On Saturday more than 500,000 women gathered outside the White House in DC, more than 3 times the amount of people in attendance for Trump’s inauguration (not if you ask Trump of course). More than 600 sister marches occurred concurrently in other cities in the US such as Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York as well as the world in cities like London, Toronto, Sydney and Paris. I was unfortunately not able to go, but my sister made the long trek for the protests in Washington. Upon viewing pictures she sent me and seeing live news coverage on television I cried numerous tears. The first tears of joy since the election.
I remember November 9th 2016 just like it was yesterday. My uncle had passed away two days prior, so we were on an epic road trip from New York to Missouri for his wake. We made sure to stay back until the last second in order to vote, to vote for the first female president, hoping to silence the bigotry Trump spurted throughout his campaign. We live in Rochester, NY home of Susan B. Anthony and I remember seeing dozens of “I Voted” stickers plastered on her grave, pictures with comments that people were voting for Clinton in honor of Anthony who championed for women’s suffrage. Electing the first female president was the only thing keeping me going after my uncle’s death, but unfortunately death comes in three: first my uncle, then American democracy, and finally, my hope in the common American citizen.
Traveling throughout red states was especially hard. We crossed Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana (our homophobic vice president’s home state) and finally Missouri making pit stops in each. In one way being trapped in a car was a saving grace: I had no internet access to hear about the newest travesties that Trump would bring along with his presidency. No one in the car talked about the election; we were all in a state of shock and it took a while to sink in. We had all seen Trump condone sexual assault, make fun of the disabled, call Mexicans rapists and drug dealers, and threaten to take away the reproductive rights of women. How could anyone vote for him?
The days after the election was when I fully understood that being a women is a disadvantage. The fact that 50 million Americans thought that it was no big deal for Trump to commit sexual assault, threaten to take away health care coverage for birth control and assure that he would make abortion illegal was a slap in the face. Did 50 million Americans really declare that women are too stupid to make decisions regarding their own bodies? Did 50 million Americans award a man that has repeatedly said that a woman’s success is directly tied to appearance and breast size with the highest office in our country? Did 50 million Americans condone sexual harassment and sexual assault?
Of course there are voters out there that will say they voted for Trump because he was different, because he wanted to bring back jobs, because he wasn’t Hillary Clinton and to that I say bullshit. If you can overlook a person who looks at women with predatory eyes, and not just overlook them, but put them in charge of our country, in charge of making laws that effect the livelihoods of women then you are as asshole, plain and simple. And it is not just women. Mike Pence has repeatedly supported legislation that makes it okay to discriminate against the LGBT, the Trump camp wants to deport millions of undocumented immigrants who have been living in the US for years, Trump is single-handedly trying to destroy the press, put guns in schools, cut off ties with the rest of the world. If you voted for him and cannot look in the mirror and see that you are misogynistic, bigoted, and xenophobic then you can at least call yourself selfish. Why do you think that your tax breaks or minimum wages are more important than the livelihoods of your fellow countrymen? Your mothers, your sisters, your friends, neighbors and coworkers?
When the shock from the election wore off, pure terror began to sink in. While returning to the safety of my blue state of New York, I still had to travel across Trump’s America. I couldn’t even look people in the eyes at rest stops. All I could think when seeing men at the stops were: “does he think its okay to assault me?” “does he think I am a lesser person than himself?” To be honest, I thought to myself this must be what it feels like to be black. To always wonder who is your friend and who is your enemy, to wonder who I would have to be careful around, to wonder if I would ever have it as easy as other people. To want to be seen equally as white men would be a common dream between women and blacks and all other minority groups. We were finally at the cusp, and then it was thrown in our faces.
This was not the first time where I had experienced feeling like a lesser person than men. While at my summer job in college, a coworker proudly declared that “you will always be inferior to me because of your chromosomes”, because of what is between my legs. I stood there shocked, and actually hoped that one of my male coworkers would step in, horrified by his declaration. I stood there, in silence, waiting for help that would never come.
I spent the next couple of hours or so crying, trying to get my managers attention that there was a problem, but no one would help. Other men there had made sexist comments that I would never make as much money as them, that I should just get married instead of going to graduate school, that I was weird for not having a boyfriend. I am ashamed to admit that some of these people were my friends, that I just shrugged these comments off. I should have be awoken to the misogyny then, but nothing woke me up faster and more effectively than this election.
If you ask women around you they will probably share the same sentiment. That they had experienced some kind of misogyny or assault in their lives but they thought that the problem was contained to themselves. I personally thought I would never meet another man like the one who told me that I was inferior to him for being a woman. Then I saw Trump. Millions of women, not just Americans, saw the worst qualities of men they had interacted with exist ten-fold in Trump. I am sure Trump brought up painful memories of ex-boyfriends, bosses, and Facebook friends that women had to deal with.
The problem is that we expected people to be on our sides. For me, I expected one of my best friends who was present when our coworker proudly said that I was a lesser person than him to step in and do the right thing instead of doing the right thing myself. This election, if anything, taught us not to rely on the common American to stand up for what is right and speak up for women. We have to speak up for ourselves. The first thing I did upon returning to my home after the road trip was to write a letter to my friend and the “man” who harassed me, telling them both to shove off.
This women’s march goes well beyond a Trump presidency. If one good thing were to come out of the election it is that we are no longer ignorant to the fact that a sizable amount of Americans do not hold women’s rights as important, that they are selfish and look out for themselves before the good of others. That we have to stand up for what is right even though we are in the minority. That women are strong and should be respected. That we will not give up silently.
For those men who cannot take strong women, who do not champion for equal rights, and think they are better than anyone else we say: grow some balls.