If you don’t want to know what it was like to be a woman in America on November 9th, 2016, don’t read this.
I’ve been writing some of this post in my head for months. Like many women, it started taking shape when the Billy Bush tape was released and Trump’s so called “locker room banter” (his words) was brought onto the field for all to hear. He and his supporters said this didn’t reflect who he was, that it was a long time ago and he’s changed, that all men talk like this, that nobody’s perfect, and that we should forgive him and move on.
But for me, like for so many others, it surfaced memories of all the times I’ve been catcalled, leered at, propositioned, referred to as a slut, bitch, or pussy, and had to hold off unwanted sexual advances (sometimes verbally and sometimes physically). With those memories came all the emotions I felt in each of those instances: confusion, disgust, sadness, helplessness, loneliness, and fear.
Now with your average reality show star, these words wouldn’t have such an effect. I’d roll my eyes and shrug it off. I never watch reality TV and as we all know the vast majority of it is NOT reality anyway. But this time, it was a presidential candidate, someone that could have influence on the lives of all the women and girls in this country for many years to come. The fact that he made it so far, that so many men and women supported him along the way, regardless of his chauvinistic comments and actions, terrified me.
His running mate and supporters terrified me even more. Hearing them defend his actions and some of them even call for repeal of the 19th amendment (remember #repealthe19th), made realize how lucky I am to have a social circle that defends and upholds women’s rights. It also made me realize that there are hoards of people out there that don’t. Those that would continue to objectify us, and take away our right to choose and our right to vote. For me it was no longer about Trump vs. Clinton and their respective policy plans, it was about legitimizing all the abuse and discrimination woman endure vs. taking one of the biggest steps forward in gender equality this country could make. I chose the later.
And so as the election grew closer I found myself yearning for a female in the White House, and becoming more and more sure it would happen. Clinton wasn’t perfect. As many pointed out, she wasn’t necessarily the best (or most electable) candidate for the Democrats to put forward…many felt it was simply her turn. But as assaults from the Trump camp kept coming, I became more and more emboldened and increasingly excited to see Clinton take office.
In a country where women are still paid less than their male peers, are less likely to be promoted to leadership positions, and have to go on disability or quit their jobs to deliver and care for their children, this was the ultimate professional glass ceiling to be broken. And so for the first time since 1999, when I was old enough to vote, I was truly excited and proud to be an American woman.
But as the results began to pour in, this all changed. My pride and excitement was overtaken by those old feelings of confusion, disgust, sadness, helplessness, loneliness, and fear. And when I woke up, it was confirmed. Trump would be our next president and 50% of the electorate wanted it that way. I cried and found myself unable to do more than the most basic things all day. My brain and my heart had simply shut off.
To listen to this man belittle and disparage women for months and then see so many Americans support him, especially women like myself, was a punch to the gut. It had less to do with him, than it did legitimizing all the horrible things he said, the horrible things his supporters said, and all the horrible things that I and so many woman have endured simply because we were born without a Y chromosome.
But I was not alone. I’ve never seem so many women collectively grieve an election result with such ferocity. So many of my friends, family, and acquaintances felt the same way, many of them even more intensely than I did. “I’m heartbroken, feel invalidated, my children are scared to go to school, how will I explain this to my daughter, I feel lost, I can’t stop crying, for the first time ever I don’t feel welcome here…” These were the sentiments I saw across my social media pages, posted by women of differing ages, races, and backgrounds. While it was terrible to read, I took solace in the fact that I wasn’t alone.
I too let my emotions show online. A friend (trying to be sympathetic and nice), told me they understand it’s hard when your candidate loses and went on the explain that’s how they felt when Obama won. My friend had good intentions but their comment made me sink even deeper. With any other election, I’d agree. George W. Bush was clearly in my mind a poor choice for President, but I didn’t feel like I was hit by a truck when he was elected and reelected. And Trump is no Obama. While republicans may have not agreed with Obama’s policy positions, most did not question his intelligence, his integrity, or his intentions. Obama has been a class act from the beginning. Trump on the other hand has been questioned and dismissed by even high-ranking members of his own party. He has run a campaign built on people’s fears, heartaches, and failures.
It makes me so angry that so many people, good people, including so many women were forced to overlook Trump’s clear disrespect for women (not to mention muslims, immigrants, gays and more) in order to support the party and policy positions they believed in. I may not have voted for a Jeb Bush or a Marco Rubio, but I would not have been so terribly upset if one of them were the President-elect.
But as many others have pointed out as well, you can’t stay angry and frustrated forever. It will only turn inward and sicken you. You must turn it into action. I have never felt so moved to make a difference in my community or the world than today. I’ve seen across the web and through personal conversations that many women (and men) share this desire and I hope that our collective ambition, wisdom and love will be a force that lifts our nation out of the hole we feel we’ve dug ourselves.
Start small. I donated clothes to Preble Street Resource Center today. I walked into a place I’ve driven by for years, only slowing down to avoid people shuffling across the street to the soup kitchen. I had to stand in line with them to hand over the clothes at the front desk. I spoke to many of them while I waited. They are tired, they are sad, and they are fearful too..albeit for different more personal reasons than I. We are all in this together, and like even Mr. Trump himself said in his acceptance speech “it is time for us to come together as one united people.”
And so tomorrow I need to start thinking about what else I can do to help others. I know it will have something to do with supporting women, and it will come to me when I’m less tired and the shock has fully worn off. Please join me in making our community, our state and our nation a better place for everyone, because the only way to heal our nation from the the inside out, is one person at a time.
And before I end this rant and go back to talking about trivial things like tantrums and sniffy noses, I want to acknowledge that I’m one of the lucky ones. My emotions pale in comparison to those of many, many others. Despite my angst, my day to day life will not change much after January 20th, 2017. My family is white, upper middle class, and lives in a progressive city. My husband and I will have work, I will have health coverage, my family will not be deported, my daughter won’t be heckled at school, and we will feel safe and secure. I worry profoundly for my immigrant, muslim, gay, and/or poor friends and neighbors. Many of them are much more scared than I am, thrown into a world of uncertainty.
And so regardless of who is in power, let’s choose love and make a concerted effort to make these people feel welcome, supported, and most of all safe in the days and years to come.
Rant over. I leave you with this video of my daughter, who in 15 years will be able to vote and can (if she wants to) be president of the United States. #MaddieMoo2050