Yesterday, just a few hours after the result of the US Election and while the wounds were still so painfully fresh, I sent out an urgent email to the writers of Gender and the City, asking for their comments on the election of Donald Trump. I recognise that while much of the world is in a period of morning over the result, many do not simply wish to grieve. What we have learnt from this election is that this a time for marginalised voices to be heard more loudly than ever.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I asked how on earth it was possible that a sexually predatory, racially discriminative, inflammatory, destructive and callous bigot was in the final two to take one of the highest positions of office in the world. Now, in my devastation and disgust, my questions have only been multiplied. When I asked our Managing Editor, Ali, for her comments for this article she said ‘Why?’ I began to explain my rationale, only for her to clarify — ‘That’s my response,’ she said, ‘Why? Just why?’ I think it’s fair to say that’s a question on a lot of our minds.
The comments we received back from all across the world were a combination of thoughtful, impassioned, shocked, fearful and hopeful. And although many have the inclination to blame, our time is better spent on reflection. I was overwhelmed and inspired by what we received, so much so that we’ll be publishing this piece in multiple parts over the next week. I implore you to read until the end.
Kaammini Chanrai, Founder and Editor-in-Chief
I spent last night, and woke up today, in an environment of shock, horror, fear, and heaviness suspended like the clouds over DC after Donald Trump was elected.
As a woman, a person of colour, and someone with a sensory disability, it feels deeply personal for me, as I know it does for many. Of course, my instincts are telling me to scream, run, or break something, but I don’t want to make room in my life for that level of hatred. I can’t and won’t let that bitterness about a particular personality sully my outlook on the country’s future, the climate’s future, and the future of social issues I care so deeply about.
I commit to working to fight against the bigotry, racism, sexism, and cruelty that Trump’s campaign represents. And I also commit to continuing to count my blessings every day, reconnecting with my intention to bring joy into this world for all creatures, and thinking about how I can act with dignity and purpose. Now more than ever, we can’t forget to never acquiesce to hatred of another being, no matter how tempting. And never forget that love, service, honesty, and grace win.
Camilla Nawaz, based in Washington DC
Now that the tears have dried and the storm has passed, can we talk for a moment about why Trump was, against all odds, chosen by almost 60 million Americans?
A tsunami of nativist, anti-establishment sentiment has swept not just the US but the wider western world, showing no signs of slowing as we democratically embrace political leaders that mirror horror movie characters. It’s hardly a surprise: groups in society feel increasingly unrepresented and marginalised, incumbent leaders have failed to correct the unequal distribution of benefits that come from increased openness, and the mainstream has been complacent in the face of this anti-status quo movement. More should have been done to aid the ‘losers’ of globalisation – it is lamentable that America spends a pathetic 0.1% of GDP, one sixth of the rich country average, on policies to retrain workers who have lost their jobs through trade and technology. But these trends apply not just to the US but also the UK (Brexit), France (National Front), Germany (AfD), and heavens knows where else.
The country in which I currently reside will soon have at its helm a President with the ability and inclination to start a conflagration of destructive proportions; a man whose unwavering disdain for women, minorities, and civil liberties is evident in not just his rhetoric but also in his actions. Grave danger faces large groups of society if Trump executes even half of his pre-election promises: to repeal Obamacare, scrap NAFTA, ban Muslims from entering the country, cut abortion funding, cancel The Paris Accord. The New Yorker goes so far as to declare the result “The American Tragedy”.
However, we should refrain from indulging in doom and gloom predictions; instead, we must look for a silver lining. Stock markets have not been rattled. Republicans control both houses but Trump has been rejected by many senior members of his party, meaning he could face a tough order of opposition from Congress. He may turn out to be a foreign policy realist and strengthen US-Russia relations, which could more reliably guarantee European security than the status quo. He may surround himself with pragmatic, intelligent advisors and perhaps listen to them occasionally. Most importantly, his presidency may shake the establishment out of its crippling complacency. It is pertinent to point out that the polls, prognosticators, and politicians all underestimated the magnitude of dissatisfaction of the US electorate.
