How to Be Human: A Feminist Reflection on the 2016 Election

 Author, Camille Tallichet, pictured left at the 2018 Women's March in Denver, CO.

Author, Camille Tallichet, pictured left at the 2018 Women's March in Denver, CO.

“The humanities, done right, are the crucible in which our evolving notions of what it means to be fully human are put to the test; they teach us, incrementally, endlessly, not what to do, but how to be.” ― Mark Slouka, Essays from the Nick of Time

When I first heard Donald Trump refer to Hillary Clinton as “that nasty woman,” I was immediately struck by the similarity between Trump’s 2016 derogation and the Watchman’s criticism, in Aeschylus’s tragedy The Oresteia, of Clytemnestra: “that woman—she maneuvers like a man.” Although there are varying translations of the original language, the line communicates disdain for a woman behaving as only a man should. The play concludes with one of the first depictions of Athenian democracy and, simultaneously, the legal subjugation of the female for the sake of the patriarchy. When I read The Oresteia as an undergraduate, Clytemnestra presented a fascinating character for contemplating gender in the context of ancient Greek theatre.

Seven years later though, this is not a play; this is our reality. I hear a male presidential candidate in the Unites States of America refer to a female presidential candidate as “that nasty woman,” and I am suddenly, inexorably thrown back to the moment I first read about that woman, Clytemnestra, who, to her ultimate destruction, maneuvered like a man. I am consumed once more by compassion for this brilliant, driven, vengeful woman righteously pursuing some kind of justice against the man who killed her first husband, forced her into marriage, raped her, and murdered their daughter to win a war. The echo of Clytemnestra’s grief and rebellion in a world constructed by and for men roared through my mind. The many comments, critiques, and accusations from all manner of media labeling Hillary Clinton as callous, calculating, corrupt, or even criminal tumbled into deafening accord with this one revealing characterization. “That nasty woman” spoke volumes of Trump’s and others’ crude indignation that a woman dare maneuver as only men had before.

In what world are we living that a woman with as impressive a resume as any presidential candidate in history is reduced to “that nasty woman” and beaten by a man with neither legal education, political experience, oratorial skill, nor any discernible character to otherwise redeem his inexperience? The man we elected president admittedly assaults women, advocates racist policies, censures the free press, lies as often as he speaks, and speaks in prejudice-saturated diction. My mind races with the implications of this presidency: The leering stranger who lunged out laughing to wrap himself around me at a night club—will he be so easily pulled off the next girl he assaults? The teenagers who harass or assault the queer kids in their class—will they question their blind hatred? Those who regard, with bias and condescension, anyone who doesn’t look white—will they fear reprisal when they contemplate turning their thoughts into action?

The 2016 election has had staggering consequences, not only politically, but also culturally and socially. The issues that drove it are deeply personal to this country and its citizens. We are left as a people, not merely with discontented acceptance, but with shock, anger, guilt, revived conflict, and, perhaps, a renewed civic engagement. Coping as a nation with previously ignored, even denied, realities demands that we confront more than the substance of our collective political existence; it demands that we confront the substance of our collective humanity. As a population infinitely diverse in its identities, beliefs, values, and experiences, grasping a collective humanity fractured by prolonged injustices, misconceptions, and resentments, requires a kind of national therapy. If we are to come to terms with who we are together, we will have to achieve an unprecedented level of nuance and compassion. We may want different things for ourselves as individuals, but, in order to reconcile our disparate wants with the reality we share as a people, we will have to accept all our parts with value and respect.

So, what does it mean to be human in the 21st century? How we answer this question will shape history’s interpretation of our nation’s humanity. We can choose to make heard our previously quieted and marginalized parts, or we can resign ourselves to a future racked with further inequality, hatred, violence, and disconnect. Let’s choose to be better. Let’s reject the division, fear, and ignorance for which Trump and this election stand and become a functional, integrated whole in which we all have a voice, a vote, and the knowledge that we are valued, not disdained, for the characteristics that make us individuals. Let’s learn to see each other, before anything else, as human beings, not as objects of fear, blame, suspicion, condescension, or stereotyping. Let’s prove to ourselves and to future generations that we can embrace all of our parts in our discourse, our diction, our values, our expectations, our aspirations, and, most importantly, in our representation. Let’s prove that, even if characteristics like sex, sexuality, gender, and skin color still determine differences in experience in our society, they do not determine human value or political electability. Let’s prove that we can address, even celebrate, our humanity and our diversity with a truly representative government. Finally, let’s begin by applying these values to our participation in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.

