“The Election” isn’t stressing me out. Donald Trump and his 43% are stressing me out. It’s what that kind of out in the open, unexamined hatred means for the rest of us, no matter who wins on November 8, 2016.
When Pussygate dropped in early October, I skimmed the article in which he reveled in his celebrity shield for sexual assault, bragging that he could Access Hollywood anytime he wanted. I rolled my eyes and shrugged. It wasn’t surprising that he said those things. Less surprising that he believes them. Not at all shocking that he does them.
So I was a little surprised when this was the comment that blew up. It seemed like the kitty cat epithet for a woman’s lady parts was a bridge too far for some pearl clutching public men. I got the feeling it was not the description of sexual assault that jarred them as much as the language used.
The fact that I initially shrugged this off says something about how women are used to being treated on a regular basis and how much this kind of behavior has been normalized. We heard all the same garbage excuses we always hear: “boys will be boys” and “locker room talk” and “this is just how me talk when there are no women around.”
If this is how men talk when when there are no women around, and that’s OK with men, then men suck. (For the record, I don’t think that’s true.)
I suppose it makes sense that men would talk about sexually assaulting women when women aren’t around to hear them because just about the only time women talk about being sexually assaulted, it’s when men aren’t around to hear them.
But after Pussygate, women started talking openly and in large numbers about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment, and I read these stories thinking how lucky I was not to have gone through what so many women have.
Then I remembered the time at a local bar when a guy sat down at the only spare seat at a four top, interrupting three women having a nice evening, and said, “Any of you fucking cunts got a rubber?”
I remembered the time working at the renaissance festival when the brother of the booth owner spent an entire weekend making lewd sexual comments to me and getting his dick out.
I remembered the award I received once at a team dinner, the “Stick up her butt” award, because I had the nerve to be upset about a job reassignment.
I remembered the nickname I was given that same summer: “Ball busting little pussy.” This was shortened to “BBLP,” which stuck for years. I went along with it and laughed because I didn’t want to appear “uncool.”
I remembered making a safety map in my Intro to Women’s’ Studies course showing pay phones and open establishments for my walk home, in case I was feeling threatened.
I think about the fact that I always park in the same place at different establishments, not just because I’ll always be able to find my car but because I will be familiar with the route, and that will keep me safer.
I remember when we used to go to the same bar every week, and we always hoped for parking on the street nearby because the lot was across a few streets and under a bridge, and we called it “The Rape Lot.” Because it’s funnier if it’s true.
I think about the pressure of always being subject to the gaze, feeling like you don’t own yourself, like you exist for consumption. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t felt it. For the past few months, the language used by the Republican nominee for President of the United States of America and his supporters has been pressing down on a large percentage of Americans, bringing up bad experiences: experiences of violence, harassment, abuse, and the general self consciousness of feeling wrong, bad, not enough, less than. Of being the property of society, not a collaborating agent. It has turned the gaze into a growl, and it’s menacing.
That growl won’t go away on November 9, 2016, even if we wake up to a world where a woman is the President-elect of the United States.
That is what is stressing me out. What do we do, starting November 9th, no matter what happens on November 8th?