Feminism Before and After the 2016 Election: Thoughts from a Proud, Hopeful Feminist

It’s been a little over three weeks since the 2016 election—three very long weeks. Like many people—approximately 64.4 million (and counting)*—the results completely devastated me. I never imagined Donald Trump and Mike Pence becoming the face of the United States of America. You know, the same men who openly degrade women, the LGBTQ+ community, minorities, etc.…basically, everyone other than their fellow white, heterosexual men. As a minority of sorts myself, I became completely nauseated and terrified when Clinton conceded—it hit hard. Not because I am a “whiner” or a “sore loser” as so many non-Clinton supporters argue, but because I was (and still am) legitimately terrified for my well-being, for my future. Unlike white, heterosexual men, my rights may be jeopardized with a Trump presidency. Clearly, like most of the 64.4 million individuals, I am scared of what the future may hold for people like me. Despite all these agonizing feelings, I accepted the results and decided the best way to react would be to continue the fight that feminists before me started. Moral of the story: I’m not going down without a fight.

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time to process, comprehend, and basically, attempt to wrap my head around all this political nonsense. However, I cannot stop thinking about the future of women, their rights, and overall gender equality. It is significantly important to consider this idea: What does a Trump Presidency mean for feminism, considering that Trump and Pence maintained a very strong, anti-women campaign?

Women actually maintain a very elaborate and impressive history (who would’ve known, right?). During my undergraduate years in college, I enrolled in numerous women’s studies courses and any course that taught about their role in history. I became completely overwhelmed with all the “new” information I learned; I loved every second of it. I craved the knowledge. When it came to my graduate career, I committed my research to women’s history. I spent endless hours researching, reading, and writing about the Suffrage Movement, Title IX, all the waves of feminism, gender and queer theories, masculinity vs. femininity, and women in sports. Women’s history became and continues to be my passion.

Given my background, this is why I am concerned about women’s rights post election. Leading up to the election, it seemed like the efforts of feminism were in its modern day prime. Clinton’s hard fought campaign signified a major step forward for women’s history, feminism, and equality. She shattered a major glass ceiling by becoming the first woman from a major political party to be nominated for the presidency. For the first time, a woman “invaded” the exceedingly male-dominated realm of politics at its highest level. WOW! People may agree or disagree, but to me, her accomplishment was truly inspirational. In my opinion, it seemed the efforts of feminism—that men and women are recognized as equals across the board—was almost a reality! HOW EXCITING, right?

However, on November 8, 2016, that thought instantly vanished. Trump’s win indicated that the patriarchy will continue to dominate not only our political system, but also our society as a whole. It seems that our society fears change; it fears progressive ideas and values. It fears women and depicts women as a threat to men, to masculinity. What a bummer.

Electing Trump meant that conventional, nineteenth-century ideas and values overshadow those that are modern and progressive. Trump openly disrespects women. This was frequent throughout his campaign and continues to be a common trait for him. When it came to Election Day, a good chunk of our country’s population decided to turn their heads the other way and neglect this MAJOR social issue. By ignoring the larger issue, for whatever reason, his supporters made his demeaning actions, words, and behavior acceptable. Realistically, Trump’s win means he is rewarded for treating women so poorly; it implies his behavior toward women and minorities is socially acceptable because he is a man—a white privileged man. More importantly, his platform made it acceptable for others to publicly carry on his damaging example. This idea—the bigger picture, which so many people choose to ignore—continues to be a tremendous roadblock for equality. Whether you support Clinton or not, her loss signified much more than a woman losing to a man; it signified that gender inequality, sexism, and oppression are still very much at-large.

For almost a week after the election, it seemed hopeless. How could our society, which I thought was on the path for progress, for gender equality, continue to be so backwards? Well, then I started reading several articles about how the young folk—you know, those millennials—voted. Millennials tend to vote more democratic, more progressive, and/or most importantly in favor of equality.** This key note made me realize something that I already knew, but clearly, I needed to remind myself. My generation (I guess I’m a millennial) continues to make significant progress in regards to social and cultural aspects. We have made SO much progress, so much! Feminism continues to evolve to fight for the greater good; not just for women, but for everyone. Back in the day, identifying as a feminist was offensive and probably, the worst possible affiliation. While there are still (sadly) people that demonize feminists (because they don’t understand it), my generation seems to incorporate feminist ideology into their everyday lives. It is common for men to openly identify as feminists and support equality for all. Gender standards appear to be reforming little by little.

So, what does a Trump presidency mean for feminism? Here are my thoughts: I think, as a society, we have come too far forward—too close to gender equality—to give up now. I think our current generation is on a positive path to achieve gender equality; a path that will recognize women and men as equals. I don’t think the majority of our society wants to revert back to America in the 1950s. We cannot and will not go back into that dark, restrictive closet of sorts. While women’s place in society is by no means perfect, we have come a long way and we want more. Women have made immense progress in education, the workplace, politics, in the home, and essentially, in social and cultural aspects. Yes, wonderful progress has been made!

However, I anticipate the day that women receive equal pay; that it will become normal for women to make decisions for their bodies and not be judged. I long for the day when double standards seize to exist; so men are not considered weak for being sensitive and that women are not deemed angry because they don’t smile every blasted second. The day that women and men can live amongst each other respectably, freely, and comfortably in a society sounds ideal and I don’t think it’s impossible. Our society needs to let go of fear, dismantle the patriarchal ideology, and for crying out loud, we need to elect a woman president! It is time. While a Trump Presidency may be exceedingly challenging for feminism, I don’t think this is the end. I think feminism will continue to evolve and represent all that hopes to one day attain equality. That’s what it should really be about, right? While we have this bit of a setback with Trump, I think it’s going to make those that truly believe in gender equality and women’s rights to fight harder and to protect everything feminist advocates of sorts achieved, thus far. This will make us stronger, and hopefully, shift our country toward more progressive values and ideology.

JL

Cover image property of: The Odyssey Online.

*Clintons popular vote continues to increase. http://www.npr.org/2016/11/25/503374202/clintons-popular-vote-lead-is-now-over-2-million-but-dont-expect-big-changes/

** For more demographics see http://civicyouth.org/an-estimated-24-million-young-people-vote-in-2016-election/

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