I have had a somber few days. I had a hard time after the election. I felt a sadness creep into my heart that has lingered with me ever since. The inauguration stirred it back up, the riots, the women’s march, the hurtful comments by friends on facebook, all insisting that women are overreacting, being dramatic, wasting everyone’s time. That we need to get over it. We are cry babies. We should move away. A sign at a protest in the town I live in haunts me, “You Deserve Rape.”
I am proud of the women who marched in the protests, I wish I could have been there. I spent the day at work. I wondered what my co-workers were thinking, what side they weighed in on. I wondered about the guests we were serving. Do they think that the women marching are just traffic annoyances, that they truly have nothing to complain about? That everything is just hunky dory. That electing Donald Trump doesn’t make a glaringly obvious statement about the state of women’s rights in this country.
I’m not going to look up a bunch of statistics about rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, wage differences, and all the like that we all KNOW to be true. If you don’t know it, your head is buried in the sand. I’m going to tell you what I know to be true because I have lived it. I know what it is like to be overlooked in the workplace because I am a woman. I know what it is like to be touched inappropriately by men I know and by random men I didn’t know. I have witnessed men insult other men, by saying, “don’t be such a woman.” I’ve been cat called on runs and followed. I was followed home from a bar one night on foot, by a man saying over and over, “pretty girls shouldn’t be out all alone.” He only left when I started knocking on doors, as I ran down the sidewalk. There were times when I even felt forced to take part in this awful ritual, returning an awkward embrace during an unwanted hug or trying to laugh off a sexist joke.
I do know that I am avoiding these conversations with a lot of people because at some point after the election, it occured to me that this is my deal breaker. I don’t care if you voted for Trump, although I don’t understand. I do care, however, if you trivialize women’s issues and try to say that they are not there. Yes we can vote. Yes we are free to control our bodies. Yes we have rights in the workplace and in our homes, that others before us were not granted. I am not saying that we are not better off than a century ago. Some people have said, “What more do they want?” I will tell you this, if you have to ask, then you will never understand. I will not argue with you, you are either to uncaring or to far gone to ever get it.
I hope that if this election does anything, that it improves women’s resolve to keep fighting. As women, we started to get complacent. We thought things were headed in the right direction and then Donald Trump reared his ugly head. He opened up an old, familiar wound and when he did, it gave permission for those who never wanted to see it shown shut to show their true colors. One thing it has done for me is show me the baggage in my life. The people in my life that are just unhealthy drags on my life. I will not be ugly towards them, but I will be true to myself.
I hope that in the coming days and months that I can be strong like all those marching women. I will not stand silently by and let others take up the fight for me. I will voice my opinion and demand to be heard. When you let it slip that you think women should just get over it, I will make you look me in the eye when you say it and I will insist that you explain yourself. I will be an angry woman, an emotional woman, and most of all, I will be an equal woman.