Recently I was added to a secret group. It’s a group of women (and men) who are #WithHer. And by with her, I mean with Hillary. But even more than that, they are with every HER that is part of the group.
Members run the gamut between long time Hillary supporters (raising hand) to those who swung their legs down onto her side of the fence after watching the debates to those who have been life-long Republicans who are broken-hearted, disgusted, or tired of the party they feel has abandoned them. Not just abandoned them, but actively thrown them under the bus. Then backed that bus up over them for good measure.
It’s a place of positivity, of sharing, of leaning in and shoring up. In the few days I’ve been a member I’ve read countless stories of mothers, grandmothers and daughters, of women across religion, class, color, age.
There are stories of women who fought their way out of abusive marriages. Women who have had to battle sexism in the workplace, in university. Stories of the little girl who had to fight to get the shoe salesman to sell her the boy’s shoes she wanted and women who had to reassure medical school boards that their husbands didn’t mind the fact they would be more ‘important’. Women who weren’t allowed to have a bank account in their own name…until the 1980s. Women who have been and still are held to different standards.
You read one or two or ten of these stories and they send a little trill up your spine. Sisterhood is powerful. Then you keep scrolling.
There are hundreds. Stories of sexual assault, stories of triumph, stories of woman after woman after woman putting her head down and doing whatever needed to be done to keep a roof over her head, to keep her kids safe, to keep food on the table, to stay alive. There are stories of fathers telling their six year-old daughters they could be anything as well as stories in which a father tells his daughter that despite her own sexual assault he’s still going to vote for a candidate who has been accused of doing the same to someone else’s daughter.
It’s bad enough when your political party throws you under the bus. When a family member has their foot on the gas? Is it any wonder the group is secret?
Another reason? Women who live in red states, who are terrified of announcing public support for Hillary Clinton. Women who in past elections have had their homes targeted. Who have been harassed because of a bumper sticker. Women who have been screamed at and yelled at, disowned by relatives, harassed online by ‘well-meaning friends’, accosted by strangers.
Over their vote.
And so they are doing what women have been doing since the beginning of time. Meeting in secret, like a coven of witches. Playing their cards close to their chest, keeping their heads down. They are staying out of the public eye, not because they don’t feel strongly or passionately, but because they are ensuring their safety, whether that safety is real or metaphorical.
Less than one-hundred years after American women were granted the right to vote, there are thousands and thousands of women who need to keep their votes, and therefore their power, secret. Secret from husbands or fathers or relatives or bosses who at best, simply don’t listen, but who at worst, could do serious damage. One woman told a story of her own mother, whose mail-in ballot is controlled and overseen by her abusive husband. She is not the only one, not by a longshot.
There is a reason why ballots are secret. The fact that women are being harassed for holding a political view which dares to differ from their spouse or family or neighbors or employer or church is only one of them. And so just like our great-grandmother witches, women are keeping that power to themselves, unleashing it when they need to.
The need for secrecy is both surprising and yet not at all so. Women know their right to a ballot is powerful. Men know it too. It’s why it was withheld for so long. It’s why when the electoral map showed how the race would turn out if only women voted, #repealthe19th started to trend on Twitter. Smart men and women know they need to factor women’s issues into their politics. Smart men and women know that ignoring the power of those ballots is a risky venture.
At the end of the day , Hillary Club is overwhelmingly supportive and strengthening, blessedly free of words like Benghazi and Wikileaks and Bill. There are political discussions, pros, cons, concerns and discourse. No one believes Hillary Clinton is the Messiah. No one believes she is perfection wrapped up in a white pantsuit, her nod to the suffragette movement. No, Hillary Club is like hanging out with 100,000 of the best friends you’ve never met all in one place, with one common goal. But don’t be fooled. That goal is not only to elect Hillary Clinton, but to say, my voice matters too and my vote counts. Ignore it at your peril.
The last time I checked, there were 125K members of this secret group. And it was growing by about 6,000 an hour. And this is only one group. There are others.
If there is as big a gender gap in the polls as they are predicting, don’t be fooled. It’s not because the Democrats are recruiting the walking dead to cast a vote. No. For hundreds of thousands of women, the vote for Hillary Clinton is not rigged, but righteous.