activism

Eventually the Pendulum Swings

Greetings from the Left coast. It’s been quite a while.

I’ve had an entire day now to mull over this Trump victory— I mean, really let it sink in before speaking out—and I find myself now compelled to publicly share my thoughts.

I’m so happy for you Mr. Trump.

Congratulations. You won.

I mean, not the popular vote, which is why there are so many protests occurring, but hey, electoral vote, so what does it matter because you won, right? (except it does matter because, as I’ve just said, half the country is outraged, and it’s not some kind of sore loser outrage, but rather more of a “WTF, howthefuck have my rights just been compromised” type of outrage)

It was pretty clear that pretty much everyone here in California yesterday was walking around in a haze. In a complete, WTF-induced haze, trying to make sense of it. But as one person said to me yesterday, out of her shock and disbelief, “Yeah… I’m just trying to make sense of this… But you know what— I’m from Ohio, so I do get it.”

And for better or worse, so do I. My own father voted for Trump. Which in and of itself continues to baffle me. (Like, dude, you adopted a brown baby [me] who was born of one “illegal” parent from El Salvador) But I digress…

We’ve all been sitting here wondering how we could go from electing the first Black president to the man who questioned his very eligibility because of his race. We’re wondering how we could go from Black Lives Matter to electing a man endorsed by the KKK. We’ve all been wondering how we could go from potentially electing our first female president to a man who has condoned sexual assault and spouted hateful misogyny over and over again.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. Hate Votes, meaning that so many people have been so disillusioned with the government, and were so angry with the choice of candidates, and henceforth our very “democracy,” that they just wanted to vote “anti-establishment.” Enter Trump. Many of his supporters were not as much for-Trump, as they were against-Hillary.
  2. Economic policy has trumped (pun intended) equality, social justice, and common decency. People care more about his economic ideas and potential business acumen than the horrible things he has said. Racism, sexism, and downright bigotry are being overlooked and pushed aside because, you know, he’s going to “make deals” and that’s more important.
  3.  Going back to #1: Eventually the pendulum swings.

It’s almost a game of two steps forward, two steps back when it comes to our political climate and presidential elections. After eight years of Obama—after eight years of any president, mind you, the same happened with George W.— often, if not always, people want change. A striking change. And Trump offers the most striking change of all.

But you know what? This is what is going to keep the optimistic political fire inside me burning bright.

Eventually the pendulum swings.

Bernie may not have won the presidency or even the democratic nomination this time around, but his impact has been undeniable and indelible nonetheless, and he underscored a major movement going on in this country. We have been shown, to some extent, just how far we can go. Even if it wasn’t all the way, there is room for progress and we are going to create even more room. Those of us that declare Trump as #notmypresident are only further revved up in our political fervor and social activism. I know I am.

I am heavily disheartened by the intense apathy and disregard for racism and sexism demonstrated by this election, let alone the very active role both have played throughout the Trump campaign. I am horrified at the potential Supreme Court nominations to come. And I am beyond saddened and beyond disappointed by just how insidious and endemic sexism is in our country that this candidate— THIS person, of all the possible candidates out there— won over Hillary. I have zero doubt, and firmly believe, that if it was Donald Trump versus a “Hal” Clinton (i.e. another man), Trump would not have won. That is just my personal belief, but I know I’m not alone.

Notwithstanding, this means that I am only going to continue to fight even harder than I have in the past. A friend of mine asked me yesterday morning, “Where and how do we fight back?” I’ve thought really long and hard about this question. It’s a great question, and I think one a lot of us are asking ourselves, as well as each other, right now.

This is what I’ve come up with so far… Do take into consideration that this is coming from someone who is a reproductive justice worker, political activist, and in the process of obtaining a Masters in Social Work. I am no political strategist, nor am I even some kind of amazing community organizer *ahem* but nonetheless, here are my thoughts:

