This election has unleashed something in me. Something deep and old. Something that is bigger than me. I am tired. I am pissed. I am disenfranchised. I am disappointed (but somehow still hopeful).
Why are women mad as hell about the election result?
It’s not because a woman isn’t yet electable. Although many of us were fantasizing about breaking that last glass ceiling. I’m hopeful the beef is with Hillary as an individual and not as a woman, but who knows?
It’s not that your values don’t align with mine. Although I don’t support building a wall, or rolling back rights we’ve worked so hard to secure.
It’s not that I hate losing. Although I do.
I can live with those disappointments. I lived with them through eight years of George W. after all. This feels different. This IS different.
In choosing Donald Trump, we opted for a man who has said some of the most hateful, vile things and continually behaves like a petulant child. (Not news to anyone!) Worse than that, he’s been accused of sexually assaulting women throughout his long lifetime. And we’ve rewarded this sickening, hurtful, illegal behavior with a job. And not just any job! The highest office in the land! Hillary Clinton, though flawed, is castigated for sending emails from the wrong server. After all these years, I’m forced to wonder…have we, women, achieved any parity at all?
If you are thinking – stop whining, the election is over. I’ve got to stop you right there. This is bigger than the election. The election simply shined a light on the dark corners of America. Corners we’d turned away from, pretending they didn’t exist anymore.
Well, the lights are on now, and here’s what I see.
Brock Turner. The Harvard Men’s Soccer Team. Donald Trump. Bill Cosby. Roger Ailes. I didn’t even have to Google any of these names, that’s how famous and commonplace they are. Is the problem so widespread, we can call it systemic?
What’s the deal, America? Why are you ok with treating women like this? And ladies, why have we accepted it?
I’m mad at myself for all the times I laughed off crude jokes, or let a little ass grabbing go. Or worse. (All while proudly claiming to be a feminist. That’s funny).
I can remember one particular night, when I was in college. I was at a fraternity party. The bar was overcrowded, with throngs of people, all jockeying for the bartenders’ attention. I assume there were like 2 beer taps, and about 200 people waiting. It didn’t look like we’d get a beer in this lifetime. But I’ve never shied away from a challenge in my life. I’m ambitious, and always have been. So I told my friends I’d make it happen. I snaked my way through the crowd, and finally plopped my elbows down on the bar and asked for beers. I was polite, I was smiley. It may not have actually been my turn, but all’s fair in love and war and free beer in college. Well apparently not. Suddenly, I felt someone (LITERALLY) grab my P*SSY. I was wearing a skirt, and all that separated someone’s hand from my vagina was thin cotton. Yes, I was wearing underwear. That didn’t matter though. I‘d never felt so violated; I probably shook visibly. This feeling of “How dare you” welled up in me like hot lava. I whipped my entire body around, ready to punch someone square in the mouth. All I saw was a sea of faces. A crowd crushing towards me and the bar. And no one was exactly raising his hand to say “oooh, I did it! I’m the D-Bag who put his hand up your skirt and grabbed your crotch.”
I had absolutely no idea who had just assaulted me or why. Was it because they thought it would be funny? Was it because they perceived I had cut the beer line (I probably had!)? Was it because he was a fraternity brother and thought he could do what he wanted in his house? Did it make him feel good to make me feel bad? Whoever did this absolutely knew they’d done something wrong, or else they wouldn’t have hidden. I didn’t get the opportunity to stand up to my assailant. I couldn’t demand restitution for the wrong.
I’ve never forgotten how sick that person made me feel. My confidence splintered apart in that moment. I wondered whether I had asked for it somehow. I also quickly pushed down any fears or angry feelings, in order to not “make a scene”. Do you think I reported it to campus safety or the police? Of course not.
I left immediately and cried alone on my tiny dorm room bed. I never told my boyfriend about it. I worried he’d think I had asked for it. I worried he’d blow it off like it wasn’t a big deal. Tell me to get over it. Needless to say – these were all my own fears I was projecting onto him. I like to think I’m a strong, confident (though fallible) human. In that moment, I didn’t feel human. I felt like a discarded piece of garbage. Whoever he was, he took a basic right from me. The right to power over my own body.
Ultimately, I picked myself up, and got on with living an awesome life, cause that’s what we women do!
Insert chin up & mega watt smile.
The saddest part about the story I just shared is how ordinary it will feel for the majority of women out there.
But maybe there’s some good that can come out of this train wreck of an election.
I certainly have more awareness than ever before of my white privilege. I recognize that as a white woman, I’ve been entitled; I had the naïve expectation that things would work out for me. I get to walk around, usually feeling very safe in my own skin. I have (mostly) escaped real pain & real trauma. I now have (even) more empathy for anyone who feels unrepresented, unheard, minimized, discounted.
This includes Donald Trump supporters. Many of his allies say they want someone who will give them a voice, who represents them. An outsider, since Washington insiders long ago abandoned them. They say it’s about bringing back jobs and putting food on the table for their families. That it’s about survival. And survival always trumps “luxuries” like moral values. Fair enough. I respect that.
I just can’t believe this creep is your Robin Hood? I can’t know how it’s all gonna go, but I can promise you this: I will do my part “to make American great again.” I will be kinder and gentler with everyone. Until they stick their hand up my skirt. Then hell hath no fury like a (nasty) woman scorned.
Donald Trump has reminded me that we haven’t done nearly enough, ladies. In fact, we’ve barely gotten started. And I’m hopeful that the 20 year olds of today ARE doing more than I was able to, back in that fraternity house in 1996. But it’s incumbent on all of us. Women… the next time someone tells a joke that makes you feel uncomfortable, make a scene in your own way. It doesn’t have to be screaming in his face, if that’s not your style. Even simply not laughing will send them a message that it isn’t ok. Or get mad, if you’re mad! And if it’s worse than a joke, talk to someone. Tell someone. Tell someone’s boss. Tell the boss’s boss. We might still be playing their game, but we can change the rules to make it better work for us (and women in the future). Lastly, seek out women-owned, women-led companies, and join their culture. Support their success, knowing they are more likely to support yours.
Let’s do this.