I wasn’t shocked by the election results. I was deeply disappointed. I was sad. I was scared. But I was not shocked. I called my sister the day after Trump was elected and the first thing she asked was, “How did this happen?”
“I think America might be more racist than we thought,” I replied
“And misogynistic,” a friend was quick to point out.
I paused. “America is about as misogynistic as I thought,” I finally responded.
Because it is.
Glennon Doyle Melton wrote something recently that spoke to my experience, “Telling [my daughter] Tish that America voted into office the man she heard on TV saying the things he said about grabbing women…well, that was a low point in my life. She bawled. She understood what it meant. Then, later- before she went to bed- she looked at me and said: ‘Mommy- maybe he isn’t that bad.’ And that killed me. Because that’s what girls and women do, right? When a man abuses us or minimizes us or harasses us or discounts us and THE WORLD does not say: NO, that is not okay. When the world disbelieves us or takes his side — when it tells us that he is worth more than we are…In order to survive- we eventually agree. We give up. We think: maybe he’s right. Maybe it’s all okay. Maybe I’m not worth more than I got. Maybe I should just fall into line. Maybe he’s not that bad.”
I have spent the better part of 2016 reconciling the fact that “bad” people accomplish good things. I have seen abusers fight for better wages. I’ve seen cruel individuals champion benevolent causes. Over and over I have seen how, for some, the end justifies the means. And I have experienced firsthand how these means are often at the expense of women. This is my America.
This past year I spoke about an abusive relationship that nearly killed me. I shared my story as a survivor to help others with their recovery. A man I’ve never met confidently followed up with the institution that hosted my talk and told them my truth was “categorically untrue.” I wish I had been surprised.
My words were erased and motives questioned. I was never asked if my experience was real. It’s quite possible my reality — my voice — didn’t matter to the decision makers, or that a man’s voice mattered more. This would not be the first time. I am reminded again and again how women of every race and ethnicity are judged differently. Our sanity and competency is easily questioned. We are often called “crazy” instead of courageous, and “ridiculous” instead of honest.
In my America we relive the same story but by different narrators. There is Jane Doe, Amber Heard, Joanna Angel, Janay Palmer, Ivana Trump, and Juanita Broaddrick. We pretend misogyny and abuse happen to “those women” but not our co-workers, friends, sisters, and daughters. We wonder aloud as to why a victim stays without ever researching how hard it is to leave. We embrace abusers because of their talents, because of their money, and because it is easy. It always has been. In the name of Two Sides to Every Story we demonize victims and question survivors. The Benefit of The Doubt goes to abusers because Evidence. Proof. Innocent Until Proven Guilty. We don’t try to understand how the system might not be created to help the oppressed, but rather the oppressor. The Other Side of The Story is inconvenient, and messy, and even self-incriminating. So we ignore it, we trivialize it, and we call it categorically untrue.
This is my America, and it’s yours too.
I wasn’t shocked by the results of the election. My Facebook timeline was not an echo chamber of people on the same side. My newsfeed showed plenty of people who were frustrated and annoyed and completely fed up. Social media revealed that many people I know voted from a place of privilege for the issues that mattered most deeply to them. They voted because of their experiences, but some never stopped to think about mine.
So if we really want a united country, we need to start by telling ourselves the truth.
This is our America and we can do better.