Last Friday, on an otherwise beautiful summer evening, I was accosted by strangers on two separate occasions — but not with catcalls, or comments about my smile, or any of the other typical rude interactions I'm used to having on the street in New York City. No, this time I was harassed for an entirely novel reason: I was wearing a shirt with Hillary Clinton's face on it.
The shirt features a parody of the Mean Girls quote "Get in, losers, we're going shopping," reading, "Get in, losers, we're going campaigning" over Clinton's face. Though it's meant more as a joke than anything else, I'd actually worn a sweater over the shirt at work all day because I was oddly apprehensive about the reaction it might incur. Although I know nobody at Bustle would ever question or belittle me over my political beliefs, in the last two weeks, since Clinton became their presumptive presidential nominee, tensions in the Democratic Party between her supporters and Bernie Sanders supporters have been alarmingly high. In fact, right before I left for my walk home, I made a joke about needing to know whether or not Trump and Clinton supported the idea of peeing in the shower before I voted. Faster than a heartbeat, a Bernie supporter who was visiting the office said something along the lines of, "Hillary peeing in the shower? If creepy lizard people pee, that is."
Lo and behold, on my walk home from midtown Manhattan through the Upper East Side up to Yorkville, a perfect stranger yelled "Feel the Bern!" and "F*ck Hillary!" in my face. After I'd walked another few blocks, a young man with blatant concern trolling eyes tried to stop me and ask why I was voting for Hillary in the middle of a crosswalk. I felt a visceral kind of alarm as I shook my head and walked away; it took a few paces to get rid of him. At that point, a bit shaken, I considered just putting the sweater back on over my shirt — but by then, I was feeling defiant. It felt like there were people looking at my shirt, and then up at me, and then back at my shirt, all 75 blocks home.
These may be overt incidents of Clinton hate, but they aren't isolated. Somehow, saying the words, "I support both Hillary and Bernie, but I'm voting for Hillary" over the past few months has been enough to get hateful messages in my spam box on Facebook asking why I had a "mug with that dumb b*tch's face on it" and asking if I was "stupid enough" to support her. Enough to provoke outrage from both friends and people I barely know, insisting that I was just voting for Clinton "because I hadn't done my research" or accusing me of "hating" Sanders and the causes he supports. Enough to inspire a close family member of mine to publicly berate me that I'm "just voting for Hillary because I work in an office full of women." It's been surprising and somewhat upsetting, sure — enough that I have internalized a mild fear about speaking out about my support for her. But only this past week did that fear become very real, starting with the two young men accosting me on the street — both of whom were apparently liberals.
Stop telling women that they're voting for Hillary because she's a woman. Stop telling women that they're voting for Hillary because they "don't know all the facts." Stop accosting women on the street as if you have a right to their time and their space. Stop making this election — this historic election in which a major party will nominate a woman for president — one more thing which scares me, which intimidates me, which makes me feel small.
I'm not going to waste time here breaking it down point for point why I support Hillary Clinton, because it's nobody's business — and that’s never really what people are aiming for when they ask for my explanation. They want to convince me that I'm only voting for Hillary because I'm a woman. They want to convince me that I'm voting with my emotions and not my head. (Never mind the fact that most of us are, whether or not we cop to it — interestingly, even after you control for partisanship, ideology, and agreement with the candidate.)
So instead, this is what I will tell you. When I vote this fall, I'll be 25 years old. This is only the second election I've gotten to vote in. The first time around, I supported Obama, and so did everyone else I knew. I have no memory of people within my own party trying to fight with me about my politics or support of him, so the uneasiness I feel during this election is entirely new.
It is not lost on me that these fears I feel supporting Hillary are very reminiscent of the inherent fear I have felt simply by virtue of being a woman — and in my later years, being a woman writing on the internet. Just because I exist, the world thinks it has some right to pick me apart, to question me, to make me feel smaller than I am.
A few days after my street encounters, my "Woman Card" from the Clinton campaign came in the mail. It was meant to be a joke based on the article which went viral in response to Trump claiming that "the only thing [Hillary Clinton's] got going is the woman’s card in her campaign." (Alexandra Petri's article in The Washington Post satirically points out all the things your "Woman Card" entitles you to, including and certainly not limited to lower pay, constant scrutiny, and endless mansplaining.) Clinton's campaign ingeniously hopped on the bandwagon and offered actual Woman Cards to anyone who pledged five dollars that week.
Before mine came in the mail, I metaphorically carried this Woman Card my whole life, but only recently, entering the adult world and the professional arena, have I come to understand what it means. It means acknowledging that in order to change institutionalized sexism, I have to do something about it. I have to be vocal. I have to gently explain to people when they are being unfair or prejudiced. And I have to write this article asking the more aggressive Sanders supporters to please stay in your lane and stop swerving into mine with sexism — especially now that you're driving in the exit lane. Bernie Sanders is not going to be the Democratic presidential nominee. No matter how you feel about him, that is a fact. I'm not saying it to start a fight or open some philosophical dialogue of the corruption of politics; I am saying it because it is true.
Any fear I feel about writing this is nothing compared to my fear of the way in which some Sanders supporters continue to fight for him or threaten not to vote in this election at all. It's a fear much more pressing than someone yelling at me on the street for my political leanings. It's a fear for my friends in the LGBT community. It's a fear for immigrants living peacefully in this country. It's a fear for my basic right as a woman to have autonomy over my own body. It's a fear of watching this nation, which has made so much progress in the last few years, become an international joke. It's a fear that I won't just feel unsafe wearing a shirt with Hillary Clinton's face on it, but unsafe every day, on every street, in this entire country.
Because that, my friends, is exactly what a Donald Trump presidency will look like. And every "Bernie or Bust" person who votes for Sanders or abstains this November will be partially to blame.
But even though Sanders supporters who threaten not to vote scare me, trying to convince them otherwise is not my place. So instead I am going to say this: Stop telling women that they're voting for Hillary because she's a woman. Stop telling women that they're voting for Hillary because they "don't know all the facts." Stop accosting women on the street as if you have a right to their time and their space. Stop making this election — this historic election in which a major party is nominating a woman for president — one more thing which scares me, which intimidates me, which makes me feel small. Stop because it's rude, stop because it's sexist, but mostly, stop because I want to enjoy every damn second of this. After years of dragging this Woman Card around, I should at least be entitled to that.
Images: Emma Lord/Bustle