Monday, May 23, 2016

Being a Woman in the Time of Hillary-Haters

I’ve never been as involved in politics as I am this year, so I was unaware and unprepared for the pain that would come my way. I had a vague sense that Republicans hated Hillary Rodham Clinton, but I had no idea that so many of my supposedly left-leaning friends did.

I feel nostalgic for the assumption that Hillary’s successful campaign would lead to a mood of celebration. I remember the first time that I was put in my place about my support. I was having the best Women’s History Month ever. I’d helped the librarians at work in their effort to diversify the children’s biography section. I’d read Spinster and All the Single Ladies and gained a whole new appreciation for the contributions of non-traditional womanhood to civic life. I was newly embracing my own womanhood and delighted that we had made so much progress, hopeful that so much more could be made. I posted an exuberant status about the possibility of my nieces coming of age under a female presidency and my hope that I’d get to be there for inauguration.

I’m embarrassed to say how jarred I was by the “angry face” reaction I received from a friend. Having vowed to eliminate as much passive-aggressiveness from my life as possible, I wrote to the sender of the angry face, a lovely woman who used to be my yoga instructor, and asked her in the gentlest and kindest possible way what was the matter. The kindness was not reciprocated, and, as happened over and over in the coming months, I unfriended her for being sexist and mean.

It took no effort to learn the things about Hillary Rodham Clinton that made people mad. They were served up to me on a near-constant basis. And there are plenty of valid reasons, but to me those reasons felt drowned out in a sea of vague “distrust” and straight up misogyny. Typing that word even feels like a cliché at this point, but I’ll stop typing it when it stops happening.

In a time that should have felt at least partly celebratory, my friend feed felt like an assault, a constant, vicious reminder that most people I know, whether they realized it or not, would prefer that women stay in their place. My Hillary-supporting friends reported that they felt bullied and afraid to speak out about their choice. I was talked down to, called a vagina voter, told that “everything I say is a lie.” I felt guilty every time I brought up politics, because I was making things “not nice.” I apologized to Bernie supporters, I’m not sure why, except that one of the prevailing emotions of joining this fight has been shame. That’s fucked up.

Even as pitching in on the PA primary campaign buoyed my spirits, I got angrier and more scared. I hate knowing that people out there are so disturbed by the thought of a woman with power that they would call me names, bully my friends, scream at disabled people, tear up a little girl’s sign.

Even if she is a poetic invention of Twitter, I think a lot about that little girl whose sign got destroyed by anti-Hillary protestors in Los Angeles. I think a lot about what really got taken away from her that day. The message she was given was one we all get, all the time, one so ingrained in our culture that it is invisible to many and also beloved by traditionalists: If we have any power at all, if we are safe right here in this moment, it’s only because they are letting us. The message is that we will only be rewarded by society if we fit the male ideal of what we should be: quiet, timid, meek, servile. Engagement, ambition, experience, tenacity, all of these things in a woman are angering to a certain segment of the population, and that certain segment has been in charge for, well, ever, which is far too long.

Once primaries have run their course, we’ll turn to face the real enemies: Trump and his army of bigots. Three days a week when I do my tutoring, the family has the news on, and every single time, it is Trump Theater. I hear the newspeople slavering for Trump’s approval even as he fear-mongers against Muslims and Mexicans, even as his people threaten the president’s life, and even as he mounts the most disgusting and aggressive war against women. (Trump is, in fact, an accused rapist. Google it.) He screams to rabidly angry crowds of white men that they should no longer be afraid of women and the implication is, I think, that they will take us by force. When I hear these things, I am at work, in a house full of man who are on my side, so I feel safe, but it’s honestly hard to keep walking around in the world. It’s as if the dark lens I have as a sexual assault survivor has come to life and there’s nowhere to escape.

As it became apparent who the nominees would likely be, I saw a new kind of meme, one that made me even more helpless with rage than the “vague distrust” themed ones: people I know and liked were saying they were “Straight Outta Options” because they saw Donald Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the same. A woman whose decades of real and thorough public service includes some drastic missteps was being equated with someone who ACCEPTED THE ENDORSEMENT OF THE KKK. This is how little some of my now-former friends think of my gender and in many cases, their own. It’s unforgivable.

It’s physically exhausting to be this angry all the time, this on alert. It feels like not only are my values under attack, but my body is too. It hurts very much to know how many people want to stuff us back in time, and it hurts even more to know that people I once liked won’t stand up for any of the groups Trump is targeting because they think they are somehow above the political process.
I know we’ll win. I know I’ll be at that inauguration next year sobbing my face off with my best friend. I know I’ll call and knock on doors and that I’ll be a better, healthier, safer woman for it. But I just wanted to take a moment to say this is scary, it hurts, and I want my body back.

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