The day Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for president, I turned to my friend Evie, and said, “Here we go.”
“What do you mean?” She asked.
“We are about to find out just how sexist our country really is.”
Fast forward to Wednesday, October 13th, 2016, when I get a text from Evie saying: “You were right.”
I didn’t want to be right (although, as an American, validation in any form always feel great) but, based on the last eight years during which we have seen insidious racism unmasked as the first black man sits in the oval office, I knew the same would happen once a woman took center stage.
Say what you will about Hillary Clinton. I understand she is a polarizing figure. She is a politician. As a millennial who is still reeling from the 2007 recession, and as both a hippie by nurture and punk by nature, I am disillusioned when it comes to trusting any elected official, or anyone who can be coerced by both money and power. My outrage here is not about the Clinton campaign, nor the Trump campaign. My outrage here is with women who are against women.
A 2011 New York Times article notes that one in five U.S. women in the United States are victims of rape and sexual assault. Based on my own personal relationships with over two-dozen dear female friends, my rough estimate is two out of three. We have to remember one in five is merely the number that admitted to it on a survey. Many of us don’t talk about it, and most of us don’t report.
Why? We as women know the answer to that question. Because talking about our rapes is reliving our rapes. Because talking about our assaults results in us being blamed for putting ourselves in unsafe situations. Because taking a stand for our sexual harassment allows us to be picked apart for our style of dress or our sexual liberation, or God forbid, our right to promiscuity.
For many of us, myself included, I wasn’t able to even use the word rape, when discussing my three rapes until this past summer, a month after my third rape. I have been assaulted a handful of times and harassed countless times since I was a young teenager, and the only way I make it through the day as a young, attractive, blonde woman is to not keep track of these scenarios, to deny to myself that it has happened and that it is happening. It is my survival mechanism. Even during my three rapes, I simply breathed deeply, knowing the man would eventually finish and it would be over, the whole time trying to convince myself I was consenting to something which we both knew I hadn’t. I don’t want to be a rape victim. I don’t want to talk about rape. I don’t want to write this piece. But I am, and I finally will, and therefore, have I to.
Donald Trump is not the problem. I have met many Donald Trumps. One “Donald Trump” proposed to me at a West Village bar to spend a week on a yacht in St. Barth’s, and promised to include a designer resort collection wardrobe for me. I know Donald Trumps exist. I am not outraged by what I have heard him say. I have heard it many times from many men. Sick, disgusting, rape apologist, misogynistic men exist. I learned a long time ago to not leave my drink unattended around them, and to not accept job offers, or any other kind of offer from them. They are not the enemy. Just like a house in Kentucky that flies a Confederate flag isn’t the enemy for black America. Bigots and racists exist. Good on them for flying their freak flags proudly, you’re just letting us all know what blocks to steer clear from.
No, the real enemy are those people who “aren’t racist” because they “have a black friend.” Or “aren’t sexist” because “they have daughters.” The real racism comes from my white, suburban-raised, liberal 20-year-old brother who recently argued with my mother about the concept of Black Lives Matter, calling the movement racist, arguing that black-on-black crime is a bigger issue than white-cop-on-black-teenager crime. Like, I can’t even.
The real enemy are the men who have taken “a stand” to distance themselves from Trump saying, “I was offended as a husband, as a father,” implying that a man needs to have an intimate relationship with a woman in order to believe that she should be free from degradation to sexual object. Is it that hard to empathize with a woman? Are we that foreign and scary? I see women as human beings who are simply asking for the same rights men have: namely that to be free to walk down the street protected from violent, degrading language and actions. These men’s claims of coming to the defense of their wives, daughters and sisters are outrageously sexist and offensive, and frankly, terrifying because these men see themselves as champions for women, or worse, as feminists.
I was recently slighted by a man I dated this summer, who said, “You were coming at me with all that feminist bullshit.” What I did was confront him about standing me up for a date, telling him it was unacceptable. This man is a liberal, has many close female friends, and was for the most part a gentleman. I was shocked by his use of “feminist” as an insult.
Feminism, in the dictionary, means the belief that women are socially, economically, and politically equal to men. Not such a hard concept to grasp and not something I see as man-hating, or even separate from men. It’s just the idea that maybe, all human beings should be seen as equal in their humanness.
So if not Donald Trump, who is the real enemy? In addition to the Katy Perrys and Shailene Woodleys who say they don’t care for feminism because they love men (I love men too, even my brother who doesn’t believe in Black Lives Matter, in addition to my countless male friends, co-workers, and men I date, but I also know I am entitled to the same freedoms they so unequivocally receive), the real enemy are the Trump apologist women I have seen on CNN this election cycle.
Let’s choose one of the dozens to illustrate this picture, my personal favorite, Kayleigh McEnany. If you don’t know who she is, she is a angrier version of Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the latter being someone I would actually be friends with, have lunch with, shop with, talk about boys with. I find Hasselbeck to be infuriatingly likable but, McEnany, not so much. I will qualify by saying I not only see myself in Ms. McEnany, a young, beautiful, blonde, passionate, brilliant woman, but I am also terribly jealous of her. She got into Georgetown (I didn’t), has a degree from Harvard Law (I wish), and studied at Oxford (good for her). She is dating a super hot baseball player, is famous, influential, and gets to share her writing on a large platform. So, with my biases out on the table, I will say that no one has hurt me more personally and deeply in the past few weeks than McEnany.
In addition to being undeniably brilliant by her resume’s standards, McEnany is typical of a female Republican talking-head in that she is extremely beautiful by conventional standards. I imagine Kayleigh is a girl’s girl, and has loads of girlfriends she was probably in a sorority with, or at least a few sisters she grew up with, and certainly is of the age to be hitting up countless bachelorette bashes on the weekends. My guess is that Kayleigh knows loads of women who have been raped or sexually assaulted. By statistics I know she has intimate relationships with women who are survivors. By statistics I know all women do. By my own experience, I highly doubt McEnany can walk down the street in New York City or Washington D.C. without being sexually harassed. My guess is that if she takes the subway, someone has rubbed up too close on her butt or her breasts, or worse. These are my guesses because, #yesallwomen. This is our unified experience.
Yet, I am witnessing televised women, despite our united experience of being sexually objectified, betray their sisters, and call them liars, opportunists, and, in a word, sluts.
Shame on you. Shame on you Kayleigh McEnany and the women like you. Be a conservative, it’s what makes our nation great to have differing political opinions, but do you not have any fidelity? Where do you draw the line? Why aren’t you taking this opportunity to say, “Yes I am a conservative, but this kind of female degradation is too much for me, as a woman, to bear.” Because for me, Kayleigh, it is too much to bear. Your betrayal is heartbreaking.
Donald Trumps will always exist, but it is women who deny their own experience and who violate the sisterhood who are the assailants. They are the ones who should carry our burden as they work tirelessly to perpetuate a world in which they live another day, unprotected. All women of influence, this is your opportunity to rise up. This is your opportunity to put your womanhood before all else. Women of America, this is your opportunity to share your story. It is our duty to stand up and yes, “yes, me too. Yes, all women.”