Although I am unimaginably disheartened by Hillary’s loss, I take solace in the fact that, throughout 2016, the world has witnessed women rising from the political ashes of men. Hillary Clinton has made history. Her tenacity, grace, and iron will is an inspiration to all women, showing us that, one day, we will be able to shatter the glass ceiling. HRC may not be the winner this week but she is still a champion. I was, am, and will always be, #wither.
Shakira Chanrai, based in North Carolina
Like the EU Referendum, I was determined to stay up all night to witness what I was so sure would be the triumph of sane, compassionate and open-minded people against those who respond to prejudice, ignorance and unsubstantiated rhetoric.
Like the EU Referendum, I was worried by 1am, panicked by 2am and outright despairing by 4am.
My thoughts, as a ‘Remain’ voter in Brexit Britain, and as an LGBT+ woman, go out to Democrat voters in the US, and to women, people of colour, and the LGBT+ and immigrant communities alike. You have trying times ahead, but so much of the international community is with you.
Today is already in the history books and we cannot change that now. But what comes next is something we have some say in.
Do not lash out at Trump voters as so many ‘Remainers’ in the UK did to Brexit voters, including myself at times. Talk to each other. Do not exacerbate the chasm between you that Trump has already so successfully carved out. Understand each others fears and educate yourselves.
This, I believe, is the most powerful way to resist the spread of prejudice and misinformation that has taken root.
In a sentence: the return of Nativism as demographics are changing fast.
Like most, I haven’t really processed it fully. A large part of me isn’t prepared to believe the words ‘President-Elect Trump’ when they appear on the news, as we’re a part of some sick joke. I really feel for Hillary, and mourn the chance for having come so close to a female president and missed. But this is far more than just a symbolic loss; the futures of minorities and some women have been jeopardized by what has effectively been the final death rattle of a certain type of white people. This may well be the last time they can do it before demographics relegate them to merely being another minority, which is in a way heartening – unlike Brexit, where there is no such future demographic certainty.
Alongside watching Hillary’s concession speech I would heavily recommend listening to a brief segment by CNN’s Van Jones, which encapsulates the mood of fear that many have at the moment. He speaks of this election as being a nativist ‘White-Lash’, and in a lot of ways I am more prepared to buy that argument than the capitalist critique that is making the rounds that these were the downtrodden and “forgotten” of our liberal system. In support of this is exit poll data from the New York Times, which indicates that Clinton won a majority of voters from the lowest two income brackets quite convincingly, whilst Trump performed better or almost as well with voters in the middle and upper brackets. Also supporting this is the fact that the two most important issues for Trump supporters were immigration and terrorism – neither of which feed into this ‘people left behind’ theory. I’m in no doubt that this is a nativist revolt rather than anything else. Perhaps that’s a way of explaining how Trump won a majority of white women: for them, race trumped (sorry) any notion of misogyny- he could bring their country back to them regardless of how many ‘pussies’ he grabbed.
Compounding this, Trump now has an open goal to enact any policy he wants. I do think that Trump isn’t too interested in policy and is at heart a pragmatist, which should relieve me, except for the fact that the Republicans he surrounds himself with and those in Congress are insane- and he’s somehow managed to put them in power. The problem with Trump is temperament and not policy, because he has no real policy. The problem with the Republican Party is ideology, and they have now somehow been elevated to all three branches of government without any reckoning for the 8 years of mischief they have pursued. They will make a big effort to repeal Obamacare, and you can bet that with a Supreme Court nomination there will be many rollbacks in LGBT+ rights, women’s rights, immigration and affirmative action.
Like I said earlier, I’m not as scared for the future of America as I am the UK. Even if a wall is built it is almost a certainty that the US will be significantly more diverse in the future, and that reactionary, racist votes like this are the last gasp of the old guard as the country moves forward (painful though it is). With the UK I am less certain because there really isn’t anything to indicate that we will change demographically, nothing to say we will be more diverse or younger – we risk greater stagnation than the US under Trump. Scary times ahead.
Nikhil Subbiah, based in England