“Aeschylus and Plato are remembered today long after the triumphs of Imperial Athens are gone. Dante outlived the ambitions of thirteenth century Florence. Goethe stands serenely above the politics of Germany, and I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over cities, we too will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.”–John F. Kennedy

Written by InvestHER MembHER, Camille Tallichet.

Let's March!

Last November, I bought a plane ticket to Washington D.C. for the inaugural Women’s March. Devastated by Trump’s win, I wanted to feel like I was doing something – like I was standing up to the hatred that was infecting our White House. I decided to go on a whim; it was a snap decision. I had no idea that one weekend was going to completely change my life.

 Jordan Henry, Amanda Van Vleet, Patrick Toussaint, Debra Ducas, Andrea Ducas

Jordan Henry, Amanda Van Vleet, Patrick Toussaint, Debra Ducas, Andrea Ducas

I arrived at the airport on the day of my trip to find it swarming with police. For the first time since the idea popped into my head, I thought, “What have I gotten myself into? Will I be safe? Is marching in protest against President Trump worth the risk to my wellbeing? Am I at risk of being arrested? How will I explain an arrest on my bar application?” As I got closer and closer to my departure gate, the security presence continued to increase; bomb-sniffing dogs and not-your-average airport security personnel were everywhere.  

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My fears vanished when I saw, waiting at my gate, a sea of pink pussy hats cheering together “Hey-hey, ho-ho, patriarchy has got to go.” The friendly, cheerful, and polite atmosphere continued throughout the flight. I usually avoid talking to my neighbors on planes, but not this one. The 11-year-old girl next to me explained that she and her mom decided to go at the last minute because her mom wanted to instill in her the power of standing up for herself and finding her voice. The whole plane erupted with cheers when we landed. As we disembarked, we walked past the people who attended the inauguration and were waiting to board, our pink pussy hats contrasting with their red-trucker hats as we strolled by in awkward silence.

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On the day of the march, I met up with Amanda, my big sis from my sorority days, and her friends, Andrea, Patrick, and Debra, and we made the trek to the starting point. I have never seen so many people in one place in my life. We got as close to the stage as we could (which was still too far to see it even after climbing on top of a platform), and we chanted, and we chanted, and we chanted. There were thousands of marchers as far as I could see, all raising their voices in chants of love, empowerment, and a dedication to standing up against hate. Patrick created his own chants on the fly. His leadership, creativity, and booming voice made him a natural chant leader of our area. News finally spread that the march had been cancelled because so many people had shown up and the march route wouldn’t accommodate us. Despite this news, we didn’t turn home. Without saying a word, we all started walking, taking our own route, to the White House. As we passed the US Mint, Andrea got emotional about the banners announcing that Harriet Tubman would be on the twenty-dollar bill. It was a vivid illustration of how far we had fallen in just a few short months. Along the way we high-fived police officers who did an amazing job partnering with us to keep everyone safe (in fact, because we were making our own routes to the White House, we often had to stand and wait while police built new barricades to direct our march – their work was celebrated and appreciated!). I marched alongside divas, grandmas, daughters, brothers, allies, and even a wolf.

We got as close to the White House as we could before deciding it was time to go home. Despite being tired, cold, sore, and hoarse, we felt empowered, uplifted, and safe. The chaos of the days leading up to the march faded as a strong community of sisters and brothers marched in peace and solidarity. We also felt extraordinarily accomplished. I was proud of myself and my crew that we had the courage to stand up for something we felt so strongly about. And of course, we also felt amused by the hilarious signs (Yo no quiero un wall!). We were still heartbroken about our beloved country’s leadership, but we came away with a sense of resolve to continue fighting day-after-day against things we know to be wrong.  

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I returned to Denver fired up and ready to make real changes in my life, some big and some small. I was determined to stay in closer touch with my friends and to allow their success and brilliance to inspire me. I committed to continually ask myself the question, “What’s next?” which led me to the airport the following weekend to provide legal services to those who had been unconstitutionally detained by Trump’s Muslim ban. The “what’s next” question also led me to invite Jennifer to brunch to discuss what we were going to do to continue to make a difference in our community. The result of that brunch, of course, was InvestHER.

