Women will rise: yesterday we grieved — today, we organize

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Those who know me will attest to the fact that while I wear my emotions all over my body, I rarely speak directly from the heart. I think Lindy West is onto something when she points out in the New York Times that “It does something to you to always come second.” For me, watching my male friends get to be “more than just bodies” while I unpacked what it meant to be an intellectual woman in a pornified world made me terrified to be vulnerable, to develop intimacy with people, to acknowledge that I would receive far more social sanctions for failing to be adequately thin and plucked than I would for letting my mind and spirit shrivel. What that does to you, whether you call it “coming second” or “being a woman,” is that you learn to bury those best things, preserving them for a time when someone cares. You learn to create distance between the world and your best self.

And we’ll never know whether Hillary Rodham Clinton would have taken concrete action to dismantle the idea that no one cares about what women have to offer the world – many say that she would have merely maintained the status quo, and they may be right. But on November 8th, millions of people decided they would rather see an unqualified serial predator and white supremacist in the most powerful position in the world than a woman, and my temptation is to donkey-kick against each side of that divide, between the world and my best self, widening the chasm and protecting myself from a world that looks at me and sees a plump, menstruating body, and not a person. I thought about my dear dear brothers with Down Syndrome, too, and the fact that Americans have demonstrated their disregard for people with disabilities. And for these reasons I wept bitterly. I look forward to a time, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, when that radiating lump in my throat becomes a little less painful.

One trend I’ve noticed over a lifetime of being knocked down as a woman, is that with each blow, I spring back faster, and I come back swinging harder. I’m not incapacitated by sorrow today, so it’s time to come back swinging. For those of you who have less privilege than I do, who need more time to mourn — perhaps you’re a person of colour, or an immigrant, or a lesbian, or someone who doesn’t conform to gender norms, or a person with disabilities — I get it. Take time to hurt and be angry. Part of my job as someone who has the capacity to come back swinging the next day is to care for you. For the rest of us, it’s time to get organized and I hope you’ll join me.

I think we can start by speaking from the heart, even when I’d rather speak from a place of cold cynicism, or distanced mocking. I’m going to go ahead and use one of the most tired cliches of all time, and remember that “the definition of insanity is to try the same thing over and over and expect a different result.” Einstein gets credit for that one but, who knows, it could have just as easily come from a plump menstruator who spent her whole life watching men get the credit for her pithy quotes. Anyhow, this time I’m going to do the opposite of what I’ve done before, and say that we need to be willing to start struggling and organizing from a place of profound vulnerability. That’s step one.

Step two. We need to come together as women and start talking about the everyday sexism in our lives. I know that the temptation is, as Canadians, to think that we get to watch this situation unfold in America as if we weren’t part of it. Unfortunately, the hatred of women doesn’t get checked at the U.S. border. It doesn’t need to because it’s already here. It’s here every time a native woman goes missing. It was here during the UBC rape chants. It was here when students at Dalhousie’s dentistry school discussed using chloroform to facilitate rape on Facebook. It was here when Jian Ghomeshi told a colleague that he’d like to “hate fuck her” in the context of a work meeting. It was here when Canada’s most prolific rapist was released without warning into the public with hopes that he could “manage his rape fantasies.” It’s here every time women go into a sales negotiation, knowing they’re going to start from a lower place than their male peers. It’s here when your faith organization calls male leaders “pastors” and women leaders “administrators.” It’s here when our company health plans cover pills for erectile dysfunction, but not birth control. It’s here when UBC students pay for their textbooks by selling their bodies to men old enough to be their grandfathers. We may not have elected an orange peel into government (yet), but we might as well have for how misogyny is handled here in Canada. Get over that smug feeling of superiority because we have a shitload of work to do.

Step three. Donate a hundred dollars right now to a rape crisis centre, so they can serve as an institution for our organizing, and frontline support to all the women we’re most tangibly screwing over by reinforcing white male supremacy. Alternatively, make it a Christmas gift to the women in your life. I don’t want a goodie package from Estee Lauder. I want to be able to walk down the fucking street without my keys laced between my fingers in one hand, clasping a can of mace in the other.

Step four. Start building coalitions now, and for goodness sake make them intersectional. This is not time to say “we’re all harmed by this.” We are, but some of us will pay for it with our lives, and some of us will pay for it with heavier medical bills, and some of us will merely find it irritating to see Donald Trump’s mug splashed all over social media, flapping his gums for the next four years. You’ll ask, “Can’t we talk about something more positive?” The answer is “no” for now. White women, this election result wounds us, but it doesn’t hurt us as much as it hurts black women, and immigrant women, and indigenous women, and disabled women, and lesbian women. That has to be part of the analysis from the start. The majority of white female voters chose white supremacy this election. We cannot ignore this. Christians, you shat on the carpet, even moreso. Big time. Christians need to be the first group to acknowledge that while they proclaim to centre their lives around a poor, brown radical, they want to be governed by a white rapist billionaire who spits on the poor and the racialized and the disabled. Acknowledge it right now and take a long deep look at what you’ve done. Chances are you won’t pay for it with your life, but for God’s sake someone else will.

