Here on this election day, I find myself thinking nearly constantly of my Aunt Marie*.
Aunt Marie was a woman with flaws. Our relationship was at times wonderful, difficult, and eventually, non-existent.
Aunt Marie was staunchly feminist. She offered no apologies. She was abrasive and impenetrable. She pushed people away with her harsh, unveiled opinions. She was judgemental.
She also cared deeply. For people of all colors and backgrounds. To her, that a child should be hungry was simply unacceptable. She fought against injustices that left children without clothing, shelter, and education.
She lived her life true to herself, even when it was impolite. Even when it was offensive.
Aunt Marie supported Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries. I supported Barack Obama. She did not try to hide her frustration with me. To her, it was time for a woman. It seemed to me that she was voting on that one issue – gender. I was 27. One of those young people who came out in force, inspired by the man who could be our Nation’s first black President.
I proudly voted for Obama in that primary and general election and have proudly supported him since. Aunt Marie proudly voted for Hillary Clinton in that primary and when her candidate did not win, she graciously put country before person and voted her conscience – for Obama.
Aunt Marie died unexpectedly in June of 2014. She was 66.
When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders announced their candidacy what seems like a million years ago, I was adamantly against Clinton. I did not want to continue the Clinton/Bush oligarchy we’ve seen for so long. I was inspired by Sanders and his far left policies that spoke – and still speak – to me.
The eternal election season went on and over time I learned about Hillary Clinton – and Bernie Sanders. I learned, or maybe finally allowed myself to see, that Hillary Clinton truly is the most qualified candidate we have ever seen. Finally, at 35, I read more and thought more about the suffragist movement. I watched my daughter learn and grow and mimic things she has clearly learned from me. I watched her take in the world around her.
I listened. To Donald Trump and his supporters. To Hillary Clinton and her supporters. To Bernie Sanders and his supporters. I wrestled. When my state’s caucus finally rolled around, I cast my (absentee) vote for Hillary Clinton.
And I thought of my Aunt Marie.
I can’t stop thinking of Aunt Marie. I can’t stop thinking of my little girl. I can’t stop thinking of the little girl I used to be and the older woman I will be before long.
My feminism has grown with me. It is stronger now than it was when I was 27, though thinking back I know that it has always been a part of me. My parents raised me a feminist. My Aunt Marie, from 500 miles away, raised me a feminist. I am raising my daughter a feminist.
I feel my feminism so deeply now. It is visceral.
Make no mistake – I voted for Hillary Clinton because she is a woman. Proudly. I also voted for Hillary Clinton because she stands for every single one of us. Like my Aunt Marie, she will not accept a hungry child. A child whose basic needs are not met. It matters not to her whether that child was born in the United States. She doesn’t care about the color of the child’s skin or the choices the parents did or did not make. She fights for women. She feels her feminism deeply.
She is the President we need. One who will fight for all of us. Even if we didn’t support her. She will come back stronger and more powerful every single time she is knocked down, as she has always done.
She is the kind of person I want to be. The role model I want to be for my daughter.
And in her strength, her unwavering care and concern for others, her willingness to continually fight and not to blame, she is the role model my Aunt Marie wasn’t for me.
What would Aunt Marie say today, I wonder? Would Hillary Clinton and our feminism unite us again?
Today I voted for the women who couldn’t, the children who can’t, and for all of us. And I voted for my Aunt Marie.
*not her real name