“Oi,” Ory said while nudging me, “ wake up, it’s seven thirty.”
I opened my eyes and saw that she had showered. Ory had spent the night in my apartment. I grabbed my phone, scrolled through some group messages.
“Oh, Brian is on Metro TV,” I said while looking for the TV remote.
Our former colleague Brian was on TV along with a former diplomat and a professor, being interviewed about the ongoing US election. I took several photos of the screen and noticed the live count on the left corner of the screen. Huh. Trump’s leading. Well, they must’ve just counted the Republican states first.
I got ready and took a motorbike taxi to work. That day started like any other. Another deadline, another conference call. But around noon, the mood in the office started to dampen. Trump was clearly winning. During lunch, we were all on our phones, trying to figure out what was happening and how the American electoral system works. We were trying to find justifications, or at least an explanation, on how in the world Donald Trump was winning.
I work in a political risk consulting firm, so it was only normal that everybody was following the US election closely. However, that day something was different. In one way or another this election had affected us personally. Some of my colleagues had lived in the US, be it during college or even during childhood, so I could understand why Trump’s win would affect them personally. Whereas for me, I wasn’t so sure. I have never been to the US, nor do I have a strong connection to the country. Just like many children around the world, I grew up consuming American entertainment, reading American books, developing an American accent I picked up from the movies (which I completely butchered by living in Singapore). But I never thought the US election result would effect me the way it did.
That afternoon, Donald Trump was officially elected as the 45th President of the United States of America. One of my colleagues had the live coverage of Trump’s speech on her laptop. We all stood around her desk and watched in disbelief. We just couldn’t fathom that the so-called beacon of democracy just elected a perverted orange reality TV star as their president.
After watching the speech, I went back to my desk. I texted my boyfriend, Henrik. He is American and had voted for this election. He was (and still is) a staunch Bernie Sanders supporter (influenced by his Swedish upbringing) and this election had upset him more than I could imagine.
“Hey, how are you holding up?” I wrote.
“Yeah,” he replied, “I stopped following the news a couple hours ago.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, not knowing how to console him.
“I’m just going to go sleep now,” he said.
The rest of the day came and went. I tried to finish up some documents. My boss came to my desk and asked me whether we should update our clients about the Trans Pacific Partnership’s demise just yet. “Nah, too early,” I said. At seven I packed up my things and headed to the gym. I blasted my favourite album to numb my mind. And then I showered and went back to my apartment.
I entered my room, dropped all my bags onto the floor and laid down on my bed. I took my phone and started to mindlessly scroll my social media feeds. As I was scrolling Facebook, I saw Hilary Clinton’s concession speech video. I hesitated whether I wanted to watch it. I went on scrolling for a couple minutes before deciding that I was ready to watch it.
Thirty seconds into the speech, I was already in tears. As I continued watching, I had to pause several times to calm down. I didn’t know why I cried, but I did.
“And to the young people in particular,” Hilary said, “I hope you will hear this. I have been spending my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I had successes and I had setbacks, sometimes really painful ones. Many of you are in the beginning of your professional public and political careers. You will have successes and setbacks too. This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”
I paused the video, stood up, grabbed some tissues and a glass of water. I ungracefully blew my nose, settled back onto my bed, and hit play.
“And to all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me,” she continued, “I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion. Now, I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will, and hopefully sooner than one might think right now.”
I lost it. I sobbed like a baby.
She continued, “And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of any chance, of any opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”
At that moment, I realised why this election had affected me as much as it did. For that election showed me that it doesn’t matter how hard we try, women will not be able to shatter the proverbial glass ceiling. We’ve always been told to try twice, triple as hard as the men to get what we want, and that Hilary did. But it wasn’t enough. It would never have been enough.
And what’s worse: it was such an easy choice. Would you pick an experienced public servant and politician or a businessman with a questionable moral code as your leader? Would you rather deal with a woman who cannot handle technology or a man who couldn’t control his mouth? This was an obvious choice from the get go, but I guess her lack of penis got the best of her.
I tried to pull myself together and got ready for bed. Have I been living in a bubble, I thought to myself. How come I believed that a woman can be elected as the President of America? Silly me. Maybe I need a reality check.
A week had passed by. I was in a taxi heading to a meeting with a mid-level bureaucrat to discuss an upcoming mining regulation, crushing virtual candies left and right (I had replaced the CNN app on my phone with Candy Crush Saga). As we closed in to the lobby, I started getting my thoughts in order. Okay, I was ready.
I shook hands with the Bapak, thanked him for his time and introduced myself. It was quick for me to notice that this man didn’t think I was capable of understanding the complexity of the mining industry. He kept saying, “ah that’s too complicated for a woman like you.”
No, try me.
I tried to navigate the conversation, but he kept talking on and on – mansplaining me to oblivion. Thirty minutes in, after getting a few good glimpse of my mining sector knowledge, he started to take me seriously and answered my questions the way I wanted him to. After about an hour, I shook his hand and hopped on to another taxi to go to my next meeting.
The fight continues, I said to myself. Let’s break that fucking ceiling.
Originally written as an assignment for The Jakarta Post Writing Center’s Narrative Essay class.