  1. As a reproductive justice worker who helps low-income women of all ages, incomes, and ethnicities obtain access to reproductive healthcare and services, I am going to fight even harder for this access. In a country in which, yes, we do have the right to choose, such a choice is not always so easily accessible, even here in California. There are still women who have to travel hundreds of miles for abortion services, women who may not have access to a car or even very much money. There are women afraid to seek out aid because they may be undocumented, a minor, or in a domestic violence situation. These issues are part of our everyday reality, and part of why reproductive justice— not just choice, but reproductive justice— is so crucial. Although Roe v. Wade still stands, the Republican party’s way around this is to chip away at access, and create further barriers for women. I think it’s crucial for us to do what we can in the way of protecting and increasing access, as well as paying attention to state and federal policies encompassing such things as insurance and immigration. If you can volunteer somewhere, great! If not, at least pay attention to state and local elections and use your voice!
  2. On this same note: I am currently helping to push the EACH Woman Act, sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (as we like to say here in the Bay Area, “Barbara Lee speaks for me!”), which leads to another important mode of engagement: Find out who your congressperson is and pay attention to what they’re doing!
  3. Similarly, let’s keep our eyes on these women.
  4. Finally, let us remember: eventually the pendulum swings. Seeing as I’m playing the long game here, let us take these next four years to work even harder at our activism, to pay greater attention to House and Senate bills being penned by our elected officials, and create an even bigger space for progressive ideas and policies. This is the time for us to find one another and work together, and work very hard.

There are a lot of protests going on right now and a lot of people don’t understand why. Well I do understand why, but I also think it’s important to take that angry, frustrated energy inside of us and put it into useful, meaningful, productive action. This is why I’ll be paying close attention to Trump and the policies and actions he will be attempting to make over the next few years.

Because I am going to be a part of the counter-action.

And when the pendulum swings, I’ll be ready.

 

Please feel free to leave comments with further ideas on how to engage in meaningful and productive action

“WALK A MILE IN HER [gendered, sexist, high-heeled] SHOES”

Image source: http://unews.com/2011/09/26/walk-a-mile-in-her-shoes-men-raise-awareness-of-violence-against-women/

“Different though the sexes are, they inter-mix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above. ”
― Virginia Woolf

The following was posted to the MFB Facebook page by a reader the other day:

“My school, George Washington University, is holding a “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event. While I understand and support the point that this event is trying to get across, I have an issue with the high-heeled shoes part. According to the website “men will literally walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes (from Mid Campus Quad to the Lincoln Memorial) in order to help them gain a better understanding and appreciation of the experience of being a woman in today’s society.” High heels play a very very (very!) small part of my life as a woman, and I think that the mere symbolism of high heels can be seen as more of a sex-symbol than empowerment for women’s rights.”
http://gwsasawalkamile.eventbrite.com/

This is what I deem to be a case of “their heart is in the right place but the idea’s very half-baked.”

As a matter of fact, the idea is detrimentally half-baked. To quote the aforementioned MFB reader, “I understand and support the point that this event is trying to get across,” but the inference that wearing high-heeled shoes is somehow intrinsically, or perhaps even innately, linked to “womanhood,” or is somehow a fundamental aspect of being a woman is not helpful. It’s actually quite harmful.

In fact, it’s predicated on a very gendered and somewhat sexualized notion of what it means to be a woman. That is to say: femininity does not equate being a woman, nor does being a woman mean being feminine.

One more time:

FEMININITY DOES NOT EQUAL BEING A WOMAN / BEING A WOMAN DOES NOT EQUAL FEMININITY.

A straight woman can be masculine, a gay man can be masculine, a gay woman can be feminine, a straight man can be feminine, many of us can, and do, express both masculinity and femininity, perhaps even simultaneously, and let’s not forget the factual presence of androgyny among us humans, as well. In addition to this gendered notion of womanhood, this “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event also speaks to a sexualized (think: “male gaze“) concept of being a woman due to the inherent sexuality ascribed to the high-heel. It is, after all, a piece of sexual symbolism in itself.

I have to here stop and say, once again, that I applaud the young men that take part in these events across the country. Their hearts are in the right place, as are those of the people that created it. However, it does unfortunately propagate gendered and sexist notions that we women would do better without, and moreover, it doesn’t really accomplish anything in the way of helping young men “see what it’s like to be a woman.” But then I have to ask: Can such a goal even be accomplished? Can a man ever truly understand the experience of what it is like to be a woman?

Something to ponder, from the amazing Cherrie Moraga:

“…a gay male friend of mine once confided to me that he continued to feel that, on some level, I didn’t trust him because he was male; that he felt, really, if it ever came down to a “battle of the sexes,” I might kill him. I admitted that I might very well. He wanted to understand the source of my distrust. I responded, “You’re not a woman. Be a woman for a day. Imagine being a woman.” He confessed that the thought terrified him because, to him, being a woman meant being raped by men. He had felt raped by men; he wanted to forget what that meant. What grew from that discussion was the realization that in order for him to create an authentic alliance with me, he must deal with the primary source of his own sense of oppression.”

(Taken from Moraga’s essay, “La Guera.” Bold added by me, for emphasis)