Guys, check in with the girls and women you love.
Guys, check in with the girls and women you love. I can’t imagine how friends who are Muslim, Mexican, or Black may have felt during the last year and a half of being insulted and dehumanized by the Republican nominee and his supporters. But I can speak to how it feels as a woman. To many of us, this man is not just a rude but successful businessman who’s arrived to shake up the system. Nor is he just an authoritarian blowhard, bastard, joke, con man, an idiot who could cause WW3. To us, this man is intimately familiar. He is the physical embodiment of the demeaning, violent, insulting, sexist shit that we have put up with all our lives. And somehow, he may still become the leader of the world.
Ever since I was young, my life has been shaped and distorted by boys and men like him. Boys who think they have a right to me and my body. Who chase me into the bathroom, leave profane messages on my machine, pull my hair, kick me, call me a slut, call me a bitch. Boys who call my girlfriends and me stupid, naive, tell us we’re gullible, weak, have no sense of humor. Call us ugly or fat one minute and too full of ourselves the next. Boys who make fun of our girly music, our chick flicks, chick lit, tone of voice, body movements. Who punish us when we say no. Who belittle our attempts at empowerment and derogatorily call us lesbians, feminazis. Who tell us that men are verifiably better than women. Men who talk over us, interrupt us, demand to be the leading voice in any room. Who stalk us. Who hack into our email accounts and post private photos on social and professional networks. Men who come into our rooms at night and kiss us, touch us, without being asked, without being wanted.
These things have all happened to me, and yet I am one of the lucky ones. Worse has happened to women I know and love. Worse happens every day to women who are beaten and killed by so-called lovers, strangers, and “fans.” As women, we know we are very lucky if we come home safe from a night out, or if we have a partner who is respectful and doesn’t hurt us or treat us like dirt. We know it could be much worse.
Whenever I see or hear the Republican nominee, I am reminded of all that. I am reminded of how tenuous this whole social contract really is, and that for the vast majority of human history people like me were not really considered people at all.
I was out at lunch yesterday, not watching the news, not talking about politics, and I began to tear up out of nowhere. You’d think I’d be happy about that video — after all, it could finally be a breaking point in his unstoppable ascension. But since it was released I’ve felt sick and incredibly sad. How did we let it get this far? Why didn’t pundits, writers, other politicians speak up earlier in more definitive terms? How unbelievably insulting is it that his *three* rape allegations and countless other harassment incidents still haven’t made primetime news?
And why, why must his female opponent be so joyfully excoriated for every single mistake, rumor, failure, lapse of judgment, when he can literally get away with character-revealing blunders and serious scandals every week? Why are people buying the lies and conspiracies about her, reading such evil into everything she’s done or hasn’t done, without a sense of proportion, nuance, context, or empathy for what it might have been like to be her, fighting upstream in a man’s world her entire life? Why are we so willing to play armchair quarterback with her foreign policy problems while we excuse or downplay others’ failures and ignore the larger context for her decisions? Why are people who are justifiably angry at the system so willing to take her down, rather than do other, arguably more effective forms of political reform or protest, even when it will lead to a tyrant who normalizes white supremacism and misogyny?
It may seem a small thing, but why are the majority of people sharing or liking posts supportive of the female candidate — truly the only person standing between that man and the white house — women?
Guys, I’m not looking for you to answer those questions with facts about how awful Hillary is. I’ve heard them. I’ve read them. I’m asking — can you try to imagine how that might feel? To be a woman, watching this absurd election play out day after day for a year and a half? To hear his insults and watch his sadistic power plays and see him win again and again through cartoonishly masculine bluster? For the first woman candidate for president, whom we have seen vilified for 25 years, to be constantly introduced as “seriously flawed” so the writer doesn’t seem biased — as if we have all suddenly forgotten that everyone is flawed, and most of us seriously so? For every criticism of her — liar, conniving, manipulative, bitch, cold, hag, evil, old — to tap into our culture’s long-standing collective beliefs and fears about women, especially successful women?
Can you imagine how, as a woman, it might feel to hear something like, “This election is just like any other election”?
I have been posting a lot, maybe too much, and possibly offending some of you. I may have already done so with this post. It won’t be on purpose, but I will probably keep annoying and offending you with imperfectly expressed thoughts or criticisms, and for that I’m sorry. To clarify, I don’t think you are stupid if you don’t agree with me. I do recognize there are different ways to see things, and I very much appreciate civil discourse between people with varying ideas of the common good. I am writing as a woman who cares deeply, to whom the events of the past year and a half feel surprisingly personal. I cannot stay silent about what I see and feel and think in these disturbing times.
To those men who have been supportive and open in person and online — thank you. You are amazing and very needed. And if you have actually come out for Hillary, thanks for showing that bravery in this political environment. To those who hate Hillary— thank you for reading. Consider reconsidering where that knot of deep-seated hatred may be coming from. Yes, I know she is not perfect. No, Bill is not on the ballot. Thankfully it’s not the 1990s anymore when people were more willing to look the other way. And Pence may look like a reassuring police captain, but he is not a champion of women, either.
In the end, even if the Republican nominee is kicked out or steps down or loses, we still have to deal with ourselves and the cultural wounds that he has exposed and inflamed. We’ll have to figure out how we move forward, how we conduct ourselves in public discourse, after this rupturing candidacy.
We still have to contend with a reactionary GOP that has gerrymandered the House and doesn’t seem to respect the separation of church and state or the needs of diverse modern women and families, among other things.
We still have to deal with having a number 1 “news” network whose stringent beauty standards for its female hosts appear stricter than its standards for actual news reporting, and whose irresponsible coverage has helped bring our country to this frightening place.
And if Hillary wins, we will no doubt have to deal with sexist, angry, perhaps even violent blowback that may rival the racist and reactionary fallout we’ve seen the last 8 years.
It may get much worse before it gets better. Whether she wins or loses we women and other vulnerable populations are living in unsettling times. Yet I do believe it can get better if we speak up about who we want to be and why — and work hard to make it so.
Thank you for reading. In this case, the political truly does feel personal, at least to me. It may to the women in your lives, as well. Ask them how they’re doing. Maybe they feel like me, and this election has hit much too close to home. Maybe they don’t.
It’s always worth asking.