Just when I thought that maybe my contribution wasn’t needed, that there were already plenty of people fighting with and for the marginalized, that we had already become so progressive that I was probably on the tail end of the movement…
Just when I couldn’t believe that there were enough people in this country who could openly embrace, hesitatingly acquiesce, or even willfully turn a blind eye to tolerate misogyny, racism, and fear-driven hate toward the LGBTQIA+, immigrant, refugee, Muslim, and black communities…
Just when I had begun to realize what it would mean to elect our first female president – how it would prove that we had made progress towards gender equality, how it would prove that at least the majority of our country is ready to be led by the most qualified individual rather than the most male individual…
Just when I thought we were past the worst of it and ready to coast in to a happy and inclusive society…
The country proved me wrong and elected Donald Trump for president.
The laws that will be passed (or repealed) under the new administration are not my primary concern. As a friend pointed out, we have a government with checks & balances for a reason. Even if we suffer setbacks in that area, we will recover.
What does worry me are the changes to our social climate. Offensive and hateful rhetoric will now be more acceptable. There will be less incentive to evaluate internal and ingrained racism and sexism. There are many who must carry a burden of caution when they should feel safe in their homes and communities.
We now have a president with whom I would not want to be alone in a room. How will we make progress on the concept of consent and combating sexual assault? How will I be treated in the workplace now that I know so many doubt a woman’s ability to lead? What will happen if I’m not considered attractive to my male colleagues? What will happen if I am? These are my fears as a woman.
And yet, while I am a woman, the privilege I experience is so much greater than so many others who are minorities by their race, religion (or lack of it), gender identity, sexual orientation, or some combination thereof. When I imagine myself in the shoes of those minorities, I am broken again and again. Documented and undocumented immigrants alike are worried whether or not they will be able to remain with their families and in their homes. Black Americans have even more reason to fear that their lives don’t actually matter to the authorities and many of the country’s citizens. LGBTQIA+ individuals fear that they may be abused and ridiculed or even have their marriages revoked. Muslims can’t be certain that they won’t be treated like the Jews were during the political climate that led to the holocaust – added to registries and labeled as dangerous. And women must worry if “no” will be enough, if it will be a risk to say no, or if they’ll even have an opportunity to say no before being “moved on like a bitch.”
This feels personal. I found myself wondering in the supermarket if each individual I saw was someone who voted for Trump. Do they believe that my gender makes me less than? Do they believe that my most important asset is my beauty or lack thereof? Knowing how personal it feels, I also empathize deeply with all those who have been marginalized by our president-elect. To you who feel uncertainty and fear because of Trump’s words and the reality that the nation elected him as our leader: I love you, you matter to me, and I will do everything I can to fight for your rights, your dignity, and your opportunity to live life peacefully without threat of harm.
As grief and tears have been near the surface all day, sometimes bubbling over when I’ve paused long enough from the day’s distractions, I am reminded that I must continue to learn, speak, and fight. I have a renewed resolve to work towards a better world for all individuals.
Today it is even more important that we teach the next generation of males, females, and non-binary individuals that all people deserve to be treated with respect, welcomed to our society, and valued as contributors to the world. We must work to prove that women are more than their looks. We are not objects whose function in life is to serve and please cisgender, heterosexual men. Indeed, we are strong, capable, and worthy. [And we will see a female president one day.] We must lead (in word and deed) our children and others to be sensitive to the oppressive histories that have created inequality, to welcome the refugee, to affirm the rights of minorities, to respect the autonomy of others, to be kind in the face of hate, and to work for the success of our neighbors as much as our own. We must teach those with privilege to recognize their privilege, to listen to those who do not have it, and to use that privilege to lift others up.
We are not stronger when we fear those around us on the basis of race, sex, or religion. Diversity makes us stronger. When we embrace those who are different from us – when we open our minds and hearts and allow ourselves to learn and be changed by those around us – this makes us stronger.
We must not quit believing that a better, more inclusive, more loving world is possible. And above all, we must not give up. We’ve been given a check point – a wake-up call, if you will. As it turns out, we haven’t made it as far as we thought we had on the road to equality. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get there. We just have more work to do. So let’s get busy.
“Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants.” -Maggie Kuhn