When I don’t know what else to do, I write.
It’s been awhile since I’ve stopped by here. I’ve been busy, I’ve been exhausted. I’ve spent my limited writing energy trying to start telling the last 13 years of my life, the one thing I’ve sworn I would do for seven years. (I am doing that in a little handwritten journal. It is not the most efficient way to write.) I have had zero desire to come back here. I had nothing new to report.
And then Tuesday happened.
The last two days have been gut wrenching. I have cried. A lot. I feel simultaneously like someone kicked me in the gut and like a zombie walking through a nightmare. The faces I see on the subway, those of every race, gender, religion, and sexuality, look exactly how I feel: sad, shocked, and scared.
A lot of things happened in this election, and we’ll be dissecting it for years. I know that sexism wasn’t the sole reason Hillary Clinton wasn’t elected. But let’s all face the facts: sexism had a lot to do with the conversation around this campaign. It wasn’t fair to Hillary. It wasn’t fair to Americans looking for honest discourse about the difference in policies between the candidates. But it was something that every single woman (even the 53% of white women who voted for Trump) has known in their lives.
I spent my entire life before Tuesday thinking that I really was equal, because I had never been overtly discriminated against. I brushed aside the casual, minor discriminations that happen every day. I tried to ignore the old man in my office who repeatedly makes comments about my outfits or tells me he just wants me to find a husband so I am taken care of. I’ve shrugged off the feeling that there’s a boys club at the top of my industry. I’ve ignored catcalls on the streets. I’ve brushed aside unwanted advances at bars, rolling my eyes at how men think that it is their right to talk to me regardless of what I want, and if I blow them off, I’m a bitch. I’ve suffered through Rangers or Islanders fans making disgusting comments because I’m wearing a Pens jersey and have listened to them yelling “Cindy Crosby” or “pussy” or “faggot” – because trivializing a man’s masculinity is the worst insult you could throw at him. I have worked my ass off at my job – a job that I am very, very good at, in an office where I know I am needed and respected – and yet I feel like I’m falling short in salary or respect because of my gender. And that’s all without even starting to get into all of the psychological issues I still have from going through a divorce and how absolutely worthless I felt for so long. How I always wondered if I was to blame somehow. What I could have done differently. How my life would have turned out differently if I wanted a more “traditional” female role, if I wanted kids, if my career wasn’t important to me, if he had been the breadwinner, etc. etc. etc.
I’m sick of it all. I’m sick of taking the high road and pretending it all doesn’t bother me. I’m sick of lessening the importance of my feelings so that men in my office or the bar or my life can continue to act however they want. I’m sick of saying it’s ok, when it’s really not. Those men at the bar don’t have to worry about being called a bitch. They’re not looking over their shoulder when they’re walking home. They don’t have anyone commenting on their outfits or asking why they are single.
The weakest woman on earth is still stronger than many men, and this is why: because we deal with millions of tiny things that you will never know or understand, and we do it without you ever even noticing.
At this point, I started to type something apologizing for sounding like a man-hating crazy person. I deleted it, because that’s a prime example of what I’m talking about: everything I’ve written here is my truth, and I should not have to apologize for it. I know many wonderful men in my life. My father, my brother, friends I’ve made in school or at work, (most) men I’ve dated over the years, Sidney Crosby, Seth Meyers, Oscar Isaac, Barack Obama: all kind, intelligent, respectful people. But I won’t apologize if you think I sound like a man-hating crazy person. If me expressing my concerns, my fears, and my frustrations makes you think I’m a man-hating crazy person, then that’s on you. That will not be on me.
But back to the election. This week has been awful. I have alternated between disbelief and anger and depression. (It’s mostly depression at this point.) I want to remain optimistic that there will be a female president in my lifetime, but after the next four years and what it could do to enable prejudice and racism and sexism that we (perhaps wrongly) thought we were beyond, who knows? I’m feeling exhausted and helpless. I’m not even really sure where to begin, but I know I have to do something and get involved somehow.
