Yesterday wasn’t what I thought it would be.
I, like everyone else, was so ready for this particularly grating election to be over and done with. I was tired. My friends were tired. My peers in the journalism school were tired. We wanted to rest. But, against all logic, Donald Trump won the presidency and our rest is far from over. For women, Latinx, blacks, Muslims, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities…it’s not over.
I couldn’t watch the results come in. By the time I was finished with work and finally got to turn on CNN, it wasn’t looking good. I felt sick. My knee was bouncing, my head was in my hands.
“What if he wins?” I kept asking my boyfriend.
“He’s not going to win,” he kept answering. “Calm down. Calm down.”
I retreated into my boyfriend’s room and turned on Netflix. I kept turning off my phone only to turn it back on and check the results on The New York Times website every couple of minutes until I eventually made myself fall asleep around midnight. When I woke up at 3 a.m., I checked my phone. Trump had won. After that, I couldn’t go back to sleep.
I was in a daze. I drove home, held my cat and watched a documentary about baby animals. Every time I checked social media my heart sank further and further as the reality set in – we have elected a man who thinks it’s acceptable to grab women by the pussy. That bragging about sexual assault is common “locker-room talk” that all men are expected to do. That people with disabilities, like my sister, are something to be openly mocked. That anyone who isn’t white is a rapist and a terrorist. That wants to ban an entire religious group from the country that was founded on religious freedom. That thinks that journalists should be hanged for holding him accountable and wants to shut down some of the most powerful publications in the world.
I don’t think it hit me until I was on campus. As I was walking through the journalism school on my way to class, Hillary Clinton was giving her concession speech. Dozens of students had stopped to watch it playing on one of RJI’s many TV screens. Everyone was silent. Some were crying. I couldn’t watch it. I still can’t watch it. Later in the day, I saw someone quote it on Facebook and that alone made me start crying.
I didn’t cry the first time until my Magazines Across Platforms class. One girl was already sitting in tears when I walked in. As more of us arrived, we all just looked at each other, at a loss for words and in complete disbelief, and collectively started crying. All eight students, the TA and the professor – all women – sat in a circle and cried together. We talked about how personal it is for journalists, but especially for women.
It feels like we have been personally attacked. Half of the country decided to elect a man who has been accused by 12 women of sexual assault. Twelve. Like this article from Bustle says, “I learned that more people want to believe that a group of women would coordinate to lie about a man assaulting or harassing them before they would believe that a man habitually touched women in ways that were inappropriate.” What does that say about the word of women? Yesterday was the day I learned just how much my country values women, and it’s despicable.
One of the women in my class said that she didn’t realize how much having a woman president meant to her until Clinton lost. I feel the same. I was excited about having a woman in office, of course, and I was especially stoked because this year was the first time I was able to vote for President of the United States (I had been two months shy of turning 18 during Obama’s reelection). But when I filled out my ballot on Tuesday, I couldn’t stop smiling when I bubbled in Hillary Rodham Clinton. I started laughing in my booth. Immediately afterward, I first saw the lifestream of Susan B. Anthony’s grave and I burst into tears. That’s when it sunk in for me just how proud I was. I was so proud of women and my country at that point. I was smiling and laughing and crying tears of empowerment. It baffles me how wrong I was about to be proven just a few hours later.
I’ve experienced sexism. My friends have experienced sexism. I’ve had friends and friends of friends who have been assaulted and raped. And yesterday it was made very apparent that our country is telling survivors, “you do not matter. Your words mean nothing.” I had never felt as low about my gender and my sex than I did yesterday. For the first time in my life, I was truly afraid of what it meant to be a woman. It felt like a handicap. And I feel guilty for feeling this way, because so many more people are going to be affected far greater by this. I am a woman, but I am white. I am middle class. I am heterosexual. I am an American citizen and my parents were born here. So many others are not.
I wish I could say that I feel positive about what’s to come. Yes, millennials overwhelmingly voted blue. Yes, I’ve received both mass and personal messages of unity and people saying that they’re there. But this country is so divided. During class yesterday, my professor asked us, “What can we do to reach rural America? How can we have a dialogue?” And I honestly believe we can’t. I don’t see how, when every time I’ve tried to point people in the direction of accurate information and not fake Facebook media they respond by lashing out in anger with personal attacks.
We have a long way to go, my friends.