Part of me thinks, the internet doesn’t need another think-piece, status update, or blog post about Trump. In fact, just this morning, I considered a hiatus from social media because I read something every day that makes me want to scream and throw my phone out the window, and my doctor told me to monitor my blood pressure in these last weeks of pregnancy. (Sorry, doc! We’re in the midst of a horrific election season and I’m living with a diehard Cubs fan in October – I’m trying to stay relaxed, but, ya know.)
And then part of me says… but I must say something. As much as I would love to disengage from the world and go do yoga on a beach for the next month, I can’t. Because what’s happening in this country is too important. Too much is at stake.
No, no leader will ever be perfect. Not even close. Most thoughtful, engaged, intelligent people I know aren’t totally sold (a nice way of saying, “are like, seriously?!”) on any of our choices this year. But our vote is our voice, and our vote can say “I affirm this viewpoint” or “No, this way of thinking is wrong and it can’t be tolerated.”
I cannot stand by while I hear anyone dismiss the words Trump has said about women, which, yes, are boasting about sexual assault. Plain and simple.
If you’re a woman, I don’t have to explain why. You already get it.
If you’re a man, I probably don’t have to explain why, but if it helps you to understand, let me tell you:
Every woman (every. woman.) you know has been assaulted or abused by a man OR personally knows another woman (a friend, a sister, a family member) who has been. If you don’t know this, it’s because it’s not something women tend to talk about a lot. And although not every woman has experienced abuse first-hand, every single woman you know has been treated or talked to inappropriately, has had to listen to men talk about women as though they’re just sexual objects, or has been in fear of being attacked by a man. I read a great tweet that essentially said: “Men, this is why women go places in pairs.”
If you don’t know, here’s what it’s like for a woman – in my case, a woman who lives in a safe area, and who rarely gets scared about being alone.
Just last week, I was leaving dinner with a friend. It wasn’t late – maybe 9 p.m. I was in a fairly well-lit area near restaurants and shops, but there weren’t many people out. After my friend and I parted ways, I was waiting at a crosswalk at a busy intersection when a car with two young guys pulled over about 30 feet away, rolled down their window, and started asking me questions. I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, but they kept talking to me, and I just prayed the light would change so I could run across the street. Could they have been totally sweet guys who just needed directions? Maybe. And if I had been with Dave, or with another friend, I wouldn’t have worried at all. But because I was alone, my first response was anxiety. Once I had crossed the street, I got to the parking garage (again, a well-lit place), where my car was on the second floor. I realized the only easy/quick way up was the staircase, which I wasn’t pleased about, but I figured I could either go up the staircase or walk all the way across the giant parking garage to the elevator. I looked all around to make sure nobody was following me, held my keys between my fist like a weapon (yes, women do this.), opened the door to the stairwell, scanned it, and ran up the stairs. I’m eight months pregnant and haven’t run anywhere since… I can’t even recall when, but I ran in this situation. I opened the door to the correct level, quickly walked to my car, got in, immediately locked my door, and started driving. Didn’t even plug my destination into my map app before driving away.
And, men: if you think this is extreme, let me assure you that I don’t generally deal with anxiety and I’ve never been attacked before. But I’ve heard the stories personally, I know women who have been hurt and attacked in situations just like that one, and I know how easily it can happen – to any woman.
And this is why Trump’s words are not only disgusting, reckless, and vile – but so incredibly dangerous. Women already know how scary it can be to be a woman. Trump’s words affirm that fear (yep, you should be afraid! Because some men really think this way!), but his response (and half-assed apology… maybe quarter-assed or eighth-assed) also say to us, “yeah, so what? Are you seriously upset about this?”
If we under-react to these words, we’re saying it’s OK to create a society where the next generation of girls grows up thinking they’re just sexual objects and that men can do whatever they want to them.
If we (some may say) over-react to them, we hear, “oh, get over it. They’re just words!”
But they’re not just words. Not to the women who have been hurt by men who didn’t respect them. Not to every woman who lives in fear – either an ever-present fear based on an abusive relationship or past abuse, or that fear that just lies dormant in every woman, but sometimes jumps up (when she’s walking alone to her car at night) and makes her heart race.
And, you guys: I was raised by an incredible dad who shows the utmost respect for everyone – men and women. I believe I am a confident, strong woman, who knows my value as a child of God – because of my dad and the way he raised me. I’m so, so lucky he’s my dad. I’m married to an amazing man, who surpasses every expectation I had for a husband, who makes me feel so respected, secure, and valued for who I am. A man who I can’t wait to see raise a confident, strong, and secure little girl. I’ve been surrounded by wonderful male family members and friends who are loving, kind, and justice-oriented. I’ve never been physically attacked or assaulted. And I don’t generally don’t struggle with anxiety. But this is just what it’s like to be a woman in America. I almost just wrote, “and being a woman in America is actually pretty great, compared to many places,” but then I stopped myself because I thought, this is not a high enough standard. It’s not enough for women to generally feel safe and valued – not in spite of their gender, but because they’re human beings – created by God, loved perfectly by him. It should horrify and pain us to know so many women around the world live in places where abuse is more common than it is here.
Men: I know most of you are awesome (at least the ones who will read this blog, of course). I know you’re empathetic, that you love all people and especially the women in your lives, and that you seek to understand life from others’ viewpoints (and if this post helps even a little bit, I’m grateful for that). Most men are not abusers, attackers, misogynists who think they’re better than women… but some are, and those ones are the reason women go places in pairs, and don’t walk alone when it’s dark, and ask security guards to escort them to their cars if they work late. Trump is one of those men, and I fear that if we normalize him, we also will normalize his words and behaviors for the next generation of boys. So, we all need to speak up and say, “no. This is not OK. Sexual assault – and language boasting about it – is not normal. It’s wrong, it leads to a lifetime of deep pain for women who experience it, and it’s a slap in the face of a God who created us.”
I’m having a baby girl next month (and let me say: I don’t just care about women because I am one, and I’ll be the mom to one – it’s just my experience. Let me affirm that women are valuable because of who they are – not because of how men relate to them.), and Dave and I are both thrilled that she’s a girl. Of course, I would love a boy so much, too, but as soon as I found out she’s a girl, I was so excited that she’s a she. And I’m still so excited. I can’t help but think of all the great memories in my childhood, the sweet parts of being a girl and growing into a woman, thinking of my special relationship with my mom, and with my great girlfriends – and being so excited to have a girl who gets to experience all those things, too. It’s a beautiful thing, to be a girl and a woman. But it’s also terrifying, because being a woman can be so hard.
I know her life will be hard and she’ll feel pain, just like everyone does. Pain, difficulty, struggle – those are all inevitable parts of life for us on earth.
But growing up not being sure if she’s as smart or worthy as boys? Hearing degrading language from boys about how she’s most valuable because of her looks? Feeling that a boy’s opinion of her body gives her any sort of worth? Seeing friends be hurt and abused by boys and men and worrying that she will be someday, too? Being disrespected because of her gender and then being told to “get over it” if it offends her? No. I don’t believe these things are inevitable. I believe they’re wrong, they’re against God’s design for humanity, and they must be called out and reversed. And I believe my daughter – and all girls and boys in this next generation – deserve so much better than learning that treating others with disrespect because they’re different, sexual abuse, and misogyny are normal. They’re not normal. They’re horrific.
So that’s why I decided to say something today. And yes, maybe my social media feeds are echo chambers and everyone who reads with this could’ve written it themselves, but I have to speak out, because I think we’re so much better than this.