Step five. Be bold. Take your best self and unrepentantly put it in the way of misogyny. Get out into the streets and put your body on the line — we particularly need to do this if we’re the kind of women who aren’t targeted by police brutality. Don’t wait for Indigenous women or black women to get their bodies on the line first. If you’re doing that, go back to step four. When you’ve put yourself on the line, wait for hordes of men to tell you that you’re irrational, or oversensitive, or hysterical, or too soft, or too hairy, or too ugly, or basic, or fat, or stupid, or jealous, or crooked, because that’s what’s coming. And then do it over and over again. That seems to be what Hillary Clinton did. She wasn’t perfect — it may even be a stretch to say that she had integrity — but she was tenacious, and I think we can learn from that.

I may not share my heart very often, but I have been listening to what my feminist foremothers have been saying. In the words of Lee Lakeman, it’s time to get “ungovernable.”

The message that just under half the population of America sent on Tuesday was that no one cares about women. The message I’m choosing to receive and spread is that women will rise.

Jess Martin
Jess Martin

Jess Martin is a public relations professional, an aspiring writer, and an assistant editor at Feminist Current. She prefers to write about feminist topics, disability, or environmental issues, but could be persuaded to broaden her horizons in exchange for payment and/or food. In her spare time Jess can be found knitting, gardening, or lying in the fetal position, mulling over political theory that no one in their right mind cares about.

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  • Lucia Lola

    #4.
    #4 so hard.
    All the rest as well, but yeah. #4.

  • HillaryLMcBride

    Wow, so moved by your writing, your heart, your passion, your pain. Thank you for sharing, and mobilizing us into action!

  • I can’t seriously condone criminal violence. I just wrote a post on my blog in opposition to war. I would not actually like to see women become as violent and aggressive as men. But nothing happens over and over again as countless women and girls are raped daily in north america, and thousands of women are killed by spouses and ex-spouses. It’s the nothing happening that is such a hopeless obstacle to women’s ability to live as full human beings. Strikes and sit-ins could be a start. Any other suggestions?

    • Wren

      I don’t know about violence, but I do know that men will not stop raping us, beating us, molesting us, and prostituting us until they are afraid of us.

      • Or at least afraid of the consequences of harming us. Right now there are precious few consequences. And how, how, how can we change that? What consequences can we give them, without becoming like them?

      • Missy

        This is very true. The only way to at least minimize male violence against women is for men to become afraid of both us, and the legal consequences. A small person can take down someone twice their size with certain techniques and maneuvers. Self-defense classes for girls, (and only girls), should be mandatory and government paid for, but the only way for that to ever become a reality is if radical feminists gained real power in the government. Changes in the law are also necessary. Rapists should be castrated before they can leave prison. But as long as we live in a patriarchy and men stay in the most powerful positions, none of this will ever happen. I’m losing more and more hope by the day.

  • Meghan Murphy

    That is a good point…

  • Meghan Murphy

    I think so too… It feels like a much bigger risk when we are challenging those directly around us, often who are friends, family, co-workers, etc.

  • nap1367

    Disagree. Her economic plan was much more coherent and would have helped poor and middle class people tremendously. She talked about it and it was laid out in detail on her website, but that’s dry and boring. People don’t want to talk about those issues. He had no plan other than to cut taxes for the wealthiest. He stoked the misogyny, racism and xenophobia in this country using more overt language than we’ve ever seen before. He riled up the crowds and got their adrenaline going by tapping into hate. He ‘told it like it was’ and gave his supporters permission to say the kinds of things they used to be able to say with impunity. FFS I am tired of people telling her she did it wrong! Whatever she did it was going to be wrong because she’s a woman.This was not about the economy, not even a little bit. He had Steve Bannon of Breitbart as one of his main advisers, his very own Goebbels.

    • Rachael

      Fabulous comment. I’m sick of hearing what she supposedly did wrong too, all the while hearing we need to brush aside what HE did wrong so he can have a chance. Fuck that noise.

    • I was thinking specifically of the TPP. I haven’t looked at her economic policy in detail, or his.

  • I think another reason is that the issues were easier. Women could not get loans without male cosigners. Jobs were segregated. It was legal to pay women less for the same work, and normal. Business clubs were men-only. Abortion and birth control (those gains have been partly lost in the US but elsewhere they appear to have stuck.) etc. etc.

    Second wave feminism got bogged down pretty quickly once they got into discussing porn and prostitution.

