I walked away feeling hopeful. Feeling excited. Feeling on the precipice of history being made. Tomorrow this circus will finally come to an end.
I was actually not surprised like so many others, perhaps even the man himself, that it had made it this far. I was never distracted by the amusement, the reality show aspect of it all. I could feel giving attention to it feeding its rise. But, it ends now. Tomorrow this will all be over and we can start repairing the damage instead of desperately trying to stay afloat.
Bonus! I actually got a tool to help me with one of my idea blocks. The graphic novel, you’ve found your villain. Imagine a world where he actually won. The content writes itself.
And then, in the midst of news footage already calling victory, even though it seemed impossible, I got a sinking feeling. I didn’t want to say it out loud for fear of making it real. Then with every exit poll, even as things were still optimistic, the sudden sickness that had also befallen me worsened.
This isn’t going to turn out the way I expected it to.
“Never was a cornflake girl.”
Last week I set out to write a post in support of and in response to backlash aimed at the largest protest in our history. Having been through a couple of back and forths on the good ol’ Facebook (some I expected, some I certainly did not), I knew it was best to sleep on what I was about to say. This was bigger than me, and I needed to make sure I came from a careful, respectful, well thought out place.
But then the week transpired, and with each new justification of our government leader’s actions, each new present discussion I was finding myself in, and my health declining almost in tune with each blow (Why does this keep happening in tandem?!), the tone of the slept on entry started to change.
No matter where you stand presently, there’s no denying that on January 20, 2017, history was made. It was made unlike it has ever been made before. I have since seen the speech, but when it happened I refused to watch it. Having kept an eye on our now President’s prior behavior, it seemed the most effective way I could show my disappointment was to not give his appearance the “approval rating” my tuning in would have been skewed as.
On January 21, 2017, history was made again. The Women’s March. We live in a time where movies like Mean Girls and Bridesmaids successfully use comedy to expose the sentiment of girl-on-girl crime. Having worked in male dominated fields for the majority of my life, I already knew how hard things could be simply for being a born into a gender, and often wonder why we women continue to make it harder on ourselves. But on this particular Saturday, though I could only go in spirit, I had never been so in love with women and the many others who stood by the cause.
And while it wasn’t perfect by any means, at times alienating, even its critics identified the heart of it to be a good first step. Plights I can’t even fathom were brought to my attention, and the work that still needs to be done to ensure the self-evident truth of equality for all Americans was made more apparent. I was inspired, in cause a ruckus fashion, to DO things about it.
I was touched by the humanity and basked in its afterglow, interrupted only once by that poor excuse of a speech at the CIA, for the day’s entirety. (To be fair, our President knows when he delivers good speeches, bad speeches, home run speeches, and equivalent to Peyton Manning winning the Super Bowl speeches, okay? — Oh, he was referring to THIS speech.)
The afterglow came to a sharp halt when another voice of criticism started to surface the next day.
“Thought that was a good solution, hanging with the raisin’ girls.”
“Trump won, get over it!”
“I’m a woman, you don’t get to speak for me.”
“I’m not a second-class citizen.”
“What did this really accomplish other than being a hate march?”
Wait. Were they completely missing the point or was I?
It was critiqued for being unfocused, and yet these same women couldn’t identify with a single cause marched on behalf of that day. This seemed impossible to me.
It had to be more likely that women have often been forced to abide by the “be happy with what you have” position in order to survive. When there are studies strongly suggesting societal bias to cis, white males, perhaps these women aren’t even aware they are oppressed, in an almost slight Stockholm syndrome fashion.
Or maybe, it was absolutely true that those contending the march never had personal experience with any of these oppressions. To which I wanted to urge a sense of gratitude, and a warning not to take these issues for granted. I wanted to express sincere joy that they were comfortable in their lives and have them look outside themselves, as close as their friends who marched in order to fight for their right and the rights of everyone to feel as comfortable. As close as me, even if for the majority of the time, I also sit in the comfort of privilege.
It was summed up to be a hate march against Trump. I would argue, it was a movement to demand accountability. I think those against the march falsely assume it was a rally celebrating his imminent failure, rather than “giving the guy a chance.” This is absolutely absurd, and likened to, as fellow delicate snowflake best explained, wanting your plane to crash because you dislike the pilot.
Our president, in his inaugural speech, made a promise to give the government back to the people. Well, the people include not only his supporters, but those who didn’t vote for him as well, and the march was a message that he couldn’t simply pick and choose. We weren’t to be neglected because his feelings were hurt by the sheer mass of people both in Washington and in sister marches, not only across the United States, but around the globe flat out, dare I say it, trumping “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period…” (As you choose to remember it, anyway.)
It put a face to the issues at hand and brought these faces to his doorstep. It appealed to the humanity of the situation. I aimed to appeal to the same to the voices of opposition in my life, as well. To put a face, my face, increasing proximity to the matters I have personally encountered, in order to possibly inspire them to consider an experience unlike their own.
