Yesterday evening, I watched a woman accept a major party’s nomination for President of the United States for the first time in history. I cried. My friend, sitting next to me on the couch, cried. We were so moved to see a woman that represented the things we try to be — strong, discerning, hard-working — stand onstage and speak to us in a way that no other candidate had.
You know what was completely bittersweet about that moment? That I’d had to defend my joy all week. That each and every time I opened my mouth to say, wow, this is meaningful for women and the men who stand with them, and I’m so glad to be living through it, there was someone there — whether a Bernie diehard or a third party supporter or a conservative friend or an internet troll — to say: Here’s a reason why you don’t get to be excited. Here’s a thing she did wrong in 1998. Here’s a community she hasn’t fully shown up for. She’s a warmonger. She’s just the nominee. Did you hear about her emails? (Yes. Five hundred times.)
So let me set the record straight, for everyone who hears a woman say it’s meaningful to her that a woman was nominated for President — something which has not happened in the 240 years since the colonies declared their independence — and says in response: “Yes, but.…”
This is not your moment.
When you’re used to having power look like you, it’s baffling to live in a moment that isn’t yours. It’s hard to parse. My friend last night said: “I think some people don’t understand how revolutionary it is to watch Hillary not just refuse to apologize for being a woman, but to own it.”
I disagree. I think there are two groups of people who say “Yes, but.” One consists of those who understand exactly how revolutionary it is, and it scares the hell out of them when power doesn’t take their shape. The other consists of those who believe celebrating Hillary’s achievement, and what that achievement means for our country, is equivalent to offering a full-slate endorsement of her policy positions.
Let me be very clear on what celebrating this historic moment means:
— It’s incredible and long overdue to see a woman accept the presidential nomination.
— It’s meaningful for me to hear that woman’s capacity, qualifications, and hard work be publicly praised by powerful people of all genders.
— It moves me that, in this campaign, she didn’t downplay her gender in order to fit the mold of what a president has been in the past.
— I gratefully recognize that we walk on a path paved by those women who go before us. We walk on a path trod by my mother, and grandmother, and friends, and aunts, and Susan B. Anthony, and Lilly Ledbetter, and Audre Lorde, and bell hooks, and millions of other strong women and male allies. Hillary Clinton’s grit is shared by many women of her generation who have pushed for greater parity between the sexes. They have worked and continue to work so hard to get a seat at the table.
— A woman just sat at the head of the table.
Here's what it does not mean.
— That, by marking this moment, I approve of everything Hillary has ever done, said, or believed.
— That, by marking this moment, I am trivializing the work and views of Senator Bernie Sanders or third party candidates.
— That, by marking this moment, I am in total agreement with the Democratic party platform.
In his speech on Wednesday night, President Obama said: “Look, Hillary's got her share of critics. She has been caricatured by the right and by some on the left… But she knows that's what happens when you're under a microscope for 40 years. She knows she's made mistakes, just like I have, just like we all do. That's what happens when we try.”
For me, that’s the most meaningful part of the nomination. Hillary has struggled in public. She has never made it look easy. She always makes it look hard. This is one of the things she’s roundly criticized for: her indefatigable attention to detail. Oh and yes, for her intensity, and her transparent determination.
You know why she made the path to being the first female presidential nominee of a major party look so hard? Because it was hard.
Regardless of how you feel about Hillary, I encourage you to recognize the significance of this moment. It will not come again.
And if you still refuse to acknowledge the moment, fine. But at least let us have it.
Batchelor Warnke is an intern in The Times' Opinion section. Follow her on Twitter @velvetmelvis.
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