On the morning of November 8, 2016, I cried.
It was the culmination of the most absurd presidential campaign I had ever seen. It was, for sure, not your average political scandal driven campaign – it was loud, mean-spirited, dirty, racist, sexist, and seemed to bring out the very worst colors of this country. The most jarring thing to me was that I couldn’t even recognize this as the country I’ve spent my entire life living in.
To be fair, I grew up in a bit of a bubble. The town I spent my childhood in has a population of merely 5,000 and is an hour’s drive from the closest mall. It’s an affluent, artsy town and whiter than a damn Saltine. From pre-school through high school, I had two black peers – literally, two. We learned about slavery, racism, women’s suffrage, the Holocaust and anti-semitism. It was history, and there were the heroes like MLK, Susan B. Anthony and many more who solved those problems, so now our hands were clean. I learned about these events as things of the past that were well over, never to happen again. And then I grew up.
This presidential campaign rattled me to my core. Those around me know that I’m definitely opinionated – my mother is an attorney and I’m Italian, so I don’t tend to keep quiet. I’m also a bleeding heart liberal, and I make no apologies for that. I own it. Every election year, I have my rants and lose a couple of Facebook friends. I’m ok with that. But this year? It was so different.
The evening before the election, I posted one last plea for informed voting as follows:
It took mere minutes for my phone to start blowing up. First it was comments, some supportive and some dissenting opinions. I stood my ground and was promptly unfriended by several people. Others simply hid me from their newsfeed. Then came the PMs – I’d post a screenshot, but the conversation vanished after I was blocked by the guy I’ve known for 10 years who referred to Hillary Clinton as the devil and called me a mindless, uniformed bitch. There were also a few who said nothing but yielded my advice to click on over to that unfriend button. So be it, I said my piece.
When I spent Election Day morning in tears, it was the culmination of the emotions I held in while spending more than a year arguing facts, math and data – leaving the emotion out. That morning, the emotions kicked my ass. This election was bigger than politics. This election was so much bigger than the discarded math, data and facts. This election was so tangled up in sexism, racism, hatred, anger and basic human rights. On top of it all, I was about to vote for the first woman ever to be on the ballot and that woman stood for everything I believe in to the bottom of my core. I stuck my 2 year old little girl in a Hillary shirt and voted.
On the morning of November 9, 2016, I cried.
I didn’t cry because my party lost. I didn’t cry because a woman didn’t make it to the White House as more than a wife. I didn’t cry because I knew how the Republicans felt when Obama won (though that was said to me countless times).
I cried because I was faced with the horrifying reality that all those things I learned about as history in school aren’t actually in history – they are current events.
I cried because there were so many people close to me that I felt betrayed by.
I cried because I was staring head-on at the ugliness behind hatred and forced to face the music: this isn’t new, this was just unmasked by a leader who made the case for it.
I didn’t stop crying until the following day.
It only took two days.
To me, there were only two choices: lay down and accept defeat, or rise. I chose to rise and began the development of SayTheFWord.org. It only took two days for me to rise up and become an activist.
My eyes are now wide open and I’m ready to change the world. It begins with owning the word feminist and stopping the stigma attached to it. It starts with going on the offense against that stigma, unapologetically.
It only took two days.
I began quietly working on the development and just this past Friday, began inviting women in my network to join in on what we’re calling A Tribe Called Women.
Maybe, I should have been more prepared for what was to come. It only took two days. It only took two days to wind up on the receiving end of some backlash – all from other women.
On Saturday, there was the woman who sent me this message:
Women are not helping to empower other women when they are policing their tone and encouraging them to “act like a lady”. It is not bitchy or whiny to own who you are – that’s the culture we’re on a mission to change. Saying these things are silencing, and I will not be silenced on this cause.
On Sunday, I had this conversation with a woman who originally was all in for the cause and was now having second thoughts:
This needs to stop. A woman with a voice is not aggressive. A woman with a voice is not a man-hater, unless she states that she hates men – but I honestly don’t know any of those women. It should not be presumed that a woman with a voice can’t seek employment.
These words used to police a woman’s tone is an attempt to silence them. If you think long and hard, it is difficult to imagine a man being given personal critiques of his tone when speaking his mind on matters important to him. Men are rarely called bitchy, whiny, aggressive, bossy or any other term like that.
Those are words intended to silence women – and put them back in their place, encouraging them to “act like a lady”. Those are words that should not be associated with feminism. Those are what I am fighting back against.
It only took two days for two attempts to “tone down” my cause. I will not be silenced.