PHILADEPHIA - There are thousands of women this week here at the Democratic National Convention and millions more in both parties or not affiliated across the country now faced with an unprecedented predicament in November: Whether to pick the woman’s name at the top of the ballot.
Hillary Clinton’s historic presidential nomination comes at a turbulent time in our nation, and with an unconventional opponent in Donald Trump. All voters have to digest complex issues and imperfect candidates. It’s not easy on the stomach.
For women, the decision is all the more difficult. Some of the women attendees and delegates here are clearly stumbling to find the right words to express their conflicted feelings about Clinton.
Clinton herself wavers between playing the woman card and ripping it up as she gets cut up shattering the glass ceiling. It all boils down to a very simple question that just doesn’t have a simple answer: Should women feel obligated to vote for Clinton because she’s a woman?
No, her gender has absolutely nothing to do with it
There’s a vocal cohort of women here for whom the mere mention of Clinton’s name conjures up looks of disgust. And these are not Republicans, folks.
“I actually had someone say to me,‘How do you dare back the guy in this?’ ” said Laura Mikytucky, a volunteer for Sanders. “I’m feeling a lot of backlash and anger. It’s not to say ‘I won’t decide to vote for her by November,’ but I’m waiting for her to say the right things on the issues I care about.”
For these women, it’s partly about the issues and partly about their distrust of Clinton. She’s just not the woman they wanted.
“If she is our first female president, she’ll be our last,” said Tina Widzbor, 38.
"It would be a shame if Hillary Clinton stole the honor of being our first female president,” said Nicole Davies, 30.” "She's not worthy of it."
Now that their hero has officially surrendered, Sanders supporters are faced with the adversary they kind of disagree with in Clinton, or the adversary they totally disagree with in Trump.
The desire to go beyond vane identity politics goes both ways. There’s a contingent of strong Clinton supporters who also want to completely take gender out of the equation, citing their agreement with her on issues and her stellar resume.
"I'm not voting for Hillary cause she’s a woman. I'm voting for her cause she’s most qualified," said actress Eva Longoria.
Yes, ‘we need a seat at the table so we’re not on the menu’
I’ve gotten a sense over the past few months that many women have been uneasy with saying, “I’m voting for Clinton because after 240 years of men ruling our country it’s our turn.”
Of course, it’s more PC to say I’m with her because of her beliefs or what she has done. But there’s a totally different “girl power” vibe here on that.
“Boys and men run on resumes, women govern differently,” said Ayanna Pressley, the first black woman elected to the Boston City Council, to hundreds of women at the women’s caucus. She said women must run on the traits the gender has, like being better listeners.
“Women must absolutely support women,” said Emma Roberts, 21, “Hillary Clinton will champion the issues that are unique to us.”
Then there's the emotional significance of it all. 102-year-old Arizona delegate Jerry Emmett born before women could vote so proud to live to see this day. Lynnette Ramcifer with her two little girls Erin, 5, and Natalie, 3, on the upper-level seats of the Wells Fargo Centeral mesmerized witnessing the roll call give Clinton the historic nomination.
"This is for them,” Ramcifer said.
Later in the night, Clinton broke through a digital class ceiling on video and said, “If there are any little girls out there who stayed up late to watch, let me just say, I may become the first woman president, but one of you is next.”
Sure, it’s gimmicky. But it’s powerful, especially in person. And it conjures up a feeling obligation to your gender that’s so visceral.
Maybe we just have #AllTheFeels
“I try not to look at her as a woman but she is,” Barbara Rubenstein said. “She may not be my first choice and I know she has baggage, but by my age I know she’s the right choice.”
It’s a nuanced view that she feels millennials can’t grasp because they haven’t lived enough yet to see that Sanders’ promises are far-fetched and Trump’s worldview is scary.
“It goes both ways,” said Grace Macdonald, 25. “It’s so symbolic because it means nothing can hold women back. But I also can’t wait for her gender to be a second thought, like women going to college or having careers has become.”
“Being a woman is a qualification in itself,” said Katherine Spillar, executive Director of Feminist Majority, a national organization working for women’s equality.
And, that’s what it comes down to. For so long women were disqualified from voting, from sports, from the boys club. Thursday night, Clinton got us qualified to play.