If you had asked me Wednesday morning whether I could envision anything worse than the election of Donald Trump I likely would have said no. But, as life often teaches you, there is always something worse, and by Wednesday afternoon I had already begun to encounter it.
No sooner had I finished watching Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, then I started noticing some men on my Facebook feed posting articles or comments about why Trump might not be so bad. Then it began popping up in conversation. I’m not talking strangers either, or red state family members or people with whom I attended high school — I grew up in Canada, and hold citizenship there, and the only explaining I’ve been called to do regarding Trump is why I continue to live in a country that elected him.
I’m talking friends, and boyfriends of friends, and one or two husbands of friends, some of whom I know for a fact voted for Clinton, and none of whom were Trump supporters (to the best of my knowledge, anyway; I mean, who knows at this point). All of them were white, it should be noted.
The articles and updates I encountered were mostly along the lines of, “You should wait and see” or “His tax plan actually might be a good thing” or “I don’t think he really meant what he said.” When I shared a post from a female friend noting that many people were missing the fact that “voters were voting FOR racism, jingoism, bigotry, and sexism” a male friend of mine, whom I’ve known for more than a decade, responded, “I’m hoping the Trump administration and America will prove you wrong. You’re fellow Americans aren’t so bad.”
Incredible Images of the Thousands of New Yorkers Who Shut Down Traffic Protesting Donald Trump
A protester at an anti-Trump rally in New York.
In short, it was a lot of mansplaining. And it has left me feeling even more bereft and alarmed. It has also left me feeling somewhat invisible to people whose presence I care about in my life.
To be clear, this has not been the reaction of every white man in my life, and I’m also very much aware that much of this response was, and is, well-meant. To comfort is instinctual human behavior. “It’s going to be alright” is a knee-jerk response to just about anyone you encounter in a state of upset. But the end result is the same: it does not take into consideration, as a real, valid truth, the experience of many women this week.
Even now, to describe what the women I know are feeling as a “state of upset” vastly diminishes the experience of life post-Tuesday. Trauma might be a better word. “Deep grief” is how my friend, Rebecca Soffer who runs the site Modern Loss, characterized it. Numerous New Yorkers I know, including myself, had to reach back to September 11, 2001 to find an experience that felt similarly unnerving; the sensation of suddenly being yanked from everyday life with all its normal expectations, and thrust through a door we didn’t know was there, into a new, deeply surreal, difficult to comprehend reality. More than a few friends have described Tuesday as being equal to the loss of a parent. It’s not something one wakes up from the next day able to function normally. I have sent and received more texts than I can count from and to women: “Are you okay?” No is the answer. We are not okay. So far no man I know has thought to inquire the same, instead they seem to be rather intent on finding a silver lining.
No women I know have tried to find the bright side of this. There is no bright side. Nor have we wondered whether Donald Trump, after being elected on a platform of misogyny and racism, may actually mean what he says. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them,” Maya Angelou famously advised. It’s advice I’ve learned the hard way to apply in both my own dating and professional life, but is even more dangerously apt here. And why shouldn’t we believe him? He has basically said the same thing, over and over, his entire life. Why, I want to ask these people, would suddenly being granted immense power change him? The question we should be asking is, why do you not believe him?
The answer is, as it always is when one part of a population’s trauma is disregarded, because Trump’s election does not put these men’s physical being at risk. Their bodies are not on the line. Nor, honestly, is there much chance they will be. “Come here, I have a secret” tweeted a male friend the day after Trump had gone on 60 Minutes and explicitly spoke of repealing Roe v. Wade, “Donald Trump is pro-choice.” The over-use of the word privilege has nearly worn out its effectiveness this election cycle, but its continued pervasive presence is breathtaking.
None of this should have been quite so shocking, I realize. It was naive to have expected change to happen quickly or smoothly. Trump’s victory, after all, has not been quite as breathtaking for people of color, or minorities, I know; they have been — as has been repeatedly and essentially pointed out in many places this week — living with this reality since the inception of this nation. All the rage I’m feeling towards male friends so easily theorizing about the ramifications of this week’s election on women, is a variation on the way people of color and minorities often feel towards white people, even well-meaning ones, who talk about the experience of race in this country as an imagined thing, a side issue.
