The presidential election was a referendum on gender and women lost

Political scientist Susan Carroll, a senior scholar at Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, says the “Trump factor” not only frightened women; it quieted them. “I think a lot of people don’t want to talk about this election and get into a fight with somebody about it,” she says. “It tends to be confrontational, and many women are not that confrontational, and reluctant to get involved. They like to keep things smooth and on an even keel. A lot of women will maybe feel more relief than jubilation—quite in contrast to 2008, when there was much more visible enthusiasm [for Obama].”

Facing the wall of what McGill University professor and author Gil Troy calls “Clintipathy”—an irrational hatred of Clinton fueled by years of pillorying in the far-right media—many women simply kept things “smooth” by not speaking up. Indiana cybersecurity executive Stacy Mill, 49, is a mother of two daughters and on her second husband, and she says both her men voted for Trump. After a few arguments with her husband, they simply stopped discussing politics. “In my house, it comes down to Benghazi and the emails,” she says. “For me, Hillary has shown such growth, maturity and thoughtful leadership, and that has nothing to do with gender.”

Another kind of fear haunted some of these women. Having seen their hopes dashed so often, they kept their expectations in check. “So many women have not gotten something they thought they should be getting—the job promotion, the salary increase—that until it really happens, folks are so nervous about letting themselves go,” says Stephanie Schriock, president of the women’s political training and fundraising organization Emily’s List, who campaigned for Clinton across the country. Speaking a week before the election and predicting a Clinton victory, she said, “I think on Tuesday night you will have to drop Kleenex from the sky. The tears are going to come out.”

Well, she got part of that right. There were tears.