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.