This has been a good year, but an incredibly difficult one. (That’s how good things work, right?) I have been less active about writing here than I’d like, but that’s because I’ve had to buckle down and try to get my own business off the ground. Ripping up and starting again is hard, lonely, frustrating work. This week it’s all come to a head in more ways than one.
In the midst of this all exploding in my chest, I just watched Michelle Obama’s speech in New Hampshire. I didn’t realise just how upset I was by the possibility that the country where I was born, which regularly and somewhat disturbingly boasts that it is the greatest in the world, could elect a man who treats a majority of the population with such blatant disrespect until I heard her say the things that I was feeling.
I had my only private sector corporate job for 2 years before I picked up and left to take a train halfway around the world. I made more money than I ever have, and quite possibly than I ever will again. But that came at a pretty high price. What I have been reminded of in the past few weeks is how the culture of that company was the least friendly to women I have ever experienced and what that felt like on a daily basis. (And I know that it wasn’t nearly the worst you can get, which is horrifying.)
It took every scrap of strength I could muster to finally call out some of the sexist remarks that my female colleagues and I regularly experienced. Things that were written off as banter, jokes, no big deal. But they weren’t.
I didn’t even make as big of a fuss as I now feel I should have. But I was still aggressively verbally attacked for standing up to it. And while some people higher up went through the motions of dealing with the problem, it wasn’t really dealt with, just swept under the rug. I was, for my last few months, in the most uncomfortable situation in a job I have ever been in. I experienced firsthand why most women never bother to say anything about this kind of thing. Why we just try to suck it up and bury it. Because I was in hell just for calling bullshit on disrespectful behaviour.
So all this year whenever I’m feeling shitty about how hard doing things on my own is and what I’ve had to give up in order to make it work, one of the things I remember is what I was able to leave behind. I remember that now I can work with people who respect me, and I can make as big a fuss as I should about bad behaviour, because if someone wants to make me feel like shit about it, I don’t have to work with, near, or for them.
I, just like pretty much every other woman on this planet, have had people grab me in the street or get too handsy when passing me in a pub. I have had unnecessary, demeaning things shouted at me. I have been told to smile. I have had to shout louder to have my opinions or expertise heard. It’s tiring and demeaning and it sucks.
Between this episode of The Guilty Feminist on Anger that I listened to last week, and Michelle Obama’s words on the most recent horrendous shit coming from Trump, it’s come right back to the surface – how horrible it feels to actively field misogyny on a regular basis, and how infuriatingly universal it is to have to do so.
To know that a man who brags about sexual assault is even anywhere near the US Presidential race is physically sickening. And it’s not that he’s only just become sickening. He stepped over the line before he even had the nomination. He’s been making racist, discriminatory, violent comments for ages and I have been angry about it the whole time. This has just been a personal trigger based on my own experiences that has in some cases made my entire body shake.
I am a human being. Human beings deserve equal respect. (By the way, THAT’S FEMINISM.)
I really like Hillary Clinton and I think she will do an amazing job as President. But even if you don’t like her, I’m sure you want to be treated with respect. I’m sure you want the world to respect your country. I’m sure you want someone who has some actual qualifications in charge of things like the military and speaking to other world leaders and making laws.
If you don’t vote for Hillary, you are voting for a man who treats anyone who doesn’t look like him as less than human. Between women, people of colour, the disabled, immigrants – basically anyone who’s not a white man – that’s a majority of the population he does not respect.
A president who doesn’t respect the citizens of his country on a most basic level can’t possibly make anything great. Not even a little bit.