Not My President: Meet the Faces of Berkeley’s Youth in Revolt
Perhaps too, the “here’s why this will be fine” response would have been easier to shake off had it been limited to a handful of conversations and postings. It’s much simpler to forgive and accommodate individuals who play multiple roles in our lives. However, the message that this election result was due to Hillary’s lack of appeal, or the hope Trump might not be who he says he is (in this argument, no one seems to consider he might be worse), or even that we should wait and see seems to be everywhere.
There’s been a lot of talk in the last few days about normalization. With breathtaking swiftness, cable news and newspapers have begun to treat Trump as though he were simply a normal president-elect, albeit one with a few flaws. The apotheosis of this is People magazine’s current cover — this from the magazine whose reporter revealed last month she’d been harassed by Trump — which makes it seem like Trump’s ascension is the result of America electing the best version of itself. To a slightly lesser degree you can find it in the language of New York Times headlines, and their op-ed pages (this Ross Douthat column…good lord).
Far more disturbing, I have yet to encounter in any broadcast or mainstream coverage an acknowledgement of the total paralytic fear that has befallen so many women, minorities and people of color I know. Even John Oliver, who devoted his entire show to Trump’s election, barely mentioned how misogyny played a role in this election.
This, all of it, is mansplaining on an institutional level. Its prevalence in so much of the coverage of Hillary Clinton is one of the reasons we’re here; its continuation is on the verge of pushing us to an even more dangerous place. It has left me not wanting to consume any news from any white man for the rest of my life.
When I was a small child I was devoted to the show Wonder Woman. This was back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s when it aired on television both afternoons and evenings. I don’t remember many details about the show, and haven’t risked going back to find out whether it holds up to my five-year-old adulation, but one episode has held a permanent grasp on my memory.
It’s the one about the Paradise Island, the home of Wonder Woman; a place populated entirely by wonder women with super powers. That this reference abides nearly four decades later is perhaps a measure of how few cultural references exist with regards to the depiction of groups of powerful women. Still I’ve found myself thinking of this island again and again this week, and wanting to replicate it in some way. Whatever interest I had left in Leaning In, in infiltrating the male power structure, in convincing men of my worth has, abandoned me entirely last Tuesday. From now on, I want only womensplaining.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: 29 Photographers React to the 2016 Election
“Now more than ever it is apparent that we need to reach out to one another and hold on tight. It is true that together we are stronger, and together we can truly be heard and move forward.” – Katie McCurdy
“I woke up at 7:30 a.m. in Kazbegi, Georgia (30 minutes from the Chechen border.) Look at the view. Look at the beautiful dawn. A new day. Then I opened my laptop. Fuck. My day was destroyed. How could this happens. Horrible day. Then I opened my emails. I received my Danish residency and work permit. Beautiful day. I’m outta here.” – Adam Katz Sinding
“Since coming here at 15-years-old alone to pursue my dreams as an artist, I have always loved and believed in the ideals that America stands for. But yesterday, I was so heartbroken and it almost felt like I lost someone I love dearly. But what’s done is done, we will look ahead and we will fight for what we believe in through any means we can. I believe in resiliency and the power of creativity and knowledge.” – An Le
“I visited the Statue of Liberty on Election Day. It has always been a symbol of positive American values, and inclusiveness for all. My feelings were initially of sadness and loss. The next day, however, I remembered that the pendulum always swings the other way and have hope for all Americans. Love is inherent in all human beings.” – Pablo Enriquez.
“In hard times, whichever color, shape or form..together we stand, divided we fall.” – Davey Adesida
“I believe that it is difficult to kill an idea because ideas are invisible and contagious, and they move fast.”
