Thoughts on the Past Few Days

Been thinking a lot over the past few days, about women who have been harassed, intimidated or belittled because of their gender. Who have had to endure leering, sexist comments, come-ons and “pick-up artists”. Who have been sexually assaulted, and who have been raped. I suspect just about every woman I know has faced or currently faces at least some of that abuse, many on a daily, or near-daily basis. Many may feel stuck, because they can’t quit their job and lose their benefits, or because their tormentor holds some power over them, over their spouse, or maybe over their child’s future.

I don’t know, but I’d guess that these women recognize in Donald Trump an echo of the worst people in their lives. And I think about their experience over the past days: hearing a serial abuser gloat over his sexual assault “conquests”, while weak men encourage and enable him. Hearing men in power explain “that’s how all men talk”, implying that’s also how all men think, and act. Hearing the message that women should expect no better, even from those entrusted with breathtaking power. Seeing that for some, the shame of a man’s abuse always rests on the victim.

It’s sickening. And, as has happened many times this election cycle, I find myself slapped in the face with my own privilege. My own expectation that I will always be treated fairly and with respect, if not deference. The belief I’ve carried in my heart that everything in my life should work out to my benefit because “I’m a good person and I deserve it”. I now realize that these are the peculiar beliefs of a white man, because who else could make it to middle-age without having these attitudes knocked out of them, repeatedly?

Well, good for me, for achieving enlightenment. Exactly what do I propose to do about any of this? I don’t know how much of an effect I can have on the world, but here are a few small things I think I can do:

  • Vote for Hillary Clinton on November 8. She is the best candidate running for the traditionally marginalized: women, minorities, the young, the elderly, the disabled. And everyone else, really. And she has stood bravely in the face of our worst national instincts, and refused to back down, at what must be great personal cost.
  • Listen, and try to really hear, when people call out injustice. Try to be quiet at times when my instinct is to speak up out of turn or “mansplain”, and to learn something about someone else’s experience.
  • Own my own failures in standing up to and fighting sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and oppression when I witness it. For every time I’ve looked away or pretended not to hear an offensive comment. For every time I’ve doubted the account of a victim because of who they are. For every time my cowardice or avarice or weakness has helped perpetuate oppression, even as I comfort myself with the purity of my inner thoughts.

I’m just sorry. I’ll try to do better. I’ll try not to be part of the problem.