In Lawrence, young women reflect on Clinton’s loss, what Trump presidency means to them

Free State High School Young Feminists Club co-president Meredith Shaheed, left, addresses members of her club during a meeting Wednesday afternoon at the high school, 4700 Overland Drive. Club members spent the meeting reflecting on the results of the 2016 presidential election.

Young women who attended a pair of recent Lawrence forums in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory on Tuesday often expressed a shared thought: It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

Clinton supporter Meredith Shaheed expected to celebrate a Clinton win with friends and classmates at Wednesday afternoon’s meeting of the Young Feminists Club at Free State High School.

As election returns began to trickle in Tuesday evening, “I just kept thinking to myself, ‘Why does America hate women so much?'” Shaheed later recalled to a group of some 20 students — mostly girls — who had gathered that afternoon in Free State’s choir room.

Shaheed, a Free State senior and co-president of the school’s Young Feminists Club, knows that’s not completely true. Sexism — and how it plays into politics — isn’t that simple, either, she admits.

But the election of Trump over Clinton, a candidate Shaheed admires for her early work as a Children’s Defense Fund attorney and advocate for women’s rights, feels that way right now, she said.

“She has done so much good for the world, and it doesn’t make sense,” Shaheed continued. “The equation doesn’t add up, that someone like that could have lost to someone like Donald Trump. It hurts.”

Trump has been accused — by at least a dozen women now — of sexual harassment and assault. He bragged in leaked “Access Hollywood” footage from 11 years ago about groping women and kissing them without their consent. During the campaign he frequently was condemned for resorting to demeaning or vulgar language to criticize female opponents or members of the news media.

And yet roughly half the country — plenty of women, too — voted for him despite it.

As polls have shown, Clinton failed to energize some female voters too. Local female supporters of Trump in post election interviews have cited issues ranging from concerns about Clinton’s handling of classified e-mails to her stance on abortion to just a general need to have someone who is not tied to the political machinery of Washington, D.C..

On the University of Kansas campus, women struggled with what the vote meant and other post election issues at a forum on Thursday afternoon. About 60 people, mostly women, gathered on the sixth floor of the Kansas Union to process the election results.

In the case of KU student Valerie Swisher, a Clinton supporter, she has “struggled” over the course of the election to understand her father’s support of Trump.

“I just try to look at him, because I have a sister, and it’s like, How do you see me? Do you see me as worth not having rights? Am I not worth as much as men?” Swisher said, speaking to a visibly emotional group that circulated a box of tissues around the room throughout the hour.

“Trying to deal with that in people that I truly, truly love is one thing that has been so hard for me to just wrap my head around,” she continued. “Because, how do I look at him the same way when he voted for someone who’s so blatantly against everything that I stand for?”

That’s partly why the election of Trump, she said after Thursday’s safe-space meeting, has left her feeling somewhat despondent about her future. This year’s election was the first presidential contest in which Swisher was old enough to vote. She cast her first vote for the candidate she hoped would be the first female president.

Now, for Swisher and other young women, those hopes are dashed. At least for the time being.

The girls who gathered in the Free State High School choir room Wednesday, many of them just months away from turning 18, held each other and wiped away tears while watching Clinton’s concession speech on a projector screen that afternoon.

But they also hadn’t given up. Shaheed spent last weekend with the Clinton campaign in Iowa, an experience she looks back on now as only solidifying her interest in public service.

“As a teenage girl who’s really into politics,” Shaheed said, she couldn’t help but feel devastated by Clinton’s loss.

“By the time I’m running for some sort of office, maybe we still won’t have a female president,” she mused. “Maybe we still won’t have a woman at the highest office in the world.”

“It hurt to get so close,” agreed senior Aubin Murphy, the club’s co-president.

Still, when asked if they expect to see a female president in their lifetimes, both girls said, with certainty, that it will happen. They’re not sure when, but they’re sure just the same.