Five weeks after Hillary Clinton delivered a devastating concession speech calling on her supporters to remember that “fighting for what’s right is worth it,” Shauna Gordon-McKeon quit her job. “The moment that Hillary conceded was the moment I decided to take up the fight,” Gordon-McKeon, who was a developer for a Boston-based educational platform, said. Last week, she launched ActionRising, a website that is meant to be an organizing tool for people who also want to take action. "I know it is a risk. But I have no kids, no elderly family members to care for, no family members to support financially, no ongoing health problems," she said. "And so much more is at stake than my own financial well-being or career." While Gordon-McKeon’s actions might seem drastic, she is not alone. The horror of watching the first female presidential candidate be defeated by an uninformed and unqualified misogynist thrust many Clinton supporters into a period of intense soul-searching. “It has forced a major question for me,” Adaora Udoji, an adjunct professor and media executive, told me via email. “What do I care about? And am I practicing what has become rote preaching?” This election has become the defining before-and-after marker in many of our lives. There is BT (Life Before Trump) and AT (Life After Trump). Connecting the two can be difficult. In the beginning, the navigating-through-crisis mode took on some fairly predictable forms. As the shock wore off, the grief many felt on November 9 transformed into action.
The moment that Hillary conceded was the moment I decided to take up the fight.
There was an increase in donations to Planned Parenthood (often in Mike Pence’s name), for instance. Distraught Democrats sought refuge and support in Facebook groups like Pantsuit Nation, where like-minded women (and men) could share their overwhelming feelings of shock and grief. Almost immediately, plans for the Women’s March on Washington were launched — and went viral. And for some women, that drive to act pushed them to alter their lives in significant ways, sometimes upending them altogether with immediate and drastic changes. One woman, who asked that her name not be used, quit her job at a large media company, where she was barred from expressing an opinion on the election, making calls on behalf of candidates in her private life, or even donating personally to political causes. “Now that we’re under a Trump [administration], it’s very important for me to have an opinion and be an activist,” she said. Her inability to participate in the election in a meaningful way left her with a deep sense of regret. "I didn’t do enough for Hillary’s campaign," she said.
Amy, (who asked that her last name not be used), just left a role as a chief marketing officer in the social health space, and said she's become “obsessed with Marian Wright Edelman’s quote, 'Service is the rent we pay for being.'" "I’ve always thought about it, but this is the first time I’ve been pushed to be politically active," she said. "The election brought to light for me how many underrepresented voices there are, and I felt a responsibility to do more and move more directly into social impact." Julia Richmond, a senior manager at Deloitte, left her job after the "ugly and grueling election season," not because she didn’t see a successful path for herself there, but because afterward she felt the need to serve her local community in the Western state where she’s based. She just took a position as chief innovation and analytics officer for the city of Boulder. "I've wanted to run for office since I was a child, and I've been working deliberately towards that goal," Richmond said. "The question was always, when was the right time to pivot; the election of an autocrat signaled the right time.”
She Should Run, a nonprofit group aimed at getting more women into office, reports more than 4,500 women have already pledged to run for office.
Richmond is one of many women inspired to pursue a path of public service. She Should Run, a nonprofit group aimed at getting more women into office, reports more than 4,500 women have already pledged to do so. This includes Julie Hermelin, an L.A.-based producer, writer, and director whose most recent project is 50/50: Rethinking the Past, Present and Future of Women + Power, which is part of Refinery29's Shatterbox Anthology.
"I've never run for anything before, but since the election, I'm now running to be an Assembly district delegate for the [California Democratic] Party," she said. Laura Miranda-Browne, director of a Brooklyn-based artist's studio, is currently meeting with local representatives to figure out next steps. "I always imagined that my activism would eventually lead me to run for public office, but I never thought I would be seriously pursuing opportunities in my 30s," she said. Born in New York City and raised in New Jersey, Miranda-Browne said she’s “exploring whether it is better to stay in NYC, in the community where I have spent my adult life, or move back to [New Jersey], or perhaps another state where I might be more effective.”
She’s not the only person considering a move across state lines. Filmmaker and writer Lacey Schwartz said she and her husband decided the week after the election to move back home to Hudson, NY, where they were both raised. They put their New Jersey house on the market. "We can’t just stand by and have opinions. What are we really doing to get involved in our communities," she asked. "For me, it’s about local. It’s an accountability piece for us and where we come from." Local for some means rethinking their business practices. “I’m completely redesigning my business,” Farrah Bostic, who founded and runs The Difference Engine, a Brooklyn-based strategy company, said. “I want to start a think tank. The very rough idea is it would be rooted in design thinking/design research, nonpartisan and nongovernmental, but with outputs ranging from syndicated reports to teaching toolkits to potentially even model legislation.” At the core of all this is a through line of thinking that Schwartz describes as “the need to live in harmony with our principles.” Katherine, (who also chose not to use her last name), a journalism fellow in Boston, calls it a “radical reevaluation process.” She compares it to having her son. “For me, having a child brought more clarity. And this election, what are my values, what are my priorities, what should I be doing that’s meaningful every day.” Many women of color and minorities are quick to point out that they have been experiencing this level of trauma their entire lives. Black Lives Matter was founded by three women, after all. There is a deep frustration, and often pointed anger, that the rest of us are only catching up to now. Many of the women I spoke to acknowledged, as one put it, that, “Because I felt really safe, and had nothing to worry about, there was no need to be an activist in my life.” That feeling of safety is over. It’s too early yet to predict what the outcome of this will be but this female identity crisis — whether it be limited to haircuts, dating habits, or as significant as major career changes — feels unprecedented in its breadth, intensity, and immediacy. We may not see the result for months or even years. But one thing seems clear, the Trump effect, whatever form it ends up taking, will be populated by women. As Schwartz put it, “Inaction is frustrating. Living in harmony with our principles, however we are able to do so, can actually make us happier.”