by Alex Mulcahy
In the early morning after the election, on that Blackest Wednesday, I sat down to write a sales pitch to Grid advertisers. What came out instead was a letter of gratitude and appreciation to Heather Blakeslee, Grid’s managing editor and the company’s COO.
I sent the letter, and a torrent of emails flooded my inbox. Many of the respondents were women, many of whom wrote only two words: Thank you.
Some, however, challenged what was perceived to be the email’s implicit assertion that Hillary Clinton lost because she is a woman. Perhaps it was an important factor, readers argued, but not the reason. I agree.
Below is the email I sent, and a few of the many thoughtful responses we received.
But first… Now seems a good time to announce that a capable woman with an impressive resume will officially be at the helm of Grid. Effective immediately, Heather Blakeslee will assume the role of Grid’s editor-in-chief. I will, meanwhile, focus on ad sales and business development.
And finally, Heather did come to work on that Blackest Wednesday. There is no quit in that woman.
Alex Mulcahy, Publisher
My Right Hand Man is a Woman
Two years ago, almost to the day, I hired Heather Blakeslee, easily my best hiring decision in the last 10 years. Her position initially was not clearly specified—typical of the loose ship I was running—but soon we decided she would be COO of the company. Immediately, we began to act more like a business. Her spreadsheets and plans replaced my whims and impulses. She patiently listened (and listens) to my half-baked ideas, nodding her head with a Mona Lisa smile, before informing me, yet again, that we can’t make any decisions until we run the numbers.
If you’ve noticed the dramatic improvement in Grid’s editorial during this same period of time, know that it isn’t a coincidence. While she’s been dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on all functions of business, she’s also been making Grid’s content more sophisticated and political. It looks better, too; in addition to being a wordsmith with good business instincts, she also possesses a strong visual sensibility. (In her spare time, she plays guitar, writes songs for her band and is learning the cello.)
I doubt she’s coming to work today. I think it’s more likely she will be curled up in a ball in bed, crying, swearing, scouring the internet trying to find an article that will make sense out of today’s headlines. She will find none.
I know elections and candidates are complex things to analyze and dissect, but there is a bottom-line truth that can’t be denied: An experienced, competent woman lost to an under-qualified, and potentially dangerous, man.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, and my heart aches for every woman who thought her moment had arrived. It isn’t our elections that are rigged; our society is rigged. And it’s rigged against women.
‘...Bigger than the reactionary wave that led to World War II’
Your email was possibly the first reaction I saw after the election, and I thank you for it. In the shock and dismay that followed this election, I find it amazing that you wrote a coherent and empathetic email, when most people were just trying to catch their breath.
I interpreted your email as attributing Hillary Clinton’s defeat to misogyny. Unfortunately, I wished it were that simple. Her defeat is the result of the combination of what I think is the largest reactionary movement in human history. There is no question in my mind that the failure of the U.S. government, and of the Democrats in particular, is to have totally ignored the needs for reassurance and economic safety of the people left behind by the high-tech economy. In my opinion, this reactionary wave is bigger than the reactionary wave that led to World War II. This is a combination of racism, bigotry, homophobia, misogyny, anti-intellectualism, anti-elitism, anti-immigration, anti-globalization and climate-change/global-warming denying—all that mixed together. Reducing this movement to one single component is masking the size of this reaction.
The true question for me has been: How is it that I respond to this new political environment we are in? I decided that my
No. 1 priority is to reinforce the community of people sharing the belief that individuals of all colors and creed matter, and global warming is real and needs to be addressed.
The outcome of the presidential elections of 2016 calls in question Grid’s resolve to expose destructive environmental behaviors in the Philadelphia region and promote positions and behaviors that will reduce global warming. I look forward to discovering the response that you and Grid’s staff will construct.
What we sweep under the rug every day
Love this. Thank you, Alex, for acknowledging what we sweep under the rug each day and are now confronted with in such stark light.
The prejudices run deeper than any of us wanted to acknowledge but we have to call it like it is, daily.
