Glass Ceilings and Shattered Dreams
words by Carmen Rios / photos by Molly Adams
Hillary Clinton’s election night event at the Javits Center in New York City should have been one of the most inspiring political events we’ve seen. A woman was going to emerge to claim the presidency, likely in white as an homage to the women before her who were beaten and starved for their efforts to secure suffrage, standing under a glass ceiling as a reminder of the history she had made by shattering one less visible to the naked eye, in a convention center built on land her opponent had once attempted to monopolize.
A woman was going to emerge to claim the presidency. But she never did.
The stories from inside the center that night sound like the kind of dream that becomes a nightmare right at the end, that feeling when you’re falling asleep but you don’t realize it and then you gasp and wake up right when you feel your body slipping. Little girls in pantsuits who had arrived together as a giggling hoard were escorted out one-by-one by their parents, slung over their shoulders kicking and screaming. Women who had waited decades, women who perhaps didn’t even realize they were waiting the whole time, women of different races and experiences, withered where they once stood tall. In sections where surrogates were instructed to remain standing for optics as the cameras panned from section to section for the jumbotron views of the crowd, nobody said a word as they laid and wept on the ground. Attendees began an exodus that never ended, filing first out of the hallways where thousands of them had been stationed and then emptying out the main space. Thousands of people had waited to get inside the building and now they were running from it as if in imminent danger.
Donald Trump’s America, before it began, already felt like the end of times a mere two miles from his own election night gathering in Times Square.
We are not even two days in to Donald Trump’s time as President-Elect and yet it is evident why such palpable fear and sorrow rang through the streets of New York that night. Muslim women are being harassed and threatened around the country. Trans youth are committing suicide. Same-sex couples are facing down homophobic attacks from their neighbors. Men are declaring that his election has given them entitlement over women’s bodies. Swastikas are being painted on walls. Hate speech is being carved into classroom doors.
November 8, 2016 could have been the day millions of women and girls watched someone who looked a little more like them assume the most powerful position of leadership in our country. November 8, 2016 could have been the day Americans who are people of color, who are immigrants, who are disabled, who are queer, who are trans, who are economically disadvantaged, watched a President-Elect name and honor their communities. November 8, 2016 could have been the day a metaphorical battle between feminism and hegemonic masculinity finally closed, with the most marginalized finally sighing in relief and maybe even lifting a glass to what was yet to come.
A woman was going to emerge to claim the presidency. But she never did. Her coronation became a funeral march.
There are rumors of confetti that looked like broken glass, confetti that would have swirled around a flawed woman as she greeted the dream she likely harbored the entire time she stood next to her husband, the entire time she served in the Senate, the entire time she flew around the world as Secretary of State. There are rumors of confetti that looked like broken glass, visions of how it would have fallen over the crowds as Hillary Clinton stepped onto a platform in a room cased by glass and looked out at a new kind of America - one which cherished her and women like her and stood waiting with baited breath to see what kind of boundaries would be broken by those after her. There are rumors of confetti that looked like broken glass, bags full of it that would have been emptied over her and all those who stood with her as she glanced up at the night sky.
There are rumors of confetti that looked like broken glass. The ceiling at the Javits Center was never going to shatter. That the metaphor could twist and still make sense still feels unfathomable.
Molly Adams is a Los Angeles native who takes pictures. She will live in Los Angeles forever but might visit your city sometime soon. If you're looking for her she is often that kid with the camera at the party. You can also find her on Instagram if you want.
Carmen Rios is the Managing Editor at Argot Magazine, Digital Editor at Ms., Community Director and Feminism Editor at Autostraddle, and a Contributor at Everyday Feminism. Her words have been published by BuzzFeed, BITCH, ElixHER, MEL, and Feministing, among others, and she was once a blogger and activist with the SPARK Movement, a writer at Mic, and Managing Editor of THE LINE Campaign blog. Carmen's successful work for over eight years in digital feminism—as a writer, social media maven, and activist leader—has earned her the titles of “digital native,” “intimidating to some,” and “vapid and uninteresting.” She's too honest on Twitter, too vague on Tumblr, and consistently uses the same filter on Instagram. You can also find her at carmenfuckingrios.com.