Darkness descends. I spent most of the night awake, next to my sleeping partner, thinking about Lily Potter from J.K. Rowling’s books. As darkness descended on her family, her home, and her life, she did what women so often do: She put herself in the line of fire to protect her son, Harry. Darkness descended, but Lily was a light — a light that extended well beyond her life. It’s hard to find the light today. Hillary Clinton, arguably the most qualified candidate in the history of our Republic, lost the Presidency to a fascistic, unhinged narcissist who has never held elected office. It's maddening. But then again, this is an experience that women know all too well — being overly qualified for a position yet passed over for a man with half or less of your experience and know-how. This entire election was a poisonous well of misogyny — from our now-President-Elect’s disturbing boasts about sexually assaulting women to the endless offensive names that were thrust at Hillary Clinton. This morning, many American women are waking up to find that not only was it not a dream, but that this nightmare is now our reality. The landscape has never been more tenuous for safe and legal abortion. After the narrow but decisive victory that the Supreme Court handed down in June, overturning the Texas law that closed safe clinics, we will be hard-pressed to find another win in the coming years. With anti-choice Republicans controlling all three branches of government, we will almost certainly see a federal 20-week abortion ban proposed, passed, and enacted. We will see Supreme Court Justices proposed and likely appointed who wish to undo Roe v. Wade. If and when this happens, abortion will be a right only for those in select states. Geography will determine what you can and can’t do with your body. This feels utterly devastating — to have fought so hard for so long, to be so close to progress, only to be snapped by a cruel and disturbing backlash for which most of us didn’t prepare. How do we move forward? What will we do?
In times of darkness, women have always found a way to the light.
I don’t have any words of comfort. I don’t have any wise take. I don’t have any soothing thought. What I do have is this heartbreaking, enduring fact: In times of darkness, women have always found a way to the light. Remember the Abortion Counselling Service of Women’s Liberation of the late 1960s and 1970s. More commonly known as the Jane Collective, this organisation was an underground abortion service that operated pre-Roe in Chicago. Horrified at the number of unsafe abortions happening, a group of women took action to provide safe underground abortions and abortion counselling. Until it disbanded in 1973 after the nationwide legalisation of abortion, the Jane Collective provided 11,000 safe but illegal abortions. These women found the light. Think of Ella Baker, the Civil Rights activist and cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which helped create the Freedom Summer of 1964 that registered Black voters in Mississippi. The granddaughter of a slave, Ella Baker defied racial and gender norms to spearhead direct action in the advancement of civil rights. Ella found the light. Think of Dolores Huerta, a labor leader and activist who cofounded the United Farm Workers (UWF) and led a historic boycott against the grape industry to gain protections and conditions for farm workers. Dolores found the light. There are so many more women who have found the light in times of deep and unrelenting darkness. That is what today feels like — darkness. Of course, it is comforting to think of the brave and powerful women who came before me, but only to the point that I remember where I am, when I am, and who our leaders are. It feels hard to fight when you aren’t sure the fight is winnable, when you can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel of oppression — when you were so close to history and yet so far from justice. So today, we mourn. We sit in the darkness. We see it and feel it. Tomorrow, we go back to what we know, to what we’ve always done: We find the light.