I am hopeful only because I know so many remarkable people who give me hope and who put my anguish into perspective that I am too emotional to see.

I called my sister, who is nearly 13. I told her that I was upset by the election and she seemed not to be terribly bothered herself. Then, as is typical of my sister at this age, we talked about some other, lighter, things for a while, and she circled back to the big issue. She told me people were gloating and yelling in other kids’ faces at school today. Someone had a panic attack. And still, she is not as worried as I am. Most of the kids at school don’t see Donald Trump as a role model. They see him as–in her words–“blech.” That gives me hope.

Today, I am grieving, and taking comfort in the incredible men and women I call friends and colleagues. We have a lot of work to do going forward. I feel so screwed by the cards previous generations have dealt; we owe it to ourselves and to those after us to do better than this.

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