Throughout the past year, there have been hundreds of news reports detailing how women have stepped up to lead the next generation of America. We celebrate the successes that womankind and InvestHER have had in the past year and look forward to continuing the fight in 2018. We cannot think of a better way of launching our 2018 efforts than lacing up our sneakers to march again. 

We hope you will join InvestHER on January 20th at the first anniversary Women’s March in Denver. In addition, we hope you join us at our celebration and sign-making party on January 18th in Boulder.

Written by Jordan Henry, FoundHER of InvestHER.

Have You Met Cary Kennedy Yet?

For a law student, getting coffee with a local attorney is pretty commonplace. But we knew immediately that our first coffee meeting with Cary Kennedy was going to be something different.

Let me rewind. In our first conversation with our mentor, Gail Schoettler, Jordan and I asked who we should talk to next in order to find our place in Colorado politics. Gail immediately responded – “you must meet Cary Kennedy.” It just so happened that Jordan and I volunteered at the reorganization meeting of the Boulder County Democratic Party the following week, and Cary was in attendance. In true Jordan fashion, she walked up to Cary, introduced herself, and asked her to join us for coffee.

  Jennifer and Jordan invited Cary to speak to the Women's Law Caucus at CU Law, Spring 2017

Jennifer and Jordan invited Cary to speak to the Women's Law Caucus at CU Law, Spring 2017

Clue number one that this coffee was going to be out of the ordinary: instead of the standard Starbucks meeting, Cary invited us to meet her at her home the following Sunday. Walking up the path to the front door, coffee shop muffins in hand, we had no idea what to expect or if we would even have anything to talk about. After all, Cary was a native Coloradan who had run successful statewide political campaigns and served as Colorado State Treasurer and Deputy Mayor of Denver. We were just two transplant law students who had ventured into the world of politics only weeks earlier. But we knocked on the door anyway.

Any anxiety faded immediately when Cary opened her door. Clue number two we were in for something different than the stuffy attorney networking coffee: wearing casual Sunday lounge clothes, Cary greeted us with her genuine smile and a warm hug, as if she was greeting old friends. She led us to the living room where her husband, Saurabh, delivered us steaming mugs filled with homemade lattes. Nearly three hours later, Cary knew all about my small-town, farm upbringing and Jordan’s past career as a ballet dancer. She told us about the challenges she faced as a woman running for statewide office and shared stories about the people who helped her overcome those obstacles. She gave us great advice about law school, careers, politics, and life in general.

  Jordan marching with Cary in the Denver Pride Parade, Summer 2017

Jordan marching with Cary in the Denver Pride Parade, Summer 2017

When Cary announced her candidacy for Governor of Colorado, Jordan and I were first in line to support her. Not only is Cary highly qualified - from successfully managing the state’s budget and adding to Colorado’s investment pool during the Great Recession to leading a billion-dollar effort to repair aging school buildings in rural parts of the state – but she is one of the most genuine, kind, and engaging individuals I have ever met. First and foremost, she cares about people and her home state of Colorado, which is reflected in her platforms on education, health care, and protecting our beautiful state.

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet Cary, I hope you will take that chance in the upcoming months. I promise you it will be extraordinary!

  Jordan, Cary, and Jordan's brother, Lance Henry

Jordan, Cary, and Jordan's brother, Lance Henry

InvestHER is excited to provide you with an opportunity to meet Cary this Thursday, November 30th at the home of Lance Henry for cocktails and cupcakes! Find more information and RSVP here. We hope to see you there!

Written by Jennifer Benson, FoundHER of InvestHER

Why InvestHER?

Like so many others, I woke up on November 9, 2016 a little dumbfounded, a little numb. I didn’t understand the world I was waking up to, but I knew, somehow, my life was going to change. While it was tempting, I didn’t allow myself to stay in bed all day and wallow in despondency. Instead, I went to class (I am a law student at the University of Colorado) and found my friend, Jordan Henry.

We discussed our disbelief and disgust over the election results, and we agreed that we would not sit back as our new leaders rolled back all of the progress that had been made over the last 8 years. We wouldn’t allow an administration that disrespects women, people of color, people with disabilities, people who do not look and think like them, to use their power to set the clocks back on civil rights. We pledged to hold each other accountable, and when one of us would get tired, the other would pull her up and encourage her to keep going.

