I was into my twenties before I understood that I could really tell any woman –a total stranger –that I was on my period, and she would be sympathetic. “I’m having really bad cramps today,” and the checker at Safeway would say “Sorry, Sweetie,” or my customer at the shoe store would tell me we all deserve to have bad days. In high school we’re all so at war with one another; it takes becoming an adult to recognize that we are all friends. Every woman knows this. This is an untapped wellspring of empathy.
Don’t you want a true sisterhood? Every person I see I feel akin to them, but every woman especially. I know what it is to bleed. I know how you feel the world closing in on you once a month. I do not know the acts of pregnancy and childbirth, but I know these are feelings we can use to emote, to share.
We can break this nation up into partisan divisions. We can draw hard, cold lines between Trump supporters and Hillary supporters. Or we can draw a line between people who are on my side, and those who are not. And I want all the women on my side. I want all the women who voted for Trump to figure out how to be on the women’s side. This doesn’t mean you have to switch political parties; it means you can work to make your party better.
How do we do this? Your vulnerability is your greatest tool. Your story is your sword.
I have a hard time understanding the idea of voting for Trump, but it is because so much of what he said was personal to me. Maybe it wasn’t, to others. Maybe the promises he made weren’t so scary. Maybe none of your friends were going to be effected, scared, sad. Maybe we live in different worlds. But we do live in the same country, so it is my belief we should try to listen to each other.
So we share. We talk. We tell a story that explains. We become more personal. I want to say: “Don’t you just love everyone?” I want to say: “How could you not vote for equality?” But instead, this is my story, the short version, the part that only talks about me, about why I didn’t vote for him, for myself. This is the selfish version:
I am a woman who is lucky enough to have never needed an abortion, but I have been a Planned Parenthood patient since I was sixteen years old. Beyond birth control, Planned Parenthood has been my main health care provider for the majority of my adult life. I didn’t have health insurance for about five years and only went to Planned Parenthood. The ability to afford birth control is a real problem for millions of people. The fact that “defund Planned Parenthood” became a campaign platform was and is scary, for me, personally.
The entire campaign was painful but in the two weeks leading up to the election my anxiety was heightened and I barely slept. I was so sleep deprived that shadows began to become monsters again, the way they did when I was little and petrified of the dark. There were men lurking in my house, over and over again I was convinced of it, even with my boyfriend’s arm wrapped around me as he slept. This kind of constant fear is unlivable.
The election of this man has brought to the surface deep hidden pain that I generally avoid, recollections of every time something was done to my body that I didn’t want. In the constant onslaught of misogynist and racist rhetoric, my fear is nothing compared to those of other minorities and immigrants, but the list of abuses against my body run like a train through my mind and I don’t sleep.
Two years ago I was betrayed by someone I trusted. I took to drinking even harder for a while. I got a job that required me to wear all black clothing, a job that required me to cover all the parts of my body that he had touched. I took a term off of school. I developed a tremor in my left hand, one that I mostly have under control now but it resurfaces in times of stress. I also developed a very problematic inability to trust men, even men who I had trusted before. And this event isn’t even the worst thing that’s ever happened to my body.
When you come down to it, the worst part isn’t that you were turned into an inanimate object. The worst part isn’t that he didn’t think of your body as your own, as a place or an entity he can’t invade without permission. The worst part is that he doesn’t think anything’s wrong now. The worst part is that this didn’t affect him. It’s not lingering with him. It’s not poisoning his life. As Dorothy Allison writes, “Evil is a man who imagines the damage he does is not damage.”
The idea that the things Trump said were just locker room talk, the idea that the women he has objectified/insulted/dismissed as not pretty enough for him/abused are all liars and we should ignore them – this means he has completely nullified the effects of his actions. The damage is not damage, is how he feels. He doesn’t even think about this. And now he’s the president. He’s our president, and he doesn’t think that his actions have consequences. And in turn, to me this means that the 60,541,308 people who voted for him also have no feeling for these injustices.
So yes, it is a hard pill to swallow.