I woke up last week from yet another dream about meeting Hillary Clinton.
While I’ve been in her vicinity a few times, I haven’t been able to shake her hand or thank her like some lucky women have.
But in a few of my dreams, she’s been an arm’s length away.
While reporting on the Democratic National Convention this past summer, I realized it was a good thing I wasn’t too attached to any candidate. I knew where I stood on the political spectrum, but I hadn’t found a candidate who really fit. That week I watched as emotions drove the actions of protesters, delegates, volunteers and even the candidates themselves.
On the last day of the convention, I snuck into a suite in the Wells Fargo Center with a friend and fellow journalist. It was the first time either of us had sat down in hours, and we decided we would listen to Clinton’s acceptance speech before tracking down delegates and writing our last stories.
When Clinton took the stage that night, wearing an immaculate white pantsuit, she spoke about what it’s like to be a woman in government. She talked about how it feels always being surrounded by rooms full of men, and how she “gets that some people just don’t know what to make of [her].”
My friend and I cried like thousands of other women — and plenty of men, too — in the arena that night. I remember I felt two inches taller that night, talking to delegates and pushing through crowds like my gender was a badge of honor.
Following the convention, I learned as much as I could about Hillary Clinton. I read the transcript of the commencement speech she delivered to her graduating class at Wellesley College in 1969. At only 21 — the same age I am now — she spoke about empathy, power, responsibility and the fight for equality in the United States.
Later, when she married Bill Clinton, she decided to keep her maiden name, Rodham, because that’s how she was known to colleagues and clients at her law firm. In her role as first lady, she stayed actively engaged in the organizations she supported and pointed her husband in the directions she saw fit. She was sure in her stances on human rights and wore the label of a feminist while it was still a deeply dirty word.
During her campaign for president, she was called out as not nice enough, feminine enough, for “yelling” or being “too aggressive” in her speeches. She’s been chastised for smiling too much or not smiling at all. She was criticized for her looks before, during and after her time as first lady. Her status as a mother and grandmother has been talked about as factors in whether or not she’d be too emotional as a leader, and yet, she’s been called emotionless.
Clinton took the term “nasty woman,” meant as a stab at her character by her opponent, and made it a proud identifier for strong women everywhere.
The term clicked for me.
Finally, there was a woman out there, like me, who didn’t seem to care if someone liked her, or thought she was nice, so long as she was getting her job done. And she wanted to be president.
To me and a lot of my friends, our gender isn’t just something that decides how we get dressed in the morning. It decides how we see the world and the issues in it.
And that’s why, physically and emotionally, I feel different about Hillary Clinton than I do about Donald Trump.
I can recall the lurch in my stomach when I first heard Trump say he could just “grab [women] by the pussy,” if he wanted to, or that motherhood inherently makes a woman a worse employee to a company. It’s the same feeling I had when was harassed a few weeks after the election by a group of large, old construction workers on my way to class.
During times like these, I’d much prefer to think back to Clinton’s speech at the Wells Fargo Center, when my heart felt so full of love for myself and for other women like me.
I guess that’s why, after a bad day, I often see Hillary in a dream.
Each time, she’s happy to see me. She gives me a hug and reminds me to hustle and not take anyone’s s–t.
And to maybe wear a white pantsuit while doing it.
Paige Gross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @By_paigegross.