‘We will have a woman soon, it’s inevitable’
I’m a big Grid supporter and like the trending of the magazine.
I campaigned for Bernie in North Philly, and he lost the Democratic primary in part because the Democratic National Committee (DNC) machine had Hillary insiders tilting the playing field against him. Debbie Wasserman Schultz led that effort, and when it became public she was yanked from leadership of the DNC, and then Hillary gave her a job.
After Bernie lost the primary, I campaigned for Hillary and went to work trying to convince millennials why they should vote Hillary and not Green Party. It didn’t work. 55 percent of millennials (18–29) voted for Clinton, and we needed 75 percent.
As an “experienced, competent woman” I agree with you that she “lost to an under-qualified” and potentially dangerous man. In my view it was because of cultural misogyny and because she allied herself with Wall Street and corporate interests (including oil and gas) and the perpetual warfare economy at a time when, for the last 30 years, impoverished people all across the central region of the country have been screaming for “change.” Most of those people are white, but some are black. [Clinton] spent $556 million to Trump’s $248 million. She tried to be more progressive and populist, adopting the $15/hour minimum wage and changing her position on the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but it was too late—she’d already staked out earlier positions to toe the line with corporate America and was painted as an “I’ll do anything to win” candidate.
It’s not all gender. If she were a man, though, she probably would have won. We will have a woman soon, it’s inevitable.
I cried this morning when Hillary gave her gratitude speech to her campaign workers, thinking of what an opportunity has been lost, at how smart and gracious and committed she is.
I have been doing this type of progressive support for a very long time. These losses are disappointing. Losing hurts.
You are not alone. We will get there.
Keep the faith,
‘It has always been up to us, the little guys, to take action’
Decades ago we thought President Johnson would destroy our entire generation. Then we thought Nixon was the scariest thug in the basement. Then we thought Reagan would blow up the world. Then we thought Bush Sr. (head of the CIA) would put us all in jail. Then we thought George W. would drag us into hell.
All these Republicans, and the Democrats in between, caused great damage. To the environment. To the Constitution. To the middle class. To the poor. To other nations.
Many have regarded Trump as Godzilla, trampling everything good. But regardless who is elected, the military is unleashed. The prisons boom. The cities bust.
Today Trump gains official authority, but he’s surrounded by a Congress full of millionaires and lobbyists. These jokers serve the money machine, regardless of what happens to your community. They foreclose our homes, jack up medical insurance rates, send our jobs overseas, poison our food and water, send our youth to war and jail.
So Trump will be pressured to feed that machine. Keeping him on track is up to us, starting where we live. Our revolution emerges without waiting for presidents. It has always been up to us, the little guys, to take action to prove there are healthy alternatives to corporate power. We will build locally what we desire. Practical revolutions in food, fuel, housing, health care, policing, transportation, education, finance.
‘We will all make it through, slowly but surely’
Thank you for this. I really appreciate and admire the fact that you are using Grid’s voice to support Heather and women in Philadelphia.
Heather, I am feeling your pain and frustrations today, too. As I told my team, our president may have changed, but the people and issues we care about have not. We will all make it through, slowly but surely.
Thanks again for this, Alex. I’m happy to see another local Philly company stepping up when we need it most.
‘Being judged… because we are women is something we face on a consistent basis.’
As a woman leader, thank you for sending this email. Being judged... because we are women—is something we face on a consistent basis. It is frustrating, and today is indeed a sad day. I’m with Heather and you, and hope we can make a difference and a path forward together.
All the best,
‘I had just been thinking about how women in the workplace would fare today’
Thank you for taking the time out of this difficult and discouraging day to write and distribute this thoughtful, encouraging letter.
I had just been thinking about how women in the workplace would fare today and going forward from this election, and your letter provided a glimmer of hope that the gains we’ve made in the last decades won’t be completely erased, if intelligent people work together in appreciation of experience, skill, diversity and talent.
May you and Grid magazine thrive in the spirit of enlightenment.
All the best,