I wasn’t a fan of Hillary in 2008. I was adamant then that I didn’t want to vote for someone just because she was a woman, but because she was the right candidate. This year, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I believed in my heart that she was. It hurts like hell to have been wrong. Secretary Clinton was more poised in the face of unimaginable pressure, criticism, and anger than I could ever aspire to be. She impressed me so much over the past year. I do believe she really cared about making the world a better place; you don’t go through all of the shit she has gone through if you don’t. She isn’t perfect, but no one is, and I believe she would have been a president we could be proud of; instead we have one that terrifies me to my core and one I can’t believe my niece is going to grow up watching.
Before I posted this, it was just an email to some friends, each of them a strong woman in their own way. They are scattered across the country – NYC, PA, CO, OR, DC, MA – and every one has a different story. Represented in this group is a veteran of our military, a government employee, many who balance work and family (and sometimes multiple families), single women, women who have moved around the country, and women who have stayed near home, and the one thing we all had in common is that we were devastated. These women told me how shocked they were. They expressed the same confusion I felt. They replied to me with their own stories of casual sexism. They shared difficult conversations they’d had with their spouses or even Trump voters over the last few days. They worried about how to talk to their children about this. They sent me quotes of encouragement and book suggestions and photos of puppies.
But above all, they expressed a willingness to talk. And that is, more than anything, what we need right now.
There are very good people everywhere in this country who want and need to talk, and it isn’t limited to women. A male friend, whose political beliefs have never aligned with mine, emailed me tonight just to let me know he’d been thinking of me and that he shared my disappointment. A Muslim friend, who I emailed to let know I would always support him, replied saying he was just as scared for me. A friend living in a southern red state posted on Facebook about creating community forums, where people could get together and try to understand the other side – the single best suggestion I’ve seen all day, because for all of the talking we all need to do, what we need to do even more is listen.
I’m to blame as much as anyone in this. I’ve seen my uncle, a Trump supporter, multiple times over the last year, and I never once pushed him to really tell me why he supported him. I’ve rightly received push back from friends, reminding me that this campaign wasn’t all about racism or sexism, and that many Americans are facing struggles I will never know. I want to know now. I want to try to understand.
No one will ever accuse me of being overly patriotic. I don’t buy into “greatest country on earth” rhetoric. I respect this country, but I also know that true greatness requires humility and a desire to learn from others, and the US clearly has a lot to learn. But something sparked in me over the last year. Truth be told, part of it was probably spurred by Hamilton, proving the worth that art has in opening minds and inspiring emotion. But a lot of it was Hillary Rodham Clinton: a flawed but exceptional candidate, who inspired me to act in support of a political campaign for the first time in my life. I didn’t do much, and I will regret how much more I could have done for years. But I did try, through donations and phone calls, to help to elect a candidate in whom I truly believed.
I joked a lot about moving to Canada over the past year, but I made a decision around midnight on Tuesday night that I wouldn’t run away. I have never, ever run away from anything. I have never taken the easy road. I have never gone down without a fight. If anything gives me comfort, it is that these are the moments that produce great change. These are the moments that inspire great art. These are the moments that women, Hispanics, African Americans, the LGBT community, and many others will point to as what motivated them to stand up and do something.
I will be donating my time and money to Planned Parenthood, ACLU, and Emily’s List in the coming months and years. I will be keeping in touch with the women and men of Pantsuit Nation, using this as a rallying cry for more progress. I will look into volunteering at women’s shelters. I am committing right now to do whatever I can to protect the values I believe in – the values that I believe are what made America already great. And I will try my best to seek out those whose views and experiences are different than mine, to learn about their own fears and challenges, to find common ground, and to work together to make this country a more perfect union.
I respect the office of the presidency and the voice of (a quarter of – seriously the rest of you get your asses out and vote next time) the American people. I hope a Trump presidency isn’t as devastating as I fear it will be. But whatever happens, this has been a life changing event in my lifetime and the lifetime of many others. I’m still with her – but right now “her” is the millions of women feeling let down by so many tonight. I won’t let them down a second time.