One of 157 Million (Election 2016 Special)

(images chosen by St. Jane staff)

(images chosen by St. Jane staff)

By Sarah Prial

My 29th birthday is Election Day, November 8th 2016. For my birthday, I’d like you to get me a great President - Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I am one of 157 million women in the United States of America. My experiences are not unusual. What does it mean to be 1 of the 157,000,000?

•    I pay a tax on necessities like tampons and sanitary napkins. I am told they are a luxury item.
•    When hospitalized at a Catholic hospital, I was denied my birth control pills.
•    My ideas have often been cast aside until a man presents them as his own.
•    I’ve been talked over and ignored in meetings.
•    I have been sexually harassed by male peers in the workplace.
•    I have been forced into conversation by a man on the train.
•    I have been inappropriately touched on public transportation.
•    I was raped by my ex-boyfriend and did not report it because I thought it was my fault.

1 in 4 women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. This rape is not the exception to the rule. Society’s propensity towards rejecting women’s sexual assault claims is not the exception to the rule. This rape was not my fault.

Why do I bring up these experiences? Because they are universal. Every American woman you know has experienced one, a few, maybe even all of the items on my list. This is what it means to be a woman in the United States. To be part of the 157 million.

In 2008, I proudly cast my vote for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. My mother voted for Hillary Clinton. I didn’t understand why. I was a college student inspired by then Senator Obama’s messages of hope and progress. Though I believe President’s Obama time in office has been incredible, I regret my vote. I have lost that message of hope because we do not live in a hopeful world. We live in a desperate and terrifying one.

21 years ago, then First Lady Clinton rallied women together with one simple sentence. “Women’s rights are human rights.” I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t understand the true meaning of this when I chose to vote for Barack Obama. As a woman in college, though aware of campus sexual assault, I was still sheltered. When I ventured out on my own and joined the workforce, I became painfully aware of what it means to be a woman. Women who are fighting for equal pay, paid parental leave, against severe sexual harassment in the workplace, and horrifyingly enough - the right to make decisions about their own bodies. “We have come too far to turn back now,” asserted Secretary Clinton in the third presidential debate. I cheered out loud and choked back a proud but fearful sob. This isn’t something that should be debated.

Secretary Clinton, has made many missteps and has many faults. I do not make any attempt to deny that.  Her detractors scoff at her for being a career politician. But in her career she has consistently fought for the rights of women and the underprivileged. They accuse her of her husband’s infidelity. Let me say this once, loud and clear. Bill Clinton is not running for president. They say she is cold and unfriendly. This has been her only option as a woman in a field dominated by men. Though I am no Secretary Clinton, nor could I ever even dream to be, I’ve been accused of the same thing in business. This is not the exception to the rule.

Secretary Clinton is the voice in politics that we have never truly had. Am I voting for Secretary Clinton because she is a woman? Yes. But not just because she is a woman. Because she has consistently fought for us through decades of service. Because as a woman, she understands and speaks for the 157 million women in a way that no politician has had the opportunity to do before. We need a fighting voice. We’ve waited 96 years for it.

I look forward to watching Secretary Clinton win the much-deserved presidency on my birthday. It will be the best birthday yet.