  • Just Me

    But this is what makes no sense to me. Trump ships jobs overseas all the time. He even has illegal immigrants who work for him. People are putting their faith in someone that supports oversea jobs! Secondly, a lot of jobs were lost because industries got completely shut down or downsized. Industries like Kodak who use to employ people right here in the USA in their factories. Manufacturing jobs are not coming back to this country in any way that’s going to cause a significant rise in jobs. So how is Trump going to create jobs when part of the reason jobs have gone away is simply because the progressive of technology? Are we all going to go work for Google? I don’t think so. How will trump create jobs? No one knows because Trump spent very little time actually talking about the things he would do. People bought into him because he has a lot of money. Not because they even know his plans.

    I also think it would be foolish to completely ignore the role white supremacy has played here, and sexism. We have never seen anything like this in politics. We are coming off two terms of our first black president and it’s certainly brought out it’s fair share of racism. White surpremists and Neo-Nazis supported Trump for a reason. I am not saying that the only reason people voted for Trump was because they were white supremacy. But to ignore the dynamic that exists there isn’t fair either. There was also an obvious slant against Clinton because of sexism. A lot of the attacks against her were sexist. THe witch hunt over her emails that kept being brought up and all the conspiracy theories that were built to tear her down. We are not comfortable with women in positions of leadership. Other countries have reached that point but ours hasn’t. I know I read a study about how sexism plays a role for women in government. I will try to find it and relay the info more clearly.

    Actually Lilith, not everyone IS motivated by self interests alone. There is nothing wrong considering your own needs but when you allow your needs to ignore personal ethics, that’s where things become sketchy. There are groups of people that have evolved to think about the impact of social issues on other groups of people that exist outside their own traits because they have evolved to understand that we are a more progressive, successful country when we think about those besides ourselves. There is a certain amount of self preservation in lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down.

    • Lilith

      If we aren’t comfortable with women in positions of leadership than why has the percentage of women in positions of leadership been steadily increasing in the US?

  • Missy

    I suppose it would be considered rational and logical in a patriarchal society due to male domination, but in any intelligent and evolved society, suppressing and oppressing the rights and freedoms of those who carry and bring life into the world is completely illogical and irrational, not to mention ignorant, selfish, and just plain evil. I wish radical feminism would catch on stronger and faster. I’m sick and tired of waiting for a positive change to happen for women, and I don’t want to bring up any daughters I may have in the future in this male dominated hellhole.

  • nap1367

    At the end of the day the choice was between Clinton and Trump. We’re talking politics here. Do people understand how that works and how deals are made? It’s a nasty business and nobody involved has clean hands. I hope those who think they voted (or didn’t vote) their conscience are happy with the result. A lot of people in the US and the rest of the world are going to be very badly hurt, much worse than they would have been under Clinton. Trying to make it her fault all over again isn’t going to help. Just learned today that Steve Bannon has been appointed to the Cabinet. Now it’s official we do have our own Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda. Unreal…

  • Topazthecat

    Thank you,everything you said is *so true*!

    Have you ever read any of the excellent books by acclaimed radical feminist psychologist Phyllis Chesler? When I wrote to Gloria Steinem when I was 22 she wrote me back a great response and suggested I read Women And Madness by Phyllis Chesler and that I would find that it made me feel less alone.

    I was only 7 when that book came out and I had never heard of her, so I read it and it’s great powerful information as are her other books that I went on to also read, her great book About Men, which came out in 1978, and (Gloria also gave a great review on the cover) and I read it about 15 years ago for the first time. She interviewed 100’s of men and many of them were married. In her chapter called Wombless Men, she has pictures of sculptures and paintings by famous male artists like Salvador Dali, and Michaelangelo etc and she demonstrates and talks a lot about men’s subconscious fear and envy of the womb and men’s (crazy!) hatred of women. 1 of her references in her extensive bibliography is psychiatrist Wolfgang Lederer’s 1968 book, The Fear Of Women in he which explained the same things.

    She also has a chapter called Phallic Sexuality and in the beginning of it she has a little boy interviwed by a Dr.Richard Green about Sexual Idenity Conflict in Children and Adults and he was asked if he ever wished he had been born a girl, and he said yes. Dr.Green asks him why does he wish that, and the little boy says, girls they don’t have to have a penis. The doctor says they don’t have to have a penis? The little boy then says they can have babies. The doctor then says to him why do you think girls don’t have to have a penis?

    And the little boy says Cause they have to have babies … and babies can’t come out of a penis… babies come out of a vagina… The doctor then says to him , your penis gives you a nice feeling doesn’t it? You’re not scared of it when it gets big and stiff are you ? The boy says no. The doctor says good ! It’s supposed to do that when you tickle it. That’s one big advantage for being a boy cause girls can’t do that you know. The boy says Um hum. The doctor then says to him, sure they can have babies but only boys can have a penis stand up like that.

