By Kelsey Duchesne
For the entirety of my life, my Pepa (Pee-pa, formally Gramps, I renamed him when I started talking) has held the answers to all of my questions. I would sit at the kitchen table, watching him make my favorite lunch of hot dogs and pickles, and ask him every existential and life affirming question my curious lil brain could muster. Always patient, kind, and thoughtful with his responses, my Pepa seemed pleased when my 6-year-old self asked him when we would ever have a female president.
“Oh, it will happen sooner than you think,” he told me. “It will happen in your lifetime. Probably not in mine, but definitely in yours.” Refusing to think about a world where Pepa did not exist, I did not accept this answer. “Yeah, but maybe before,” I said a matter-of-factly.
“I hope so, honey,” Pepa said, handing me my hotdog.
This story isn’t about Hillary Clinton, who, at the time, was serving her role as First Lady of the United States. This is a story about my Pepa, and a six-year-old granddaughter who truly wanted to know if she would ever see a woman lead the Free World. At the age of six in 1998, I did not know. I believe this will be different for six-year-old girls now, no matter who wins this election. I have to believe that young girls in the United States and all over the world, some witnessing their first election, do not hope that a woman will be elected in their lifetime, but know it. I have to believe this is true.
I asked my Pepa this question because I knew it was safe to ask him. He has been the dedicated, loving husband of a woman who has dedicated her life to helping others. My Nanny, a nurse for over 40 years and a firm believer in women's reproductive rights and doing whatever the hell you please, is a prime example of a strong female leader. They raised a strong, smart daughter, who I’m lucky enough to call my mother. When I got old enough to start dating he said “If you want to date, date. If you don’t, you have better things to do.” He’s read everything I’ve ever sent to him, and was proud when I chose to attend an all-women's college. When I lay awake at night thinking about how young girls must feel during this election, I think about Pepa and Nanny, too. I think about how representation does not only matter for our youth and future, but for the men and women who have quietly guided us here. I think of them.
A person's gender is not a sole reason to vote for them as president of the united states, but I’m very tired of having to reiterate this every time I express excitement about potentially having a female president. Quick reminder: we have never had one of those before, so yeah, I’m pretty stoked. We are still living in a country where 20 women (20%) serve in the United States Senate, and 84 women (19.3%) serve in the United States House of Representatives. There is still a gender pay gap. There is aggressive and subtle acts of sexism that we face everyday, a constant reminder that we are not equal. I do not need to apologize for wanting a woman to be president of the United States of America.
When I cast my vote, I thought of Pepa. I thought about two weeks from now, sitting at his table over Thanksgiving break, eating one of his (now world famous, I’d say) hotdogs. 18 years ago, we didn’t think we’d ever experience a woman president together. Fingers crossed that for just once, he is wrong.