A woman’s visceral reaction to Trump
During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump said many things that were not entirely true. Whether he actually believed everything he said is difficult to know. Numerous women accused him of sexual harassment. While campaigning in Pennsylvania in October, Trump was widely quoted as saying, “Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign. Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”
That is why so many women are having a visceral reaction to president-elect Donald Trump. The day we listened to him call all those women liars, many of us remembered our own bad experiences. We were reminded of inappropriate actions we were subjected to in our workplace. The memories buried over with scar tissue came back to the surface. We were furious. We thought progress had been made. We thought those days were over. We thought our daughters would not have to endure some of the things we had to endure. Apparently we were wrong.
Those experiences shaped us in a variety of ways. For many of us, these are our secrets. At the time no one knew the things that happened to us in the workplace. We didn’t tell anyone. If you asked the perpetrators now, I suspect they wouldn’t remember. We didn’t mean anything to them. “Nothing” really happened. It was likely behavior exhibited numerous times towards numerous women and it came as naturally to them as breathing air. From their standpoint, there was nothing memorable to remember. However, we remember with astonishing detail.
Those of us who experienced inappropriate touches, advances and sexual innuendo in a male-dominated work force often figured out how to deal with it on our own terms. We managed the problem like we managed other challenges in our jobs. If it wasn’t rape or dramatic retaliatory actions, and “only” inappropriate, uncomfortable and offensive behavior, we didn’t mention it. As a single young woman in my first professional job in a male-dominated environment, I decided not to file a grievance over the inappropriate actions by a superior. Instead, I chose to do the best job I possibly could, work as hard or harder than those around me, and prove that women can be just as good or even better employees than men. I am convinced that had I chosen to make a formal complaint, my career would have had a different trajectory. I would not have been judged solely for the quality of my work. Would other males have been as willing to promote me had I spoken out? I think not. Did I do a disservice to other women by not speaking out? Possibly, but I thought I was doing the right thing at the time and taking a longer view.
So when Donald Trump called those women liars and challenged them for not having said anything at the time, it was like a deep punch to the gut. It made me mad, and it made me sick. This article is anonymous, because it is not only my story, but a story of many women, although the details are different.
I also realize that my situation is insignificant compared to other people who have experienced far more egregious behavior. Other women have suffered far worse experiences. I have not walked in the footsteps of a black American, nor in the footsteps of a Muslim American, nor as a refugee, nor as an undocumented immigrant. But, I have heard their voices. Many are hurt and afraid. Some are family friends. Many are voices of people I do not know.
The visceral reaction to the election of Donald Trump is not simply a difference in politics, policy and ideology. It’s not a matter of being a sore loser. It is different from previous elections in modern history. The vile language expressed towards women, Muslims, gays, the disabled, African-Americans and others is an affront to our core values. It is in conflict with our religious teachings, whether those be Christian, Jewish, Muslim or simply basic human decency. We would not tolerate such behavior from our children, and we should not tolerate it from our president.
That is why we are so upset. It cannot be glossed over and set aside as simply the rhetoric of a campaign. We can agree to disagree on various policies, strategies and the role of government. But, we should not disagree on core values of respect, dignity, integrity, equality and tolerance. We believe our America needs to stand up and decry behavior that demeans any citizen and let our president-elect know we as Americans will not tolerate that. He needs to hear this message as loudly as he heard the message of discontent across America. He needs to hear it from all of us, whether you voted for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, none of the above, or did not vote. This is everyone’s responsibility – now and whenever we see injustice.
The writer is a retired state employee living in Springfield.