Why should I care as an Indian millennial woman?

Yesterday, for the first time in the last six months of my work life, I went late to work. The US elections were a nail biting start to the day. I waited till 10 am to focus completely on the elections, snatching TV from my business channel obsessed mother, just so I could follow CNN. It was at this point that the crushing Florida defeat was announced. When I finally did reach work, I was refreshing Politico every five minutes. It was essential to do so, because at this point Trump was at the 266 mark. And then, the 101st time I refreshed, I saw the verdict. 276. It was there, in black and white for every one to see. I ran up from my desk to stare at the TV screen in the pantry, just waiting – waiting for Trump to gloat.

I didn’t see his speech. I stormed out of the room when my colleagues started discussing the elections. I didn’t understand why I felt so passionate about it. Historically, it has been proven that Republicans are good for India. Trump, especially is a supporter of India. He does love all “Hindus and Indians” after all. I thought of the various reasons this made me so angry – Hillary Clinton came with her own set of issues, it should not be surprising that there was intense distrust among people. Sure, Trump is racist – his ideas of immigrants and walls definitely put me off. I felt bad for Obama, for all he has done for universal healthcare and for LGBTQ rights. My heart wept for them all. But this was bigger than feeling bad. I was angry. I was frustrated. I wanted to lash out.

Huge disclaimer here: I am a political science student, I can be pretentious if I choose to, I have the millennial confused Centre-Left leanings. So yes, I would be affected as an inquisitive person or as a student of the subject. But it was more than that, for sure. And then I realised it – as I saw Hillary’s concession speech. I was feeling attacked, personally. I don’t think Hilary lost because she was a woman. I think she lost because of who she is as a person and being a woman. It frustrated me to read comments about her private email server and not as much about walls and Mexicans and gays and abortions. I felt personally attacked when I read comments by Republicans talking about the manic look in her eyes. They think she was too keen. She was too ambitious.

How dare she, right? How dare the most qualified woman to stand for office, with decades of experience and years of educational training in the field think that she deserves the position? Why should she be sure of holding one of the most coveted (debatable) offices in the world? I live in a country where the most powerful women politicians have to be Mummy or Didi to gain respect. We have had a woman president already, and it’s a fact that most women wish to forget (never forgive). Hillary lost because she was a go-getter. She knew she deserved something and she admitted that she did. She was unapologetic. She came across as too knowledgeable.

You should have an opinion, but not be too assertive. It is something you hear everyday. And in so many ways, this is worse than blatant sexism. It is not easily identifiable and it is something that is forgotten easily. It is systemic. It starts as a college student sitting for best paying placements when your male friends joke- asking you why you need a firm with the highest salary. It builds up to women in the workplace who are shamed for working 12 hours a day or being a partner because they networked too much or got too many clients. It goes on to the most well-deserving person when they stand for public office.

It does discourage me as a millennial woman. I feel bad for all the first time voters in America who cannot believe the verdict. I wonder what the point is of being unapologetic of who you are. It confuses me what society perceives me as. It disappoints me that it is 2016 and the term development clearly still connotes economic progress. But then I read this:  “And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.” – and it ignites a passion that I thought I’d lost.

Never be jaded. Be ambitious. Be keen. Be driven. Be assertive. Be unapologetic. Believe in what you deserve. And someday, the world will accept these to be good things, even though you are a woman.

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