    In the beginning of her chapter Wombless Men she has woman hater Freud interviewing a 5 year old boy patient and Freud says to him, But only women have children. Hans the little boy says he’s going to have a little girl. Freud says you’d like to have a little girl.Hans says yes next year I’m going to have one. Freud says to him but you can’t have a little girl. Hans says, Oh yes boys have girls and girls have boys. Freud says, boys don’t have children only women ,only Mummies have children. Hans says, but why shouldn’t I ?

    She also has a chapter on Pornography and Other Male Sexual Fantasies. And she says in the chapter Wombless Men that it is no accident that books of pornographic or erotic art are also the source of many expressions of womb envy. In Dr.Chesler’s great 1994 book, Patriarchy Notes Of An Expert Witness she explains that both wife beaters,pedophiles and serial killers of women are addicted to pornography. She also explains that serial killers are mainly white male drifters obsessed with pornography and woman-hatred who sexually use their victims, either before or after killing them and who were themselves *paternally* abused children, and as adults they scapegoat not fathers but mainly women , sometimes children , sometimes male homosexuals who are seen as “feminine” or vulnerable. She then says that serial killers may be responsible for the daily and permanent , disappearance of 1000’s of prostituted and non-prostituted women each and every year all across the US.

    She also talks a lot about how sadly, women have been taught to hate themselves and each other because of the crazy male dominated woman hating society! She has many good reviews for her book, Woman’s Inhumanity To Woman which I also want to read.

    Also in 1997 ( I also wrote to Dr. Chesler at this time and she wrote back a note and sent me some articles she had written) I spoke with her secretary who was in her 50’s or early 60’s and she told me that she read several chapters in one of Dr. Chesler’s books, and that it was very interesting. I told her that I read several of her whole books. I said to her how unreal and crazy it is that men hate women for *no* rational reasons and that they are born and nurtured by *women* that their mothers are *women* and that most women have been kind to their sons, husbands and to men in general even though they have hated and discriminated against us, and have been doing all of these horrible injustices to women for 1000’s of years ! And she said, it’s crazy and unreal but it’s true!

  • Lilith

    Are you sure they “overwhelmingly” voted against Trump?

  • ptittle

    True, perhaps, but we weren’t afraid of them shooting us in response. The 70s feminists lived pre-Montreal Massacre, pre-No…Yes…Anal, pre-…

    • Missy

      The very worst of the violent acts men commit against women, such as the Montreal Massacre, is why we need to replace this modern liberal feminism with a much stronger movement and fight back in every way possible. Women can’t be afraid to hurt or even kill men in self-defense. Women need to learn martial arts and/or carry weapons in order to overpower men. We need to stop being so passive and show men what “hell hath no fury” really means.

  • Missy

    I hear you, it’s something I wonder about constantly too. Why do women let men get away with so much depravity? Why are men such degenerate beasts that barely pass for human? It makes no sense how these sub-human male creatures are in charge of our world even though it’s clear they shouldn’t be, how they’re allowed to dominate over the evolved and superior half of humanity with no real effective opposition as they enforce their dominance with pain, misery, and destruction. There is just too much that is wrong and backwards in this world and I’ve lost hope of it ever changing because men will never change on their own free will, and most women don’t put up enough of a fight to force them to change.

  • Missy

    First God made man… then he had a better idea! =D I’m not religious myself, but when you think about the Bible’s scenario of how life began, men were actually the rough draft and women the masterpiece. Why is it that God chose women to be the ones who have the ability to carry and bring new life into the world? Sure Eve’s punishment was to have extreme pain while giving birth, but the most important thing is that God trusted her and future women with life, not men. I’ve even heard priests admit that women are closer to God because of their gift to give life. So one has to wonder why in Christianity and many other religions, women are constantly degraded, marginalized, and told to be submissive to men, and to just accept the patriarchy’s claim that they are inferior to men. But it only makes sense for SUPERIOR beings to be the ones with the ability to carry life inside of them. There are many reasons why women are superior to men, but when it comes specifically to religious beliefs, our biology, our wombs in particular, automatically prove that God had meant for women to be the better half of humanity, and that we are suppose to be the ones ruling over the planet and every living creature on it, including men. But men denied these facts, and with their tiny little brains but bigger and stronger bodies decided they should be the ones in charge. So they intimidated women with violence and bullying and succeeded in shaping the world into the opposite of how things are suppose to be. They also constantly hammer away at women’s rights and freedoms to make sure things stay the way they like it. This is why humans are having a difficult time advancing, because men can’t accept their natural place in the world and constantly oppress the half of the population that is meant to lead the human race into a better and more peaceful era.