November 14, 2016
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Post Office Box 5256
New York, NY 10185-5256
Dear Secretary Clinton,
I am a proud Bitch for Hillary – because “Bitches get stuff done,” as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler explained during the 2008 Democratic primary.
I’ll say more about that Bitch for Hillary thing in a moment. First, though, I’d like to say thank you for your service to our country and for your generous and inspiring campaign. You rallied millions of Americans in support of our highest ideals of inclusion, fairness, and engaged, expansive citizenship. You enacted a compassionate, feminist model of leadership and earned the distinction of being the first woman to win the popular vote for the presidency. I realize the victory is incomplete and bittersweet, but it is an achievement that history will not forget.
In your powerful concession speech the other day, you briefly alluded to secret Facebook groups of Clinton supporters, urging members to come out and let their voices be heard. I happen to be the co-founder of one of those groups, Bitches for Hillary, which was launched in March of this year and now has close to 10,000 members (of all genders, races, shapes, and orientations). A friend and I started the cheekily named group not because we felt we had to be closeted in supporting you but because we wanted a space for sharing thoughts, feelings, and strategies with the like-minded. The solidarity members experience within the group has empowered them to act boldly outside it. Please don’t think we were shy or embarrassed about supporting you during the campaign. Believe me, the Bitches are not shrinking violets! We are an army of fighters for justice and possibility who advocated fiercely and publicly for your candidacy. For months, I have read with astonishment and humility reports from all over the country of group members making your case at their kitchen tables, in their work places, over the phone, and on the ground in New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
For me, Bitches for Hillary has functioned similarly to the consciousness-raising groups of the 1970s or the sewing circles of the nineteenth century. Members of a marginalized group gather in nominal secrecy (I say nominal because the group has been identified by name in The New York Times and other media outlets) to generate subversive knowledge that fortifies them for engagement with an often hostile external world. Yes, it has been a refuge, but it has also been an incubator that sharpened the skills of young activists and raised the spirits of post-menopausal rabble-rousers like me who have spent decades dreaming of a woman president.
The hearts of ten thousand Bitches were broken early Wednesday morning as it became clear the glass ceiling we had all expected to come crashing down was still, thanks to the Electoral College, intact. I want you to know, however, that, in addition to reports of tears, nightmares, and a lot of stress eating, the group this week has been on fire with determination to continue fighting for the causes of social and economic justice that you have championed throughout your career. Inspired by your extraordinary resilience and perseverance, Bitches for Hillary are preparing to advocate for change in their communities and to protect those who are most vulnerable to the dangerous proposals being floated by the incoming administration. And some are getting advice on how to run for office! The dream is alive, Madam Secretary, and the hard, vital work goes on.
Change comes slowly, sometimes painfully so. I have spent my career in higher education, working to create institutional space for scholarship on women and LGBT people. (I’m an English professor who served as founding director of the University of Maryland’s LGBT Studies program.) That perhaps explains why I have identified so strongly over the years with your deliberate, detail-oriented approach to politics and policy. I hope you won’t mind that I think of you and of myself as badass incrementalists, because I see us as similarly committed to creating progressive institutional change bit by bit, over the long haul. I credit my late mother for teaching me this approach to any dauntingly large task. “How do you eat an elephant?” she used to ask when I was momentarily overwhelmed. “One bite at a time.”
I’m so sorry that you and we weren’t able to take the last bite out of the elephant obstructing women’s path to the Oval Office this time around, but we will, thanks in no small part to your tenacious efforts and considerable achievements. Some day soon, a smart, feisty, wonky, wonderful, big-hearted Bitch will come along and take that last bite – and she and we will have you to thank for it.
With gratitude and admiration,
PS: I’ve enclosed for your amusement a picture of the cake I had made for our election party. The words on the cake resonate somewhat differently in defeat than they would have in victory, but they are still true. Bitches are rising, and you have shown them how to soar.