- Neil Gaiman
“This photograph is one I made of my friends Logan and Quinton. They have been together for two years. They’re absolutely beautiful. A Trump presidency makes me fear for them, myself, and other LGBTQI+ people. As an artist, though, I’m motivated. Now is the time to subvert and teach with our work. I am devastated by the results of this election, but we have to keep fighting together.” – Michael Beckert
“I haven’t been feeling as much rage or fear or loss as I anticipated. It’s more of a haze of misunderstanding of our country and its citizens as a whole. Living and photographing in New York, you lose touch with how everyone else in the country may be feeling. Theres an impulse to lean into a ‘bubble’ and barricade yourself from this sort of disappointment, but I think we are required to leave our comfort zone to photograph and try to understand our collective national culture that I feel so disconnected from.” – Eric Chakeen
“The fact of the matter is that as a LGBT person I have been suppressed my entire life, partially because I have felt uncomfortable and have held myself back for the sake of not upsetting people especially my family and/or coworkers and clients, well fuck it. Clearly this feeling isn’t going away anytime soon. Taking a photo of myself naked was about trying to make myself feel good, I start everyday naked and I also end it naked. I needed to remind myself that I still exist, that I’m still important and that I’m strong enough naked to handle the next four years.” – Hunter Abrams
“I guess we have to pick ourselves up and try to find a way forward, but this has been a night of terrible revelations, and I don’t think it’s self-indulgent to feel quite a bit of despair.” – Paul Krugman in The New York Times.
“I didn’t think it could happen. I am afraid for my friends. I am afraid for my neighbors. But I am not without hope. The social media posts I have seen in the past 24 hours have been almost universally smart and proactive and have come from places of compassion. It is heartening to be reminded that I am surrounded by so many bright and deeply caring people. How this election might impact my work is yet to be seen. For now, I just want to try to be there for those who are being impacted on a far more existential level.” – Jonah Rosenberg
“When you vote in anger, you vote for hate. When you vote with ignorance, you vote for inexperience. When you vote in protest, you vote for extremism. Divided we are controlled but together we are stronger, stand united and challenge hatefully rhetoric with love and compassion.” – Ed Singleton
“I started Tuesday excited and optimistic – we were about to elect Hillary Clinton to be the first female president. Barack Obama’s legacy would be protected. Our civil liberties would be protected by the her supreme court justices. And then, as the votes started to be counted, I felt the world turn upside down. I felt scared–not just for myself but for my friends and family, for women, for people of color, for the LGBTQ community, for immigrants. Going out onto the streets of New York on November 9th was just a little bit scarier than it was the day before. The colors of the world seemed more garish and chaotic. I tried to channel my unease in photography, to focus on something else for a moment. In some ways it was therapeutic, but it didn’t ease the fear that I have for our country’s future.” – Teddy Wolff
“The other day while coming back from Canada, an airport employee began talking with me about the circus that was our election. ‘Are we the laughing stock of the world?’ I asked. He replied, simply, ‘Yes.’ And so, here we are. An ignorant, orange-skinned reality TV star becoming president? This is a camp movie I’d like to watch, not a reality that I want to live in. I underestimated him–we all did. The media not taking Trump seriously and failing to acknowledge the people who live beyond our liberal bubbles only strengthened him. This is a time where we need to come together. We need to understand the pain happening on all sides and every part of the country here so we can start to create the future we want to live in–not this.” – Amy Lombard
“It just almost doesn’t seem real. It’s almost as if we’re all in a movie waiting for it to end. I’m not huge on politics at all but I know right from wrong. It’s human nature to understand what’s wrong and Donald Trump being president is just simply wrong.” – Gunner Stahl
“I woke up this morning and it hit me right away. It wasn’t a bad dream. It had happened. Somehow this is reality now. I didn’t leave the house till late. I couldn’t, but when I did I saw friends and it was reassuring to commiserate together, to know there were other people out there suffering too and were as disgusted as I was. At dinner we explained democracy and the election to Ava who is 6. Something about this felt right. Not much felt right today. I attended a rally after. I didn’t know what to find. I didn’t feel better. Angry misplaced feelings. Empty chants. I saw this guy strumming his guitar. He looked lost too.” – Harry Eelman
