Moving Forward: Without Her
November 9th, 2016. One day post-election. The mood was somber and the grey skies reflected the emotions felt by millions across the country. On campus it felt as though someone had died, as if students were in mourning. I too, am experiencing grief. My father asked why it felt that way and I told him, “Dad, it feels like we are mourning the loss of our freedom. People are afraid of what is to come. We are scared that we no longer have the right to our own body.” He told me that as hard as it may be to write down how I feel, that I should do it, so here it is.
It is so difficult for me to put in to words how I feel right now. I am not sure any amount of writing can encompass quite how I feel. But I will try. All day, I have felt sick to my stomach. I have found myself shaking, my heart in agony. As I write this now, my hands tremble at the thought of our bleak future. It would be too easy to say that I am disgusted and repulsed because it is so much more than that. I am fearful. We tell our kids not to be bullies, to respect one another, and to treat people the way we would want to be treated, yet this country has elected a man who stands for none of those beliefs. Trump is a man who spews hate and violence. A man who judges people by the color of their skin and makes fun of those who are disabled. A man who promotes sexual abuse and perpetuates sexism. A man who denies members of the LGBTQ community the right to exist and who body shames women.
This is the man elected to represent the United States of America. More than sadness and grief, I am filled with confusion. How could my perception of the progress being made in this country—progress I felt was good – be seen by others as so terrible? I have had the privilege of growing up in a city filled with every type of person you could imagine. Black and white, Catholic and Muslim, gay and straight, the list goes on. It is a place where differences are celebrated and cultures are embraced. That is my America. I felt that we were making so much progress for so many people. The legalization of gay marriage and the creation on transgender bathrooms was monumental in showing our support for all of our fellow Americans. The creation of Obamacare gave over 20 million human beings access to healthcare that saved their lives. The gender wage gap issue was brought to the forefront and people were finally able to see the reality of sexism in this country. I felt the progress. And now, I am left shocked, confused, dismayed, and scared.
I am terrified, as a young woman, about what will happen to my right to protect and care for my own body. I am somebody’s daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin, and friend. Someone who has felt surrounded by so much love that this vote for misogyny should make my loved ones fear for my freedom as a young woman. I am a woman who wants the right to make my own choices. My body. My choice. This decision to elect such a heinous man has placed me in a state of fear I never thought I would find myself in, as though my freedoms have been stripped away. I feel small and insignificant. I feel as if my voice has been silenced.
Until today, I thought I could do anything, but now I have never been so petrified of being a woman. As a white woman, I feel pain and fear, but that is only a fraction of the emotions being felt by people of color, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, and any other minority. They have been torn to the ground today. Immigrants, who came here hoping for a better life in the land of opportunity and hope find themselves being led by a male chauvinist pig. They find themselves fearing for their lives, wondering if they should flee the country. When did America become a place that people are trying to escape from? If you voted for Trump, or voted independent, or did not vote at all, know that this is your complacent approval of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, and rape. It is your vote for white supremacy. How do we explain to young boys and girls that rape and violence are not okay, when the leader of the free world talks approvingly of assault. When our president-elect makes jokes about sexual abuse, and admits to forcing himself on women.
What do you say to your daughter, granddaughter, sister or niece? How do you make sense of all this for them? How do you explain the fact that the most qualified presidential candidate we have ever had lost because she was a woman, that our country is so insecure with having a female leader that we elected a reality TV star to move into the White House with his third wife? I hope that somehow we can keep our flame ignited to inspire young girls and show them that they are valued and capable. I hope that we can show them that this mistake was just that: a mistake. I hope we let them hear how beautiful they are. I hope we continue to support every person who fears for their life and for their loved ones. Every person who is different is beautiful and we need to show them that we see that. We have to use our voices to represent people who feel as if they no longer have one. I hope that this putrid mistake sparks revolution so that we can return to making progress. We can help any and every person who feels hopeless, because as an inspiring woman once said, we are stronger together.