Around June of 2016, we Americans watched as Britain voted to leave the EU in something they were calling Brexit.
As I was about to start a year abroad as a Master’s student at the University of Glasgow, the referendum was important to me as it would be dictating the political climate I would be submersed in during my time there.
The day after Brexit, many people were shocked that the Leave vote had actually won.
Fast forward to November 2016 – I was finally beginning to feel comfortable in Glasgow. My flatmate, who was from Salisbury in southern England, was turning out to be one of my best friends. We had talked at length about Brexit, about her take on it and her take on Scotland’s vote, and we had talked at length about my election.
That’s what we were calling it – MY election.
But the night of November 8th, I watched as the election changed drastically. All of the hope I had was dashed in a matter of hours. I had thought I wouldn’t really stay up for the results, but it turns out, I couldn’t sleep. I spent the night on the phone with my boyfriend, watching and realizing with a horribly helpless feeling, that this was indeed, not my election.
The morning after the results, my flatmate (a traditional Brit in all ways), broke her personal bubble to give me a hug as I sobbed. I cried as I walked to class, not wanting to go but knowing I needed to drag myself out of my room, if only for a little while.
When I got to class, two Scots began talking about the election. One of them said, “well, we don’t know what Hillary would have been like in office” with an obvious ominous implication. Fueled by lack of sleep and anger, I wanted to punch him.
At the time, as I hid in the bathroom to shed more tears, I had thought he had no room to talk about the election. I was the one grieving! I was the one that was mourning the fate of my country! I was the one who had to pick myself up after a man had won, despite all he stood for (or I suppose, it was rather because of all he stood for) and figure out how to reclaim my place in my homeland.
I realized later, that while him talking about it right next to me the night after may not have been the most sensitive thing, he had the right to because this election would change so much.
Being Americans, we are told about our reputation abroad quite a lot, and it’s not, shall we say, all that positive. I had hoped I would be able to help change that – I promise we aren’t all ignorant, oblivious, loud racists! I had hoped that this election would show we were beginning to put another foot in the direction of progress, of being seen as more than our reputation.
But, clearly, I was wrong.
The Scots seem to get it though. They understand my heartbroken disbelief. A majority of Scotland had voted to remain in the EU in the Brexit vote. Being a part of the EU was one of the strongest arguments that “Remain” voters had had in the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014. They too, had been robbed.
After the Brexit vote, like my native California after the 2016 election, Scotland threw around the idea of jumping ship from a country that seemed xenophobic to its core.
Eventually, my grief and sorrow dimmed enough that my international friends would get the courage to ask me that question we were all burning to know the answer to.
How did this happen?
And I had to give the ugliest truth.
Because Hillary is a woman.
So now, we get to be seen as more than the ignorant, oblivious, loud racists…we also get to be sexist as well.
Riana Hull ’14 is from Irvine, California. After completing her three years at Smith (and one abroad), she worked in California for two years before applying for a Master’s degree at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. She is currently in the UK, completing that degree.by