What Can We Do? Part 3

This is the third in a four part series that I am writing in response to last Tuesday’s election results because for me, writing is way of thinking, knowing, and understanding. In the first post, I tried to take a positive tone, considering what cultural leaders can productively do. In the second post, I shared my personal feeling of disorientation and a tool that helped me get past it. In this third post, I share my anger, and while ultimately offering a recommendation of sorts, acknowledge that I may surprise, anger, or even offend some readers. Today, I am using the bully pulpit of my blog to share how I really feel in a far less varnished way than I usually do. (If gynecological exams make you squeamish, stop reading now and skip to part four, on servant leadership.)

The Woman Thing 

Emotionally, the hardest part of this election result for me is my anger and extreme disappointment — and did I mention anger – over the fact that my 16 year old daughter saw an accomplished, qualified, articulate, prepared, intelligent woman lose this campaign to a serial sexual molester and misogynist who doesn’t do his homework. Let’s face it: Hillary lost because she’s a woman.

My daughter is a very hard worker, a straight A student, who worked for the last two months as an intern for the Anne Kirkpatrick senatorial campaign. (In a year when people were supposedly voting for big change, they re-elected the five-term John McCain, instead of a woman who had represented northern Arizona in the US House.) I can’t explain what happened to Hillary Rodham Clinton in a rational, evidenced-based way. My daughter, along with all the daughters in America watched a “good girl” who followed the rules (email server excepted) win the popular vote and still lose the election. How can I tell my daughter to play by the rules? How can I tell her that if she works just a little bit harder

MD001285than the boys she will have the same chances as them? Hillary worked a lot harder than the boys. Not only has she worked harder, she has been more thoroughly examined than any candidate in history – certainly working harder than the unqualified buffoon who is ahead in the electoral college. I liken the public examination of Hillary Rodham to something only women experience: Hillary has had her feet up in the stirrups on the exam table with the entire world looking into every cavity, every email, and every tax return.

And that metaphor describes the way I and, I think, a lot of woman across this great and vast country are feeling: like we are collectively on the exam table, feet in the stirrups, with Donald J. Trump, president-elect, holding a cold speculum in his little orange hands. speculumI will not let him or his evolution-denying running mate anywhere near my body. Ultimately, that is what this election and so many of our statewide elections are about: controlling women’s bodies. One could argue that it’s also about controlling bodies of color, and I wouldn’t disagree, but while I empathize with the anger, frustration, and fear my friends and colleagues of color are feeling, I don’t experience it myself and this post, more personal than most, is about my own anger, frustration, and fear.

I fear for myself, I fear for my daughter, and I fear for all women’s bodies. VP-elect Mike Pence is now head of the presidential transition team. A transition team, I note, that has eighteen members, only one woman, and no (nada, nil, zero) people of color on it. This is the same Mike Pence who, as governor of Indiana, signed into law the most restrictive abortion law in the nation, even requiring that fetal tissue be buried or cremated, whether or not the woman from whom that tissue was extracted wanted such internment. Donald Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t want to control women’s bodies because he believes them to be baby-carrying vessels from God, but because he seems to believe he literally owns them. This is the man, owner of the Miss Universe pageant, who famously said, “You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” You, Mr. President-Elect, cannot grab my pussy! And, if you walk behind me, how my ass looks has nothing to do with my ability to perform in a debate or to run a classroom, a household, or a country.

There, I got that out of my system, and if you’ve stuck with me this far, you can breath, my rant is over and I turn instead to the theme of this series: What can we do? In her recent Op-Ed, Jessica Bennett closes by summarizing Hillary Rodham Clinton’s concession speech:

“Of course, on Wednesday after her defeat, Mrs. Clinton got up, put on her pantsuit, and kept on plugging. She didn’t sulk, or throw a fit, complain, or blame anybody else. She was gracious, humble, and professional. And no doubt she’ll keep fighting. Because that’s what women do.”

Well, what if we didn’t. What if we stop being gracious and humble? what if we stop following the rules? What if we stop deferring to men? What if we got our feet out of thosefrom-med-supplier-dot-com damn stirrups? To very loosely paraphrase Arlo Guthrie, if one woman were to do so, she would be called a bitch (as Hillary has been, as have many women), but if three women do it, it starts to look like an organization, and if fifty women say “STOP! You cannot grab my pussy! STOP! You do not own my body!” then it would be movement. We’ve had them before. One of them even got us the vote. Maybe the next one can get us the White House.

[Photos from: Sunnybrook Hospital; medsupplier.com; Clinton industries (no relation)]

About lindaessig

Linda Essig is Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA and principal/owner of Creative Infrastructure LLC. The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of Cal State LA. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix.
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3 Responses to What Can We Do? Part 3

  1. Pingback: What Can We Do? Part 1 | Creative Infrastructure

  2. Pingback: What Can We Do? Part 4 | Creative Infrastructure

  3. Bill Byrnes says:

    Well said!

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