As Women, We've Mourned — Now It's Time To Take Action

Photo: Courtesy of Shannon Watts.
Shannon Watts with her husband and their five children.

Shannon Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and a mother of five. The views expressed here are her own.

When I walked into the Javits Center on Tuesday night, wearing a white dress to symbolize my solidarity with suffragists and Hillary Clinton, I was on cloud nine. Along with tens of thousands of other guests, I was certain she would win the presidency. Two hours later, the mood darkened. People began hugging and even crying; many headed for the exits to process the shocking turn of events in the comfort of their own homes.

The days following Clinton’s presidential loss have not been easy. I’ve grappled with my own anger, disappointment, fear, and sadness as I have simultaneously struggled to explain this election outcome to my children. But how does one explain to their child that the unfathomable has happened?

A man who stands against everything that I stand for as a parent has been elected president.

A man who stands against everything that I stand for as a parent has been elected president. A man who has been accused of sexual assault or harassment by at least a dozen women has been elected president. As the mother of five, it’s not easy to explain to my kids how this happened. I’m not even sure I understand how it happened.

The night of the election, my girls in college texted me: “Mom, what is happening?” and, “Mom, what will happen to us?” They’re scared — for what this election outcome means for women, for people of color, for Americans who aren’t Christian, not to mention social issues like the environment, health care, and our nation’s gun laws.

Photo: Courtesy of Shannon Watts.
Shannon Watts with her daughter, Emma, marching in the NYC Pride Parade in June 2016, days after the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

But my child who is most terrified is my teenage daughter. She came out her sophomore year of high school when we lived in Indiana — a state run by then-Governor Mike Pence. Pence was so hostile toward the LGBTQ community that he passed a law making it legal to discriminate against gays. As a result, my daughter rejected acceptances to Indiana colleges and left for school in California. That man is now the vice president-elect.

Thankfully, that daughter is studying to become an activist — just like her mom. Because she realized after living in Indiana that the only way to move forward is to fight for what’s right, and that when we lose, we must get louder.

As the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an army of volunteers in every state fighting for gun safety, I am committed to doubling down on fighting the gun lobby's radical, dystopian vision for our country. Given that the National Rifle Association was the largest outside donor to Donald Trump, our movement will need to become stronger than ever to hold the line in Congress and statehouses.

My child who is most terrified is my teenage daughter. She came out her sophomore year of high school when we lived in Indiana — a state run by then-Governor Mike Pence.

And while gun violence in America has made me a single-issue voter, women cannot lead single-issue lives. We will need to also fight against the misogyny, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and the anti-immigrant rhetoric that shaped the Trump campaign.

Women have always been on the front lines of activism in America, and we must stay there until everyone in this country is free from fear. The women who fought for the right to vote were harassed, attacked, imprisoned, and even force-fed when they went on a hunger strike, but they stood firm.

Suffragists lost a lot of battles along the way. It took them decades to win the vote, but they never gave up. Giving up is a luxury that too many in America don't have.

Photo: Courtesy of Shannon Watts.
Watts with Emma, who came out as a sophomore in high school.

After the election, I received an email from a friend that included some wise words from her pastor: “Tomorrow is going to come just as this day came. We alone have the power to fill it with love, with hope, with joy, and yes, with unflagging service. It is ours to do with as we will. In Hillary's concession speech she said, 'Let us not grow weary.' If she can say that, surely we can do as much.'"

As I mourn Hillary's loss, I will also continue to remind my daughters that they are loved, that there is hope, to have joy and to serve. And I will not grow weary — I’ll continue to serve my nation with an army of moms, fighting for the safety of our children and families, and never stopping until we’ve made an America we’re proud to hand over to our children.