My Post-Election Fears Haven’t Changed: A (White) American Lesbian’s Reaction to Trump’s Win

By Camille Brown

I have had such a hard time in the last few days between my own personal fears and the reactions of people I know. My non-white friends are terrified. My friends who are immigrants (documented or not) are terrified. I have white straight friends my age saying ‘it will all be okay’ and older white straight friends comparing this to the Bush and Regan presidencies. I have relatives who know that my cousin and I are queer and yet who voted for Donald Trump.

As a queer, feminine-presenting woman and survivor of sexual violence and sexual abuse, I’m terrified too. A rapist is our new president whose rhetoric makes me fear for my personal, everyday safety more than usual. Every time I go out in public, whether they leer, or make kissy sounds inches from my face — where I can actually feel their spit, or verbally catcall me, men violate me with their eyes and often with their words. They want to grab my pussy. My only comfort is that, at least most of the time for me so far, there is one thing or another keeping them from actually doing just that. Now, my country has elected a President who politically, figuratively, and QUITE FUCKING LITERALLY wants to grab women by the pussy. I had hope in common sense yet this popular vote biopsy of our nation has shown me just where that common sense lies. That small ‘one thing or another’ which sometimes protects me and everyone else who isn’t a cis-man is utterly gone with him in charge.

On top of all these fears for myself, I fear for my partner who, although she kicks ass at Muay Thai, is 5’2″ and 118 lbs. As a butch lesbian she is quite visibly gay and often walks home from school in our college town on the edge of multiple conservative farming communities. Trump doesn’t think people who look like her should feel safe in bathrooms. He doesn’t think people who look like her deserve to be seen as women. He thinks women who look like me — regardless of sexual orientation or consent — exist for the gratification of men. He and his followers think I am a thing to grab. His running mate, who is actually a successful politician, thinks people like us can be electrocuted until we stop being queer. I’m not going to be calm.

I’ve been out and proud for a year last Saturday and I thought I was coming out into a much safer world than generations before me. But really, I’m out in a country that can very well take away our security in owning a home someday, our right to be married, our right to adopt a child, our rights to personal safety.

I can’t talk or write about this without being moved to tears. I’ve broken down in all my college classes since Tuesday night. If I feel this way I can’t imagine how people of colour, people who aren’t cisgendered, people who are undocumented immigrants, people who rely on Obamacare, people who rely on Planned Parenthood, and the countless others who are threatened by Trump’s rhetoric, must feel.

A Handy Guide to Debunking Mansplaining and Sexist Pub Shouting Matches (Thanks for the Feminist Fuel Mr Trump)

By Katie Staal

At the primary convention in Denver, Colorado in 2008, Barack Obama was elected as the Democratic Party candidate. A historic move for the United States, and one that is forever etched into my memory, and the memories of millions of people across the world. Obama, of course, ran against Hillary Clinton. When we discussed this at school the next day, my politics teacher clumsily explained in short that: ‘America was more sexist than racist’, at least in the Democratic Party vetting process. Of course I’m not sixteen anymore and I know now that both race and gender injustices are sourced from the same generic fear of the unknown. This is why feminism always stands at its most powerful when it is fully intersectional and inclusive. 

Throughout the 2016 political campaign, the words from my teacher floated eerily back into my mind. How was America going to define itself when faced with the first election in modern history with a female candidate to complete the race? Post-Brexit blues had left many Londoners with a sour taste in their mouth so last week’s election found me pessimistic, and with a sinking feeling in my stomach. As I drifted uneasily to sleep, I considered that perhaps this time America was going to vote in force as a nation of unacknowledged sexists. Although the vote was close, this was ultimately confirmed as I woke up the morning after.

Hilary Clinton, although certainly a right-wing Democrat, has had a history of compassionate activism. She holds a bounty of political and legal qualifications along with a pre-existing reputation as the silent influencer of the Bill Clinton Presidency. ‘Mrs’ Clinton pushed for healthcare policy from within the White House before the nation had even muttered the name Barack Obama.

But after a thoroughly misogynistic campaign, America has voted for an unqualified candidate and, as a result, an unstable and unpredictable future. Perhaps people forget that ‘politician’ is a profession, just as a plumber or a builder. 

As a woman I feel personally victimised by the white, uneducated men of the United States. The smug faces of those who believe so vehemently in the vague, impassioned, and colonial hyperbole of ‘taking back what’s ours.’ As white men, they have had undeniable privilege handed to them, and yet they feel the need to ‘take’ even more for themselves. The worst part: they have voted in this direction because of the years of pent-up frustration towards people who make a habit of calling out hurtful or derogatory behaviour. Political correctness becomes the enemy, and the extreme right surge into the mainstream.

All this aside, there is a lesson to be learnt here, and it is one that could potentially elevate feminism to a fully ‘commercial’ level in the eyes of a wider group of men. Since I discovered that there is a name for what ‘sexism’ is, I have realised how I am affected by it every single day. People are naturally opposed to strong inflammatory words, like ‘sexism’ or ‘racism’, but having a name to describe my experience gave me the golden opportunity to share it with others. Discussing feminism in social groups was both an emboldening and terrifying venture — empowering, as you find amongst your peers the feeling that you’re not alone. Terrifying because you live on the edge of an argument, with your feminist beliefs placing you on the knife-edge of often nasty and emotional disagreements. Often with a white man.

After a few pints, the rhetoric begins to flow: ‘Sexism doesn’t exist anymore’, ‘I’ve had women get paid more than me’, ‘I’ve never seen anyone get catcalled’. The list of argument catalysts is endless and tireless. These conversations permeate both our public and private spaces: from otherwise nice trips to the pub to the comments section of uni papers like The Tab or UniLAD. I almost cried with joy the day a male friend backed me up in one of these pub exchanges (he had started dating a feminist). 

Getting into verbal fights over whether something is legitimately ‘sexism’, or being casually derailed by a man with a different perspective to you is undeniably a typically Western, middle-class and educated female problem. It’s not a new problem either. Nonetheless, it is an experience which quashes your sense of self, and this feeling is representative of everyone who has ever felt different or discriminated against, from all backgrounds across the world. 

What’s interesting about the Trump vote is that his public ‘faux pas’, a.k.a. rampant sexism, provide a fairly foolproof example that can help us all silence mansplaining voices. Sexism does exist and here’s the proof! Ha! (Not that we need it, but here it is!)

This sexism is the very mandate that Trump has been elected on by the most powerful most assumed ‘forward thinking’ Western superpower in year 2016, now. Right now. His history of harassment and abuse towards women has been exposed for the world to see, and even the most loyal Republicans were reluctant to dismiss it as ‘locker talk’.

In case you need more fuel to the fire: Mongolia elected a female president in the 1950s and Argentina, Sri-Lanka and Israel followed suit in the 1970s. Yet the United States of America would rather vote for (someone polled as) the most unpopular political candidate ever. They would rather mobilise as a mob for this, than vote for a woman. That’s enough for us in the UK to combat a century of patronising pub talk. 

As feminists, we have always known that this sexist community existed. We also know that this community was larger than many men would admit in the company of women (see: trendy ‘not all men’ arguments/’Mennists’). But now, this community has been placed on display on a global scale. Obama helped us to believe in change, but Trump is a visual embodiment of the USA’s true colours: and that colour is as white and male as it always has been. Trump has helped bring our attention to the problems that 21st century women have been screaming about since the day we understood — and felt brave enough to declare — what sexism is. 

So, thanks for that Donald.