Like Sam said yesterday, we’re not American. This was not our election. But we are feminists. And we couldn’t escape the news on social and regular media through the long US election campaign. And the U.S. is the sleeping elephant that we live beside — when it rolls over, we feel it. I know this is a fitness blog (and a feminist blog), and tomorrow we’ll return to our regular content. But may we request your indulgence to allow us to sit with this astonishing election result for one more day?
Because it wasn’t my election, I didn’t post much about it at all on social media until election day. But on election day I realized I was feeling quite emotional in the morning at the very prospect that a woman would have a chance at the White House. And at that point, things were looking fairly good for Hillary Clinton, if the polls were to be believed (we know how that went).
But there were a few things about all of this that didn’t quite resonate, and that’s partly because I was also interacting with women of color in a closed group I belong to on social media. Many of the women weren’t quite as enthusiastic about the whole pantsuit thing, for example. They also struggled with the racist history of the suffragettes, who are known to have advocated almost entirely for white women only. And there were others in my circles, not just that circle, who despite their unwillingness to vote for Trump, experienced a great deal of ambivalence towards Hillary Clinton for a variety of reasons, some more politically relevant than others.
All that holds true and yet, and yet, and yet. The news of a Trump presidency came to me as a devastating blow. I felt it as an endorsement of racism, misogyny, sexual assault, ableism, xenophobia, hatred towards LGBTQ community members, immigrants, refugees, Muslims.
Most of all, I felt it as a kick in the gut, experienced as a feeling of being “put in our place.” Whatever reservations any of my friends and acquaintances had, none had wanted this result. Despite it not being my election, it feels deeply personal in some ways that I don’t yet quite understand. I feel as if the bottom line is that there are people in America who have been so appalled to have an African American man as President, his family living in the White House, and those same people thought, “I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a woman follow after him.” It was a message not just to Clinton, but equally to Obama and to anyone who was brazen enough to think that there was real change afoot.
The most emotionally compelling commentary I’ve heard so far (I confess I’ve not been able to expose myself to much) was from Van Jones on CNN, who talked about what we tell kids and about racism as a driving force behind this outcome. If you missed his remarks, please check them out here.
But the piece of news that caused me the most despair was the headline, “More white women voted for Donald Trump than for Hillary Clinton.”
Between this news and Jones’ commentary, it confirmed for me what has become abundantly clear over the past while: feminism cannot move forward without an intersectional analysis. When more white women vote for Trump than for Clinton, that says to me that white women can somehow overlook the misogyny (I don’t quite get it) but don’t need to concern themselves with his racism. This is why a simple gender analysis is never going to be good enough.
African American women did not let down Hillary’s team — 94% voted for her. 56% of white women who voted went for Trump. What was it? Complacency?
I don’t delude myself that this type of thing cannot happen here in Canada. Right now many of us are happy with our young and energetic white male Prime Minister. But nationalist movements gain momentum as they excite the popular imagination of people who feel as if they’re losing their grasp on what’s “rightfully theirs.” Canada isn’t immune.
As Clinton said in her speech to her supporters the day after the election, this defeat hurts. The glass ceiling has not yet been shattered. And it seemed so attainable. But if the day is going to come, white voters especially need a deeper appreciation of the stakes.