Stylist | “Dear Madam President”: An open letter to what should have been the first female leader of the USA


Sometimes, when there’s a big event due on a specified date, journalists will write pieces as though the thing has happened before it actually has. Hillary Clinton looked, up till election day, in a strong position to win the presidency; and if I’m honest, the thought of the alternative was more awful than many writers and commissioning editors were perhaps willing to countenance. Why live in a bad potential future when you could pretend the better one is guaranteed instead? So Stylist gave me a commission: write an open letter to Hillary Clinton as the first female US president, and if the worst happens, we’ll commission you to do an alternative column on the day. 

The alternative was this, which was one of the three pieces I turned out between 5am and 9am on Wednesday. But this is the one I wrote first. This is the one I wanted to be true. Funnily enough, on Tuesday evening I watched an episode of the sitcom Community called Remedial Chaos, in which a character rolls a dice to make a decision, thereby splitting off the universe into six timelines. On Wednesday, I woke up in the darkest timeline. But when I was writing this, and the other Hillary-victory pre-commission I did, I got to hurl myself forward to the good place, briefly. There’s an entire literature of this, by the way: celebratory pieces by feminist journalists never published because the cause for celebration died in the bitter grip of the polls. One day, someone should compile them into a book. It will be the saddest book.

Dear Madam President,

I could just sit here and type that beautiful phrase all day: “Dear Madam President”.

Even as someone in a country with its second female head of government (only another 72 consecutive female prime ministers to go before the UK hits equality!), the first woman in the White House feels like a big deal. Because this is America, and America is the biggest deal of all.

The only superpower standing. A country that promises ‘liberty and justice for all’, but that for more than three centuries only put white men in the top job. When that country appoints its first woman president, and when she succeeds its first black president, you know that history has happened.

It’s taken decades, but the struggles for civil rights and women’s liberation that kicked off in the 20th century have finally taken the big prize.

I’m going to enjoy every moment of this victory.

Read the full, tragically redundant, post at Stylist