“She’s gone to the other side, givin’ us a yo heave ho.”
I gave personal accounts of how I was effected by wage disparity. How the issue goes beyond the statistic that women make 80 cents to a man’s dollar, the gap even wider if you are a person of color, but how the wage disparity almost becomes a metric by which we justify inequality in workplace dynamics as well.
I recalled how as early as fourteen, I was granted shift supervisory responsibilities, but saw my male colleagues below me in rank, hired after me, receive raises before mine was considered. I was permitted to operate a deli slicer, though it wasn’t entirely legal by labor laws, but wasn’t worth an extra quarter an hour until the next raise period. Wasn’t the promotion in title alone enough to tie me over?
A similar situation would happen to me in my college years where I was deemed the Electronics Expert. (A title that wasn’t alone enough to encourage patrons to trust my expert opinion on a typically male influenced topic. More than once did someone ask a fellow male patron their opinion before trusting mine.) This title had me fulfilling the role of the Electronics Supervisor, without the pay increase. When the role was officially interviewed for, it was at the suggestion of a male supervisor deemed no longer necessary. I was still expected to fulfill the duties until I left that job. The reinstated role was then given to a male who had also applied when I initially had.
In a discrete mathematics Computer Science course, of which I should have had a considerable advantage as it was the concentration of my Mathematics degree, frequently singled out and used to having my response skewed to appear incorrect, I sat, this time just as bewildered as my surrounding male colleagues, when another male (not that hard to achieve, I was the only female in said class) repeated an answer almost verbatim to mine. His was praised for highlighting the misconception, I confidently knew was the point of this particular proof having just studied the same problem in a math course not long before this particular lesson. I was encouraged to confront my professor on the perceived sexist bias, only to be asked about my mental health and if I took any medication.
I have been physically shoved, because I happened to be the closest female in proximity, when a drunk regular who should never have been let in to begin with, chose to drown his sorrows surrounding his recent breakup at the bar where I worked. A coworker who quickly went to detain him reported that he declared, “See? Women are just commodities.” as my head slammed into a brick wall. Next day apologies were offered, but the man wasn’t arrested because of his relationship to the owner, even as he shattered the establishment’s front door.
I was brought to the tipping point in my professional career, when a male colleague’s opinion was valued over mine repeatedly, carrying repercussions to my job, even as I warned his strategies wouldn’t work with proof from my previous experience. And despite apologies given as it was discovered I was actually right, this didn’t influence my superiors chancing his suggestions the next time an issue like this arose. Time was wasted, and every time I was expected to make up the difference, as it was my job, not my colleague’s, whose opinion was valued over mine.
These are only a few personal experiences.
Those ladies marched for me.
“Things are getting kind of gross and I go at sleepy time.”
The decision to leave Visual Effects wasn’t easy and if one has kept up with my previous posts, it becomes clearer that many facets went into it. One of the biggest influences being that the job actually induced stress related health issues. “A job that slowly kills you,” now a very menacing sounding lyric from Radiohead’s No Surprises, as it plays on my morning commute. Lasting health issues that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I would obtain coverage for, as freelancing didn’t give me benefits. Now my quality of living is being put in jeopardy.
It has taken awhile for me to be able to claim ownership to my mental illnesses, but proper care and treatment has not only made me an advocate, but has helped me find ways to therapeutically combat these obstacles with creativity. Now, I have to worry that it’ll be deemed a pre-existing condition, which may disqualify its coverage. This is concerning and in many ways plays back into the stigma.
While in the industry I worked anywhere from 12 to 18 hour days, depending on deadlines this included weekends, many times, as is normal for VFX jobs, in salaried positions. The record work day clocked in at 36 straight hours. (Yes, I know that’s over a day. And in full disclosure, I did get a thirty minute nap on the floor of our screening room that doubled as my office.)
Since the departure, I’ve worked as many as four jobs simultaneously averaging around 50 hours a week. But, please, remind me how I’m a lazy, welfare seeking, millennial who feels entitled to hand outs.
For a decent part of college, until the Affordable Care Act reinstated partial coverage under my parents again, I relied on the availability of my local Planned Parenthood to provide me with the birth control prescribed, not to promote sexual activity, but regulate and alleviate my, at times, debilitating menstrual symptoms due to endometriosis. It also provided an affordable, once a year peace of mind in the form of an annual exam, the one way I was able to keep tabs on my health, as I couldn’t, uninsured, afford even the most routine of doctor’s visits.
I know there are situations even more dire than my own that depend on these facilities, and their funding, despite being against the law except for in extreme conditions to be used for the main argument in support of defunding Planned Parenthood, is once again under scrutiny and at risk of not receiving support.
These amazing women marched for me and women like me.
“This is not really happening. You bet your life it is.”
