Does anyone else remember the F.A.O. Schwarz Friendship Tree? He’d always say, “Thanks for coming to play with me!” (I’ve tried to Google the rest of his spiel on numerous occasions, but I just can’t seem to fill in the blanks.)
However, I do recall how he’d entice children with claims that there were “things to touch and feel and more.” Yet, for any woman suffering through this election cycle, that seemingly innocent invitation from an old mechanical centerpiece may cause an involuntary twitch. In fact, it sounds vaguely familiar…
Oh, that’s right. It sounds like “locker room talk.” You know, something that might’ve come straight from the 2016 Republican presidential nominee’s mouth.
Women! We’re nothing more than objects for men to grope and fondle.
After all, he’s Donald J. Trump. He’s a star.
(Stars can do whatever they want.)
Welcome to his world of toys.
For women, the 2016 election truly marks both the best of times and worst of times. While Hillary Clinton promises to hold our collective hand and lead us on the path to progress, Trump wants to grab us all ‘by the p—y’ and drag us down the path to destruction. To harken back to First Lady Michelle Obama’s iconic speech at this year’s Democratic National Convention, Trump wants to pull us low, while Clinton strives to lift us high.
But, unfortunately, no matter which candidate leads the electoral majority, misogyny has already won the popular vote.
If Trump wins, men who wish to exploit his view on women will see this moment as their opportunity to justify any lewd and crude behaviors they’ve suppressed until now. If Clinton wins, every single move she makes will be analyzed and scrutinized until the end of time. (I’d say the end of her term, but we know any and all problems impacting our country will be attributed to her time in office for at least the next 50 years or so. At least.)
Despite the fact that her historic win would shatter the glass ceiling, women, in general, will be forced to wade through the shards that fall on Clinton’s behalf. All women will be held accountable for her actions because, while men exist and operate independently, women are often seen as one collective unit. Thus, her success will be our success. Her mistakes will be our mistakes. Her failures will be our failures.
Even if Hillary Clinton wins the election, we cannot write this off as some epic victory for women overall. This one battle will not end the war. In fact, it will likely fuel the fight. We like to pretend our country has moved beyond its humiliating past. Many honestly thought that electing our first black president would end racism, but we can clearly see that race relations are as volatile as ever. Many believe that electing the first female president will eliminate sexism and misogyny, too, but this agonizing campaign indicates otherwise. We’ve peeled back the bandage and exposed wounds that haven’t healed. Based on Trump’s rhetoric alone, it’s hard to imagine they ever will.
Like Full Frontal host Samantha Bee—notorious breaker of glass ceilings herself—recently said, Clinton’s presidency would unleash a ‘tsunami of misogyny’ upon the American people. Still, Clinton has yet to win, and we’re already drowning in vitriolic sentiment. We’re about to reach the breaking point even though we haven’t yet approached the starting line.
Well, what if I don’t want to be a woman anymore? What if I’d prefer to live as some androgynous being who’s respected for their brain, not judged by their genitals? What if I want to shirk the assumption that I’m some plaything created for men’s visual and physical pleasure, nothing more?
Over the last year—the past few months, particularly—we have been forced to call into question not only how people perceive us, but also how we perceive ourselves. It’s both disconcerting and discouraging, exasperating and exhausting. We bear the daunting and perpetual burden of trying to prove our power and our worth time and time again.
But if we don’t, who will?
It’s tempting to throw in the towel. The hatred and oppression emanating from Trump’s followers alone could inspire any woman to crawl under their blanket and remain hidden for the next decade. But if we refuse to embrace our womanhood and fight for equality, we will never gain the respect we deserve. We must carry on the legacy of those women before us—those whose sacrifices brought us to where we are today. We owe it to past, present, and future women in our country and across the world to continue this fight, as misogyny will not cease without effort. Sexism will likely exist in some form for lifetimes to come, but we have the opportunity to be the generation that makes great strides toward gender equality once and for all.
(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)