 From Left: Allison Hiltz, Jennifer Benson, Gail Schoettler, and Jordan Henry

From Left: Allison Hiltz, Jennifer Benson, Gail Schoettler, and Jordan Henry

It feels surreal, one year later, to be launching InvestHER. Neither of us could have gotten here on our own, without the support of the other, and without the encouragement and guidance of an important group of experts, role models, and mentors. We have many people to thank, but none more than our mentor and friend, Gail Schoettler.

Gail was the first woman to serve as Lt. Governor and State Treasurer of Colorado and the first woman candidate for Governor in the state’s history. (Colorado has the highest percentage of women in the state legislature, but has never had a woman governor.) We connected with Gail through her daughter-in-law and our professor at Colorado Law, Melanie Kay. Gail graciously agreed to meet with Jordan and me to help us get acquainted with Colorado politics. Gail shared with us her experiences running for elected office as a woman, and her experiences with winning and losing. We learned about her work as founder of the Electing Women Political Action Committee. She imparted to us the importance of women running for office and the importance of donating to women’s campaigns. This was the spark that inspired InvestHER.

In addition to her invaluable guidance, Gail generously connected us with others who have encouraged and inspired us to keep going. Through Gail’s urging, we met with former Governor Dick Lamm, the directors of Emerge Colorado, and an inspiring young woman running for Aurora City Council, Allison Hiltz. We also had the opportunity to meet and learn from U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar. Through Gail, we have gotten to know Electing Women’s Executive Director Heather Lurie, who has become another mentor and role model for us. Heather has provided instrumental advice and support as we have developed our plans for InvestHER, modeled very closely after what she has done with Electing Women.

 From Left: Jennifer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Jordan

From Left: Jennifer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Jordan

So, I can’t imagine a more perfect way to kick off InvestHER, on the anniversary of that transformative night in 2016, alongside Electing Women and our mentors, Gail and Heather. On November 8, 2017, we will celebrate the silver lining of the 2016 elections – that more women than ever have become engaged in the political process, that 20,000 women have stepped up to run for office, and that we will not stop until women are represented equally in elected offices nationwide. InvestHER is our way of being involved. We hope you’ll join us!

Written by Jennifer Benson, FoundHER of InvestHER

Founding InvestHER

Late one rainy night, with only a few hours left to vote for the federal budget, a U.S. Congresswoman was called to the table for a last-ditch budget meeting. She walked into the room full of men who had just finalized a compromise. They needed her vote to move forward. She asked, “does this budget provide funding for Planned Parenthood?” “No,” responded the Congressmen. “Call me when it does,” she replied as she walked out of the room.

 FoundHERs Jordan Henry and Jennifer Benson

FoundHERs Jordan Henry and Jennifer Benson

When discussing whether to include maternity care in the Affordable Care Act, a male Senator quipped that his father didn’t need maternity care when he was born. One of his female colleagues, and the only woman at the table, responded that his father might not have needed it, but his mother certainly did. And with that, maternity care was included in Obamacare.

And who could forget that it was only women Senators, pages, and parliamentarians who showed up to work after the epic D.C. snow storm in 2016.

In the era of President Trump, donations to Planned Parenthood and their sister organizations are on the rise, and rightly so. While these stories highlight the successes we can achieve by standing up for what we believe and coming together to support significant issues and organizations, they also exemplify the necessity of electing more women!

Only 6 of 50 U.S. Governors are women. Only 21 of 100 U.S. Senators are women. Only 84 of 435 U.S. Representatives are women. And we still haven’t had a woman President.

Colorado has never had a woman U.S. Senator or Governor

Women cite money as the number one barrier to running for office. Women spend as much money as men on everything, except politics. The time to change that is NOW!

I founded InvestHER with my friend, Jennifer Benson, to build a network of young professionals who care, who are engaged, and who are committed to supporting women running for office. We want to build a community of friends by hosting monthly events where members will have the opportunity to meet and support our Colorado women leaders. We will provide candidate profiles to equip you with the knowledge to help you support the strong women running for office near you. We will also publish regular blog posts, by a variety of contributors, to keep you up-to-date on the latest news!

The results of the 2016 elections impelled us to create an organization to help women achieve and bring women’s voices, voices like our own, to power. We hope you join us.

Written by Jordan Henry, FoundHER of InvestHER.