I live in a small town. On the 5 miles of main road that leads people in and out of our town, there are three HUGE Trump signs. I’ve been counting signs since earlier this year, and the Trump signs are about 5 to 1. They far outweigh any other sign. My town is also not at all very diverse, and we have a pretty significantly older population – the kind of people that vote down ANY increase in the school budget, because they remember the days when stamps were 10 cents each.
Normally I don’t address politics on this blog.
But this election cycle is different.
I was 11 when a group of boys in the 7th grade noticed I had breasts… and cornered me at school, every day, so they could feel them. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t scream, I didn’t tell anyone about it, it just happened. I don’t actually know how long it went on, nor what happened to get them to stop, but I spent the rest of the year walking around with books or a binder in front of me, hiding the fact that I had a chest.
I was 12 when the new pastor of my church drove me to summer vacation bible school and put his hand on my bare thigh, his fingers just under the hem of my shorts. I just sat there, my heart pounding, pretending I didn’t notice. And on the way home, I made my sister sit between us. I quit going to church that fall.
I was 14 when my friend and I snuck out at night and went to her boyfriend’s house. While she went off into her boyfriend’s room, I sat in a dark room with his brother, who shoved his penis into my mouth so I could suck it. I did, because I didn’t know how to tell him no.
The fallout from these events: I made myself ugly. I gained weight. I hid my face behind massive bangs, and I dressed in baggy clothes. In high school, I crushed on guys who were gay, who I KNEW wouldn’t take advantage of me. In college, I met decent, respectful guys and hung out with them, in my flannels and jeans and baseball hats – I learned how to be one of them. After college, I went back to school for TWO Master degrees, because I thought smart women garner more respect from men. In business, I dressed like a man – pants and black and white and very little makeup. I never got too drunk at business parties, stayed away from personal topics, always talking about work. Work work work.
I didn’t even realize I was doing it.
I watched 20 minutes of the first debate, then went to Facebook to get a sense of what people were thinking and feeling. I don’t actually know any Trump supporters – at least any that would post pro-Trump stuff on Facebook. But what I saw were people continuing to say, I hate them both. It made me feel ill.
I missed the second debate, since we were at a campsite with no cell phone reception. I didn’t hear about the tape of Trump saying he’d grab a woman and take what he wants from her because he’s famous and CAN. I also missed the Facebook live press conference he held AND the actual debate. I was thankful.
I was less thankful when we got home; my neighbor across the street had put up a Trump sign. Facing my house.
And then, I read an article that a Canadian journalist asked for women to tweet their stories of sexual assault – to overwhelming response. What happened to me happened to millions of other women.
And then… I read what he said about women.
I felt sick all over again.
I’ve been telling myself this whole time – since the first Trump signs in my town went up, since the first debate, when I had such a visceral reaction: Karen, don’t take this election personally. It’s not like people hate YOU or anything. It has nothing to DO with you.
But it’s clear from this weekend: it IS personal.
It always HAS been personal.
We are less than a month away from the election.
On one side, there’s a man who says exactly what he’s thinking, who has usurped politics by normalizing fear and discrimination and domination. He has very few plans, but lots of great lines about Making America Great Again! while also bragging about his penis size and how he can get any woman he wants – regardless of whether they want him or not.
And on the other side, there is a smart, very ambitious woman who has spent her life working in male-dominated worlds, who has learned how to be one of them, who seems cold and distant and hard. People don’t like her.
The crazy thing is that she’s unlikeable because of men like Trump. I know this first hand because I do the same.
So yes, it’s personal. It’s SO personal. And what I can’t understand, what I will never understand, is how people can watch the fucking awfulness that is Trump and say, Yeah, but I don’t like Hillary Clinton.
Because this isn’t about likeability. It’s not even about politics; these are not two equal candidates, debating about their views on domestic and international policies. This is about hate and entitlement and prejudice. With every news story, I have been reliving every time I’ve felt powerless and scared about being female. And saying Yeah, but… continues to normalize it.
It’s not okay.
None of this is okay.
We cannot continue to condone hate and anger. We are all human and equal, and our children deserve better than this.
All of us deserve better than this.