Like many men my age (I was born in 1970), even though I grew up with feminism, I’ve struggled to understand how it affects me and what role I am expected to play in it.
I won’t get into all the details of this struggle. The truth is that it was often a struggle of my own making. It doesn’t matter any more anyway… because Donald Trump has been elected president.
And because of that unutterably horrifying turn of events, I’ve suddenly realized that the problem of how women are treated in our society is far greater than I had ever admitted to myself.
What does feminism have to do with Trump? Well, I’ll tell you.
I was one of those men who privately rolled his eyes whenever he heard terms like “rape culture” and “the patriarchy”. I didn’t believe that rape occurred just because our whole culture was organized around it. Instead, I put it down to the individual rapist. And I thought of “the patriarchy” as that nebulous thing women like to blame when they don’t want to take accountability for their own behavior, or when they act against their own self-interest… such as when they do things like vote for Donald Trump.
But now I see something I never saw before: when you continue to behave as if rape culture isn’t real, it takes over. It’s like cancer that way (and in many other ways besides). Donald Trump is an extreme example of what happens when we continue to wink at frat-boy behavior.
Normally, extreme examples aren’t worth spending a lot of time on, because they are statistical outliers.
But this time, the extreme example happened to end up getting elected president.
That’s how rape culture can destroy a nation.
I rank the 2016 election as being as great a disaster as 9/11, and as calamitous as the 2008 Recession. It was the worst possible outcome of a large number of possibilities, and I still feel as though I’m living in a bad dream. I am standing at the bottom of a newly-opened rift in the earth, surrounded by lava on all sides. The sky is a distant and unattainable disc. The walls are crumbling dirt. I am lost.
The day after the Trump nightmare came to pass, I sat down with my thirteen-year-old daughter and apologized to her on behalf of adults everywhere, and especially on behalf of men. I told her that even though by some incredible, twisted stroke of maddeningly antiquated bureaucratic fuckery we had elected an admitted serial abuser and accused rapist to the highest office in the land, there were still a lot of good people out there. Even though a man who had openly bragged about hurting and demeaning women was in charge, that did not mean it was now okay to hurt women and girls.
I felt the need to say this because I knew that hordes of abusers would now feel emboldened by Trump to do whatever they wanted with no fear of consequences. Why shouldn’t they feel that way? Trump admitted to it, after all, and he got elected president.
I also told my daughter that millions of people despise Donald Trump and everything he stands for, and in fact those people outnumber the ones who voted for him by a great margin. I told her that for as long as I drew breath, I would protect her against Trump and anyone who thought like him. And most of all, I tried to explain how such a thing had come to pass, so that I could help her understand it. But here I found myself at a loss for words, because I didn’t understand it myself, and I still don’t.
The morning after Donald Trump was elected, I suddenly saw the world through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old girl, and what I felt most of all was loneliness and fear. Pretending to be my daughter for a moment, I realized how terrifying the world must seem when it’s run by a Trump and populated by people who support him.
Imagine, male readers, how women must be feeling right now–at least those who had the brains to vote for someone besides Trump.
As for those who voted for him, I can only surmise that they have been so deeply brainwashed that they actually believed the accusations of those dozen women against Trump didn’t matter. That’s just how men talk! they say. They’re just words! Didn’t mean anything! Did these women believe that Bill Clinton’s lies about his consensual relationship with Monica Lewinsky didn’t matter, either? I’ll probably never know, and I really don’t care. In the end, it all comes down to one thing: they voted for Trump. Talk about the Mark of the Beast.
A vote for Trump was not a political decision. It was a deeply stupid, selfish, mean thing to do. If you voted for Trump, you chose to overlook everything that was patently bad about this man in the hope that he might somehow be good for you personally. You cannot say you didn’t know. You knew, and you voted for him anyway.
And that makes you complicit in his crimes.
So, that’s why I’m a feminist now: because of my daughters, aged 11 and 13, and my wife, and my mother, and the other female members of my family, and all the women I’ve known my whole life who have been saying repeatedly that rape culture is real and defines their lives, and who I chose not to take seriously because I didn’t think it had anything to do with me, nor that it would ever really affect them.
Now I see that it does affect them. It will affect them every day for the rest of this cretin’s term, and for long after that, too. It will affect every single person in America, and hundreds of millions more outside of it.
Women’s rights matter more than anything right now. We need women in leadership roles, and we need to raise girls who are ready to take those roles on. We need to raise boys who understand that rape culture is real, and the more casually it is presented, the more insidious it becomes. My proof? Donald Trump is president.
So, yes, I’m a gun-toting, beard-wearing, deer-hunting, poker-playing feminist.
Wanna make something of it?
UPDATE: I was very glad to see this piece, entitled “Surge in young women planning to run for office”, appear shortly after I posted this. This is exactly what we need!