“At the Trump event, because I was shooting on assignment for U.S. News. I submit this photograph without comment.” – Lexie Moreland
“America on the rocks.” – Joshua Woods
“The hardest part of today is thinking about the direct effect that Trump will have on the future of life on this planet. As an artist it motivates me to create new photographs that respond to life now—because for the second time in my lifetime—the first being September 11th—it may never be the same again. The first instinct I had was to actually photograph the screen of the TV as I watched him win the election.” – Landon Nordeman
“After the Brexit referendum I realized how dark the future it is. I can’t understand why people would like to destroy all the efforts that humanity did for having a better and respectful world. I can’t imagine who the Trump voters are, or why, but it seems to me that our society is sick and full of hate… Maybe is time to get back to nature and remember the basics about what it means to be a human being.” – Anabel Navarro Llorens
“Last night I participated in my first protest. Although I’ve always been strongly opinionated when it comes to politics, I’m on the quieter side and don’t tend to be incredibly vocal about my views. While walking the streets yesterday, I could see the sadness on faces in my neighborhoods and realized that things need to change. Every voice matters. Moving forward, I see myself putting out work that sends more of a message. We all need to step up, stand more united than ever, and do our part in whatever ways we can.” – David Urbanke
“Election night kept me up till 6 a.m. Between editing photos from the night’s heartbreaking events and laying silently unable to quiet the storm in my head, I was unable to sleep. The day after I spent naked swaddled in a purple bed sheet clutching a stuffed animal. I’ve been playing Magic the Gathering lately and found solace in organizing and building out my decks. Being able to decide exactly what did or didn’t make it into my deck gave me a sense of control that I had lost the night before.” – Zak Krevitt
“Take time to mourn today, but get to work tomorrow. It’s time to activate, volunteer, donate, rally, demonstrate. It’s time to motivate with love, openness, kindness, and faith that the human condition will be stronger than fear, hate, oppressions. To POC, WOC, non binary, queer, LGBT, undocumented, incarcerated, people with disabilities, immigrants, I am glad you are here. I am proud you are American, America is nothing with out you.” – Taea Thale
“THE PRACTICE OF LOVE IS THE MOST POWERFUL ANTIDOTE TO THE POLITICS OF DOMINATION” – Bell Hooks
“I have three daughters, and this is my five year old, Maryn. There is an aching, constant need to protect my children, and urgency was of course heightened long before Trump won. It feels like betrayal to be on the losing side of an election like this, but I’m using this as a call to action. I’ve never felt more driven to stand for equality and human rights with my art and every other area of my life, and to push my daughters toward the same goal – empowerment through empowering those around them.” – Matthew Priestley
“It’s all ‘us and them.’ Why can’t it just be ‘us’?” – Stephanie Wilson
“My girlfriend woke me up at 5 a.m. in a panic because she just heard the news the Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. That was the first emotion we experienced; Fear. I fear the landscape of our democracy will change drastically over the next four years. I fear for those who spent years fighting tirelessly for equality will have their rights stripped away. I fear there will be an insurmountable amount of hardship, but I choose to remain by my core values. Treat others with respect. Fight for equality. Preserve the planet. Work hard. Practice self-reliance. Be patient. Be humble. Be kind. I was raised to stand for what I believe in even in the face of tribulation. I don’t plan on stopping now.” -Thomas Sawyer
“We are proud to live in one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in the world. We are thankful to call this city our home because it has evolved to become the epitome of what truly defines this country – the freedom to be whoever you want without infringing on other people’s freedom. It is sad to realize just how divided we are as a country and how our values got corrupted resulting in the political tragedy of the election. We can see it as we walk down the street. We can see it on the subway. In the face of the woman at the deli. Today in New York we all see the same thing: sadness and disillusionment.” – E and Roso
“I spent the night shooting at the Trump election party and as the night progressed, I realized it was turning into a real victory celebration. Shooting all the exalted, happy faces around me felt like being stuck in a speeding train heading for a crash with upbeat music blasting from the speakers. It was a surreal experience, but it made me even more determined to record what was happening around me. What the Trump presidency signifies to me is entering an era of misinformation. Documenting and having a voice in what’s happening is my personal way of fighting against it”. – Dina Litovsky