Men Won't Ever Understand How Dangerous A Trump Presidency Is For Women Like Me
In the wee hours of the morning of Nov. 9, 2016, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was officially named the President-elect of the United States. It was a victory that left a number of people outraged, numb, and even terrified — particularly the female voters who have spent this election cycle agonizing over what would happen if, somehow, Trump came out on top. Amidst all the social media posts about the fear of the next four years, are the tweets that say women are "overreacting" and that "things will be OK." More often than not, those tweets come from men who won't understand why a Trump presidency is so dangerous for women.
And, unfortunately, this lack of understanding isn't limited to those who don "Make America Great Again" hats. Last night, in an effort to keep calm while covering the election, I texted my boyfriend — a person who has always shown solidarity in his thinking about women's rights. I told him I was legitimately scared for the future of country. I expressed concern that his niece would have to grow up in a country run by a man who has degraded and demoralized women for the better part of his life. All he could say was that every would be "fine." Even when I got back to our apartment — which sits across the street from The Peninsula Hotel, where Clinton received the same devastating news — and started crying in his arms, he kept telling me things would be "fine." That's when I realized that, as forward-thinking and supportive as my significant other may be, he'll never understand the fear and danger that comes with being a women in Trump's America. Simply because he is a man.
Though millions of men have heard or seen the way Trump treats women, none of them have experienced it firsthand. At least, not to the degree women have. And they don't have to wait till Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20 to see the impact his actions will have on the women all over the country. According to an October 2016 survey from the American Psychological Association, 52 percent of American women found the election to be a significant source of stress in their daily lives. Similarly, Slate reported that Trump became a trigger for abuse victims throughout the campaign — something I can attest to as a survivor of an emotionally abusive relationship.
He shouted obscenities at me across campus and showed up at my apartment, banging his fists on the door and telling me I couldn't hide forever. Even after I'd issued a restraining order against him, the behavior continued until the school's judiciary system suspended him.
During my sophomore year of collage, I began dating an upperclassman. Though the relationship started of as a picture-perfect courtship — he told me I was beautiful, brought me flowers "just because," and always paid for dates — it quickly turned into every woman's worst nightmare. He banned me from hanging out with my male friends and called me a "slut" whenever I broke his rule. He demanded I spend all my free time with him, and would call me an "ungrateful bitch" if I ever requested some me time. He would dump me on the rare occasions when I stood up for myself, and remind me that I could never find better than him. I put up with all this because I really believed that I couldn't find better — that I didn't deserve better.
I finally left after a year of hell, but he refused to accept my decision, further driving home the idea that I was not allowed to live the way I wanted. He shouted obscenities at me across campus and showed up at my apartment, banging his fists on the door and telling me I couldn't hide forever. Even after I'd issued a restraining order against him, the behavior continued until the school's judiciary system suspended him. (And they only found him guilty of violating his restraining order, but not of harassment. Another injustice for another time, I suppose.)
Even though it's been more than five years since that day in court, I still carry the weight of the abuse around with me. And when I feel someone walking behind me or hear someone refer to another woman as a "bitch" or "slut," the weight gets a little heavier and crushes me to the point that I have to take a deep breath to keep calm. Our president-elect may not have trailed behind me during my morning commute or told me I was a nasty woman, but Trump stood over Clinton during the second debate and called her a "nasty woman" during the third debate, and I felt the weight push down on me in those moments. And I'm sure I wasn't alone. A Trump presidency would allow him to continue practicing this type of psychological abuse and, as it's been proven, his opponents won't be the only ones tormented by this. American women, especially those who have experienced the male threat first-hand, will have a front-row seat to the torment. Because, unlike men who may see this behavior as "part of the job," women will see it for what it really is: part of society that not only tolerates, but encourages abusive actions.
Of course, Trump's triggering behaviors aren't limited to lurking and name calling. The Root noted that Trump has served as a trigger for many sexual assault survivors, and this became especially evident when an old Access Hollywood interview between Trump and Billy Bush surfaced. The now infamous tape featured a 2005 Trump admitting to acts that many consider sexual assault. "I just start kissing them," he told Bush on the tape. "I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab 'em by the p*ssy."
The tape, which many thought would be the nail in Trump's campaign coffin, led to a number of women coming forward and accusing the then-presidential nominee of sexual assault. This wasn't a shock, given Trump's problematic behavior towards women in the past (he has admitted to walking in on and inspecting naked Miss America contestants). What was shocking, however, was Trump's response to the allegations. During an Oct. 22 press conference, Trump said he would sue the women who accused him of sexual misconduct.
To some, this may seem like an empty threat. After all, Trump threatens to sue people all the time. But to the two out of three people who don't report their sexual assaults, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), Trump's threat is a terrifying one. Especially because, as RAINN further noted, 33 percent of people who don't report sexual assault do so out of fear of retaliation or fear that the police won't do anything to help. If Trump has in say in the way our judicial system handles crimes sexual assault, those numbers are only bound to go up.
To some extent, my boyfriend was right. Things will be fine — for men.
I've never cared much for politics. I find it complicated, confusing, and all too messy. But when Trump declared his run for presidency, I had to start caring. I knew that a Trump presidency — as unrealistic as it sounded — wouldn't be safe for someone like me. But it wasn't just about me. It was about my friends who were sexually assaulted and never received the justice they deserved. It was about my colleagues who champion for women's right's every single day, only to be faced rape threats or harassment on social media. It was about my boyfriend's niece, who deserves to grow up in a world where she is not only safe, but respected; not only seen as a prop, but as a person who has value and meaning an the right to bodily autonomy.
To some extent, my boyfriend was right. Things will be fine — for men. Things will be fine for those who were designated a privilege on the day they were born, simply because of their gender. That privilege — the one I so desperately want for myself and all my fellow females — allows them to walk outside without being catcalled, allows them to speak their mind without being called a bitch, allows them to have their stories heard and believed even if the evidence says other wise.
Maybe some day things will be fine for women. But I can't say for certainty that things will be fine in the next four years.