Right up until about 11 PM last night I never imagined that a self-confessed serial abuser of women could become the president of my country. For all of his many other shortcomings as a potential leader, I thought Trump’s overt contempt for women would be his undoing. I believed that regardless of what men did, however swayed men were by Trump’s “blunt talk” and celebrity, America’s female half would somehow unite in their opposition to fat shaming, lookism, double standards and, of course, pussy grabbing. Together, they would block any potential path Trump had to victory. I was wrong.
The reaction to the Obama Presidency taught me a lot about racism. Before Obama I still held the idea that racism was something primarily perpetuated by bigots. By people who consciously and overtly held the idea that Black people or brown people were inferior to others. Because I thought of racism that way, I did not see much racism that was, in fact, all around me and covert, often unconscious. Seeing the president of the United States subtly and constantly attacked as undeserving of the office only because of his ethnic heritage opened my eyes.
This presidential election, in which an entirely competent and qualified WOMAN was dismissed by a huge segment of American voters in favor of a MAN with zero qualifications for the office and a trail of scandals a mile long behind him, shows me that misogyny is all around us and even inside each of us. Now, I didn’t vote for Trump and I’m not taking responsibility for what is to come, but I’m owning up to a convenient blindness to the sexism and misogyny that has surrounded me forever.
You woman are laughing, I’m sure, thinking, “does he think this is the FIRST time an unqualified man got a job over a very qualified woman? Wake UP!”
And you’re right. I’m awake now. You have my full attention.
So where from here?
First, I just want to say to the women in my life: to my wife, my daughter, my mother, my sister, my wonderful friends, my work colleagues and business partners, to the women I meet every day, that I love you and everything you bring to this world.
A big part of misogyny is the subtle dissing of female traits as somehow inferior to traditional male traits. So I want you to know that I love your femininity. I love your emotions. I love your vulnerability. I love your curves. I love your scars and your gray hairs. I love your nurturing. I love your anger. I love your tears and I love your laughter. I love the way you sometimes leave me scratching my head wondering, “WTF was that about?” Don’t change a single thing. You are perfect the way you are.
Second, I want to apologize for not getting it earlier. I mean, intellectually I understood things like pay inequality and sexual harassment, but I don’t think I ever really knew what it was like to be treated as inferior EVERY SINGLE DAY just because of gender and to always be fighting an uphill battle. In a sense I never can never truly understand, because I’m a man, but I think I’m a lot closer now. And I’m sorry you have to deal with that.
Finally, I just want to make a commitment to be better, to fight for the things that matter. My daughter is 11 and one of the most brilliant people I know. She’s fierce and strong and driven and smart. She’s a natural leader. She also sometimes rubs people the wrong way because of those very same traits. And I know that because of her gender sometimes those traits might be presented as a problem rather than a strength. That she might be called a bitch or a “nasty woman” where a man would be called assertive. And my job is to make sure that she’s supported, that the sexism and misogyny she’s inevitably going to face doesn’t crush or stymie her dreams.
I hope our country doesn’t have to wait that long for a woman president but if it does, Bella has the right stuff to be one. I think if there’s a silver lining to last night it’s that a lot of girls and young women who were excited about Hillary becoming the next president are looking at what happened and saying, “Well, if not her, then me.”