An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

[This is the original essay for which I won the Howell Essay Scholarship Contest at Michigan State in 2008.]

Dear Hillary,

I don’t know what to do. My vote in the 2008 presidential race is the most important I’ll ever cast. I should be excited, but I have a huge problem on my hands — I don’t know who should get my vote! The media has left me very confused.

I’ve realized it’s an election in which we must vote based on our chromosomes’ similarities to the candidates’. But I share two X chromosomes with you and a few black chromosomes with Barack Obama (just a few—I’m only half-black). Chromosomes are the most important factor in how I vote, but mine are at war. The primaries are upon us and my double Helix has about unzipped itself in the frenzy!

It wasn’t always like this. The media approached the fact a woman and a black man were running timidly, like Americans choose minority leaders all the time. “Obama is black? You don’t say! Hillary is a woman? We’re so objective, we hadn’t noticed.”

Unfortunately for you, Hillary, they noticed.

Suddenly women are at the center of this election, and I constantly wonder, “Why is your womanhood such an issue?”

Because it is an issue. A big issue. I don’t even know what the other issues are, given all the energy being devoted to the Democrats’ chromosomes. I know politics get personal, especially for presidential candidates, but as personal as your DNA? That’s a low blow.

Honestly, I was rooting for Obama. I was feeling confident in my decision until the media intervened. I still like you, Hillary, but maybe I’m the only 22-year-old woman who does.

Your appeal — or lack thereof — to female voters is analyzed incessantly. They say young women aren’t voting for you because we’re spoiled, unfamiliar with our grandmothers’ struggles. Everyone is shocked—shocked!—we might vote on issues, not chromosomes. We should be so excited to have one of our own poised to make history, we must vote for her.

Of course! I thought. Hillary is the ultimate representation of feminism! This is what Susan B. Anthony wanted! If I don’t vote for you, we shall not overcome.

Then Oprah sold you out and backed Obama. The media started buzzing. How could a powerful woman vote against another woman? Gloria Steinem is worried by the gender talk. She thinks one chromosomal condition — race — is being used for a candidate, while another condition — sex — is being used against a candidate. Obama is “unifying” his race, but you’re “playing the gender card.”

If Gloria Steinem is confused, how can I know what’s right?

And now I’ve got Oprah and Gloria Steinem backing opponents! It’s like my grandmas getting into a Thanksgiving Day argument about the best way to baste a turkey.

And then you cried. Ohhhh, Hillary. You cried. The media said you won New Hampshire because undecided women were swayed by your unusual display of emotion. Your tear gets my vote.

When Mitt Romney was lagging, he got choked up too. Maybe I’ll vote for him. When a man cries in front of people, he’s brave.

Some male reporters were nonplussed by your tears. “Is she going to cry in front of Kim Jong-il?”

Shoot! Men don’t respect leaders who cry! Emotional females should stop pursuing leadership. We might have to cry to get ahead—but then everyone will hate us for crying to get ahead.

Needing advice, I perused my Glamour magazine. Even Glamour is a flip-flopper! Last year, they said you were the best thing that ever happened to women. Now their “Glamocracy” blog features a pretty, educated woman telling me I should never vote for a woman. I’m really upset.

The women at your alma mater, Wellesley, are upset too. They are conflicted over their loyalties to our feminist foremothers and their genuine belief in Obama. We just want an “I Voted!” sticker and suddenly we’ve got an identity crisis. We’re a solid generation of women, but defining what it means to be a feminist today eludes us.

Luckily, CNN ran a story focusing on both sets of chromosomes! They went to a beauty salon in the South — because obviously you’d look for black women in a salon, it’s, like, our favorite place — to see how they’re feeling about the big decision. They paid little attention to issues, but there was a lot about the candidates’ spouses. Ultimately, the black women concluded that to see both candidates on the ticket would be “a great day for America.”

What a feel-good article. Black women just want everyone to win!

Ultimately, one thing is going to make the decision a lot easier: you have wrinkles. Turns out, frown lines affect one’s ability to be president. Initially, I didn’t know I needed to pay attention to this. I couldn’t say if Bush needs Botox or if McCain has crow’s feet.

Thank God for the Drudge Report! They posted close-ups of your frown lines.

Seeing them, I thought, Oh. My. God. When a man says the future president of the United States isn’t pretty enough, I listen. All your “experience” is visible. What will Kim Jong-il think?!

I may vote Republican. Since no one ever reports on how you or Obama will really affect me, why not? When choosing from a bunch of white guys. I’m allowed to vote on the issues — um, whatever they are.

Well, good luck this year, Hillary! I can’t wait to see how it all works out. And give my best to Bill — I think he’s handling all those “First Husband” jokes with a lot of panache.
Your Friend,


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