I’ve been on the losing side of presidential elections before, but I’ve never felt the deep, soul-destroying despair I felt the morning after this year’s contest. In part, it was the realization that America may not be the fundamentally good-hearted country I had always believed it to be. Clearly, almost half the voters were not bothered enough by Donald Trump’s repeated racist, immigrant-bashing, anti-science, Islamophobic comments to not vote for him.
But the most disturbing thing for me personally, as an older, white woman, was the blatant misogyny of his campaign. As Stephen Colbert said: How did the possibly first female president lose to a crotch-grabbing, beauty contest owner?
Throughout this election, I watched in dismay as Trump and his supporters derided Hillary Clinton using offensive, sexist language: e.g., “Trump that bitch.” The candidate himself said Clinton didn’t “look presidential,” meaning she wasn’t male.
What does this election tell the nation’s children, especially its girls? We have a soon-to-be president and millions of his supporters who value women for little more than their tits and asses. Not their brains. Not their accomplishments. Not their abilities.
Even if you say you don’t agree with his statements about women, if you voted for him, then, clearly, his sexist, misogynistic words and attitudes were not deal breakers for you — and that means they didn’t really bother you.
That’s what caused me such despair. I’ve fought most of my life to be seen as an equal. I spent years in the male-dominated field of physics, ultimately obtaining a PhD in astrophysics. I thought we’d made a lot of progress in convincing people that women were more than just their looks, that women could do anything. But, apparently, millions of people in this country resent the progress we made and want it taken away.
We’ve seen it in recent court cases like Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer turned rapist, who was given an insultingly light sentence because the judge didn’t want to ruin Turner’s life. The impact of the sentence on the male perpetrator carried more weight than the impact of his horrific crime on the victim. Her life has irreparably changed, but the judge seemed to care more about that poor, poor boy.
That’s why many of us were so outraged when Trump bragged that he could get away with doing anything to women because he’s a “star,” that he could just walk up to them and “grab ’em by the pussy.” Clearly, for Trump, women are there for his pleasure. What the woman wants or thinks just doesn’t matter.
But the disaster this election presents for women goes beyond “just” words. From access to abortion and low-cost, effective birth control, to cancer screenings and yearly checkups performed in Planned Parenthood’s offices nationwide, Trump is poised to preside over the largest rollback in women’s health options … ever.
Rich, white women will still be able to get the same level of health care they have today. It’s lower-income women and women of color who will pay the price if abortion and birth control are restricted and Planned Parenthood defunded.
It was women’s ability to control our bodies and our fertility that enabled us to step out of the kitchen and into board rooms and labs. Sadly, for many of Trump’s supporters, going back to when America was “great” means going back to when women were seen, not heard, when a woman’s “place” was barefoot and pregnant.
That’s why I feel such despair. It feels like this country is telling me that, as a woman, I don’t matter.
Of course, a majority of voters didn’t vote for Trump’s sexism; Hillary won the popular vote. Maybe that’s where we can find hope — most Americans didn’t vote to restrict women’s rights and cut our healthcare.
But a lot of them did and now that he’s “electoral-colleged” as president, Donald Trump can do a lot of damage to women’s lives before he’s gone. We won’t go away. We won’t quit. We’ll continue to fight the fights we thought we had won years ago, so our girls can grow up confident, strong and independent and, one day, become president.
Sally Stephens is an animal, park and neighborhood activist who lives in the West of Twin Peaks area.