And we thought Brexit was bad.
I watched, as many people did, with mouth agape as the election results rolled in from the United States early Wednesday morning. I woke up at 1.30am, when all looked good, then again at 2.30, ditto, and finally at 4am when it all fell apart. I feel like I haven’t properly slept since.
I’ve been trying to articulate this week why I feel utterly shattered at the result.
America might not be my country, but it’s my human race. And, having never seen such a dedicated and engaging Democratic and Feminist campaign versus a hobbyist and moneyed Republican one: I cared. I care who runs the most powerful country in the world, I care if America’s new leader helps advance equal opportunities for minorities and women, I care if misogyny, racism and sexual assault is normalised so much that it’s elected into the White House.
And it was.
This week we learned you can do anything you set your mind to: as long as you’re a privileged white man.
We all know a Donald Trump. A true patriarchal man: one who gets away with making sexist or sexual comments because he laughs them off as lighthearted teasing, a man who’s grown up to believe that, by chance of gender, he will always sit that little bit higher, get paid that little bit more, be that little bit better than the woman next to him. A man who has no problem in passing loud judgement on a woman’s appearance and, given a couple of beers (or a platform of celebrity), will happily bray and heckle the ‘weaker’ sex.
As a single woman in business I’ve fought my share of Donald Trumps. I’ve been in boardrooms where comment has been passed on the fit of my dress or the style of my hair, the quality of my work a far second compared with my appearance. I’ve been the only woman in meetings with men where genitalia chat has been bantered about, ‘comedy’ willy photographs broadcast on a big screen between spreadsheets, and when questioning how professional such behaviour is I’ve been lambasted for my ‘sensitivity’. I’ve looked around at rooms of these white middle-aged middle-class men and thought, there’s more to life than this.
Even though it’s considered a weakness, I’ll take my sensitivity over the Trump traits any day. And I say that as a feminist, a mother, and as a human being.
I wondered how to explain the election result to my children. Though only four and six their lives are lived in a way that news is fed to them via osmosis, a constant broadcast from screen to radio to screen and back again.
I chose my words carefully, clarifying first to Elfie that as women we are able to do whatever we want to do, be whoever we want to be: we might have to work 30% harder and earn 14% less, but I still believe it.
Elfie knew who Donald Trump was, had an immediate negative reaction to his name. “Why is he bad, mummy?” she asked.
I explained some people are afraid of those different to them: people born in different countries, minorities, those of a different sexual orientation. Women, even.
“Oh dear” she said. “Donald Trump won’t like me then, because I’m black. And I’m brown. And sometimes I’m blonde”.
And I thought: yes. We all are. Elfie doesn’t see the colour of your skin or the people you fall in love with or the country you were born in or your gender. To her we are all human and this is the way it should be. To a six year old you are a good person if you smile and are happy, honest and kind. Why do adults over-complicate our lives so much we lose sight of this? Nobody should feel scared or marginalised just because of where they were born or who they love.
The sad fact is, we live in a time when a tax-dodging, sexist, racist, misogynistic bully can rise because he’s a white man with money, and right now it feels like there’s not much that can be done about it.
The important thing is that those of us who believe there’s another way are, just as we did post-Brexit, making a stand to say we reject this hatred and bigotry. We’re saying we love our neighbours and will continue to fight for what’s right: equality for everyone.
In the last year we’ve seen the glass ceiling more than ever before, heck, we have felt it. And the only thing we can do is keep pushing against it. Our work has only just begun, there’s a way to go but we’ve had that path paved for us.
To all the little girls watching right now, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.
– Hillary Rodham Clinton
Good things will happen. We will make sure of it.