A billionaire celebrity beauty pageant owner was just elected President of the United States.
That is the sentence I keep repeating to myself this afternoon as I try to wrap my mind around what all just transpired.
Josh and I will be joining hundreds of thousands of fellow Americans to rally tomorrow on behalf of women in this country. The women who believe it is not normal or okay for a man who grabs pussies and brags about trying to f*ck married without their consent to achieve the highest ranked office in the land. This loud-and-clear message of tolerance toward racism, sexism, and violence must be drowned out with something louder, more powerful.
Soon after Christmas I went for a run with my dog on a trail through downtown Austin that is fairly wooded and beside a creek. I’ve been on this trail a thousand times. It was a cold day, eerily quiet from all the locals still out of town for the holidays. Half way down the trail we passed a man walking in the other direction. We made eye contact and I smiled to him and then quickly looked away, but I could feel his gaze linger long after our acknowledgement of each other ended. His eyes wandered from mine, down to the rest of my body, and then back up. I ran a few more yards to get past him, felt an all-too-familiar uneasiness in my belly, and turned my head to look behind me. He was still standing there. Staring at me. Watching me jog away. Unashamed by his blatant nerve.
I felt exposed, under-dressed, vulnerable, and afraid. It’s crazy how much power a person can claim over another with one look. I tried to clear my head and dismiss the interaction to enjoy my fresh air and exercise. My run ended, and I started to leisurely walk the half mile back toward my car. I turned a corner, and there he was again. Clearly loitering, waiting, expecting. The quietness of the day and emptiness of a typically bustling trail suddenly felt less like good fortune and more like the beginning of a newspaper headline. My phone had died a long time ago from exposure to the freezing air, and I was completely alone.
I picked up my pace again and ran quickly past the secluded area the man was lingering in. I felt his eyes on me, hot. Burning hot. My overwhelming vulnerability left me terrified and thoughts raced as I tried to explain away the fact that this bold stranger had encountered me, changed directions, and put himself back in my path to stare. Or worse. Once I felt safe again, out of his proximity, back in the presence of a few passing strangers, my fear gave way to rage.
Why can’t I go for a jog on a public trail in the middle of a crowded city in broad daylight without feeling like I am somehow in danger?
Why did I feel the familiar pressure to smile at someone who totally creeps me out just because he made eye contact with me?
Why does HE get to go out whenever he wants and feel nothing but safe?
Why does HE get to dominate our interaction with his intimidation and obvious objectification?
THERE IS A PERSON IN HERE.
These sentiments, these feelings…They are shared. Every woman has felt this to some extent. Every person of color feels this misallocation of power to a degree I will never comprehend. Immigrants feel this when venturing into places where they’re made to feel unwelcome and unworthy. This is the world we live in.
As I drove home and processed some of my anger, I realized how outraged I feel that some creep on the running trail following a random young woman in spandex may have a tiny bit less reservation now that Trump is in office. That the men who have always held the majority of the power, who have never felt what it is like to be on the receiving end of objectification, who have always had their skin color working in their favor, can sleep even easier at night knowing that the rich guy on top will make sure things stay that way.
Josh and I plan to remain informed during this presidency. He is our president. It is done. We will officially become parents with Donal Trump in highest office. But we, and many others, will resist any and all attempts to normalize mistreatment of women, institutionalized racism, and all other ethically disgraceful moves yet to happen. This isn’t over. And while today feels bleak and prayers feel distant and futile, tomorrow we will do what we feel to be the next right thing. We will stand for the equality and justice we so believe in. Being present in this battle feels almost as scary as surrendering to what lies ahead. While it might be ladylike to offer a smile and a nod and some silly message of optimism or submission at such a time as this, I can assure you I will not go quietly. And thank goodness I am not alone.
Bring on day 1.
p.s. I want to emphasize that my writing is an exercise in my own vulnerability. I am practicing bringing more of my whole self to the table, practicing hearing what my own voice sounds like. My writing is not about any person who may or may not agree/disagree with the things I say. It is not about shaming the voting choices of others. It is not to leave people wondering whether I accept them as a person. I do. We all agree and disagree sometimes with people we love and who love us. We should be free to do so without risk of being shamed or shunned. I dearly love people who roll their eyes at my pessimism over a Trump presidency (I am from Georgia, after all). That is a-ok. As long as we are all showing up, loving well, being honest, moving toward understanding, and speaking up for what we believe then we are all okay.