#DearHilary What now do we tell our daughters?

Dear Hilary,

You don't know me. I don't really know you. Yet, I feel compelled to tell you this morning I woke up numb. Then I started crying, and for a long while couldn't stop.

I don't know exactly what kind of president you would be; I don't know what kind he will be either, and in some regards why speculate? I'm Canadian and kind of removed, yet I don't feel removed from the message sent by this election.

I am a woman. I have daughters. And we've been sent a message so loud and so clear that I can't just go on with my day. I can't act like everything is business as usual.

It's true the message isn't new. It's so incredibly normal. The sentiments held by Mr. Trump run long and deep and apparently still much wider than many would like to believe. But I suppose I've been wanting to believe I brought my daughters into a world that was... better. I've been wanting to believe I brought my daughters into a world where leaders didn't see them as something to objectify and violate. I've been wanting to convince myself what I've been told and taught my entire life might actually be true; because I was told from a very young age I could be anything I set my mind to. To reach for the stars! There were no limits on what I could be and do. I find myself perpetuating this, telling my daughters they can do and be anything (even when the world is telling them just to be pretty and nice). But right now it feels like a more shameful lie than it ever was before.

How can I tell my daughters they can be anything?

Even before this election I knew it wasn't true. I knew I was lied to by my well-meaning parents, teachers and mentors. They taught me to believe the world was mine if I chose to rise up and take it, that my mind was equal to anyone else's and my future as assured: the sum of fairy tale 'progressive' ideals, but not reality.

My body and my gender has taught me better. I've been sexually abused, raped and by the time I was 17 I was pregnant and in an abusive relationship. Each and every day there's a signal to me that my body diminishes my value as a human being, an unseen force I have to be aware of and fight. And I'm one of the lucky ones. I was raised in an upper middle class family. I finished highschool on honour roll with a scholarship, being scouted by a modelling agency and invited to New York. Not that a pregnant 17 year old could do much with that, but I at least had a little privilege cushion for the blow of being born female, and I spend part of everyday being grateful for my little cushion, busily building cushions for my daughters.

I did struggle with my brother's reality. He had dance lessons, traveled and his stint with post secondary education was paid for. To be sure he had struggles of his own, but I always wondered... why did the world at large seem to believe he was so much more valuable than me? Why did I have to work so hard to be seen and valued when his value was just assumed? (And why, if I bring it up am I imagining things?)

I've often listened to my mother regale the scene in which my grandmother plainly told her my father's education was more important than hers. To this day I can't bring myself to juxtapose that to her with the different realities my brother and I have lived. I have smiled and been empathetic and inwardly choked on the irony. Isn't that what we're supposed to do?  Is that what you're doing right now?

I should tell you I did eventually go to university. The cost was more than I can articulate, well beyond the minimum wage I was making at the time. I fought to extricate myself from that horrible relationship, fought to be educated, fought to build the reality I was sold when I was young. I am sometimes commended, praised or called 'resilient', but every now and then I wonder why I have to be, IF I would have to be so resilient if I was John instead of Jane. The only way I can make sense of my reality is to believe it is building me for my greater purpose or even that it's just part of life's random, haphazard way instead of something incredibly intentional.

Maybe that's the way you make sense of this reality too.  

I started this letter, to a person I will likely never meet, because when the world doesn't make sense to me writing does. Part of me wants you to see me, wants to know my existence matters - beyond being born to be violated - when so many people have just collectively said it doesn't.

But more importantly: what now do we tell our daughters? That they can be anything they want to be if they 'suck it up', 'take it on the chin', 'lean in', fight harder, and be more resilient? Because in this moment we know it's not true and I don't want to lie to each other, or to them.