And let’s not fail to mention the misogynistic (and racist, and violent, and bullying, etc. etc. etc.) rhetoric Trump ran his campaign, life, and is running is executive orders on. Maybe you can forgive, but I certainly will never forget.
Because like it or not, this role as our public servant upholds him as an example and we need to hold him accountable, in the same way we shame the latest currently revenant female pop icon as an inappropriate sex symbol. And even if his past actions don’t concern you with regard to his ability to lead the country, there’s no denying that the example he’s set thus far is incredibly damaging.
Because we already lived in a world where men felt entitled to grab women by the pussies. I should know. At a gathering of coworkers, I was once quite literally grabbed by mine.
With all the victim shaming still keeping people silent, it’s no surprise I belittled the situation, not wanting to actually say what happened, not wanting to taint that coworker’s image, simply wanting to avoid working in the closest proximity roles if it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience, when I chose to speak up about it. I was met with a prepared (Seriously, a saved document was printed out in front of me. Meaning this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened!), corporate, “it didn’t happen at work” answer and a “maybe you should have thought twice about attending such a provocatively themed party” judgement to top it off.
Never mind the fact that I actually hadn’t dressed to the occasion. Never mind the fact that I didn’t drink. Never mind that I shouldn’t even have to justify any of these things because there’s absolutely no way my kicking and beating, pleading for him to “get off me”, to the point of tears, until someone else noticed the invasion and intervened, could have possibly been interpreted as consent.
Now I have to deal with a president who has expressed that this is perfectly acceptable behavior.
Those fierce ladies marched for me as even now I feel that familiar sense of fear sharing this account. An account that had only been shared in support of many others who have fearfully shared similar stories with me. And if this doesn’t apply to you or any of the women you know, then be grateful. I sincerely hope you never have to experience that sense of violation. But, I assure you, it is happening around you, whether you can see it or not.
“And the man with the golden gun thinks he knows so much…”
Still I was argued against. Various assumptions were thrown at me, only to be proven false, met with an apology for the presumption, but still met with criticism aimed at delegitimizing my personal struggles that supported the cause. Forgetting that if nothing else, the march was opening this conversation that wasn’t being had before, it was ruled as pointless. “Yeah that sucks for you, but a march isn’t going to change anything…”
Those opposed, still couldn’t understand, or maybe more accurately, refused to understand and it seemed there would be no way to show them. Frustrated almost to the point of fascination, I set out to do what I so desperately was asking of them. Try to understand something I didn’t. And this is the best I’ve got…
You don’t think the march represents you? Well, then it doesn’t. You’ve made that adamantly clear. And you don’t have to march. That is your first amendment right, and quite lovely in sentiment, really. I’m happy you feel like a first rate citizen, and wish you well on pursuing your privileged life. Honestly, and truthfully, with no maliciousness behind those words and no discredit to the work you almost certainly put in to end up where you are. Again, I say this as someone who for the most part, feels as comfortable with her privilege, too.
But, I get it. It’s insulting to have someone else speak for you, as if you can’t yourself. And you don’t identify, so why allow someone else to put words in your mouth? At first, I didn’t see the harm, but I’m actually with you. And even while I tried to coax you into considering another perspective, I want to make clear that I never assumed I could change you. Your opinions are as valid as mine, and you have every right to express them. I hope others will be able to join you, which may be why I march, but you certainly don’t have to.
Why this change of heart, when I originally set out to pen a call to action? Because, I finally get it. I really do. Just as you don’t feel us women made your voice heard, I feel the same way about my president. I feel shame and embarrassment as he speaks on behalf of me as an American. I sit through legitimate ridicule of his executive orders, the incompetence he’s surrounded himself with, the ridiculous attempts to discredit the media in order to further keep us in the dark, the influence of certain appointees who may be truly pulling the strings, his apparent priority of likes, retweets, and crowd sizes, and like you scream, but that isn’t my voice! When I first sat down to write this I was already distraught by the damage done in not even three full days. Now after a week, I’m utterly heartbroken at the direction we’re headed.
The march didn’t represent you. Our president doesn’t represent me.
And millions of others feel the same way, whether or not the results of the popular vote are accepted, whether or not it’s accepted that more people set out to protest the president than cheer on his inauguration. And while many have made it clear why they didn’t and wouldn’t have marched, even more, like myself, wish they could have. Unlike our President’s falsely billed blatant lies, this isn’t just some “alternative fact.” This is happening.
“Rabbit, where’d you put the keys girl?”
The fight doesn’t end here. Let’s utilize the comments to discuss ways to get involved.
The photos in this entry were used with permission by some of the amazing people in my life who marched in DC and in sister marches across the country.
“Thought that was a good solution…” photos courtesy of Renee Pereault Larsen my oldest and dearest friend.
“This is not really happening…” photos courtesy of Suzanne Sutherland, my cousin who attended the Grand Rapids, Michigan sister march.
Thank you all for your contributions and your continued effort in this fight for equality!