Now what? A question surely a lot of us are asking ourselves today. Trump winning the election comes as a shock to many of us. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Fear makes people do stupid things.
Waking up and seeing the election results made me cry. Not out of disappointment, not out of fear, but out of anger. A person who is openly racist, bigoted, discriminating and sexist just became president-elect. A man was rewarded for his lack of morals. A man who sexually assaulted women and is proud of it is now the head of a country. And that makes me angry. Because I too have had to experience men overstepping the line. I have been “grabbed by the pussy” against my will.
And even back then, the guy who did so didn’t have to face consequences. And I was too young to realize that this was actually assault.
I was 20, and in one of my favorite bars, when a drunken regular customer thought it was acceptable to grab me between the legs from behind. I immediately turned around and slapped him, but he just laughed. Others laughed. “Calm down, it was just a joke.” That was the general reaction. He was not kicked out of the bar, even though the owner was a friend of mine. He faced no consequences, and I didn’t know if I had the right to complain. Months later people still didn’t understand why I was still mad at this guy, who had the cheek to ask me after two years “if we could just forget about that, and if we could be friends.”
I successfully managed to not think about this for a long time. For a long time I also didn’t see it as assault. After all, it was just a dumb joke, wasn’t it? I didn’t know my rights.
So I didn’t think something like that case of open sexism, that the media has been discussing for years, would ever really affect me. I know, that as a white, blonde, middle class German I’ve been born into extreme privilege, and I liked to believe that in our society, this kind of abuse and sexism that we keep hearing about, was history. We are a western civilization after all!
Oh the ignorance and arrogance.
My views changed drastically when a work colleague, a 60 year old, unwashed, chain-smoking guy in a higher position, kept on touching me, then pulled me towards him to hug me tight and to plant a kiss on my cheek against my will. I did speak out and told him later the same day how much I hated his behavior, but it had no adverse effect on his position. I on the other hand decided just a couple of months later to leave that company.
What happened to me is minor compared to what other women have to endure, but it nevertheless made me feel dirty, violated and resulted in five showers that day, out of sheer disgust for that person, and - even worse - for myself. It shows on a small scale, that what happened today is a reality in everyday life: gender inequality and sexual violence against women. Men thinking that it’s their right to “grab women by the pussy” without consequences.
Trump winning, as depressing as it is, still shouldn’t make us curl up bed in tears losing all hope. It should be a motivation. The shock and the disbelief is real, but rather than being sullen, raising your voice, showing what you believe in, showing support for equality and acceptance is now more important than ever. Let this not be something that sparks fear, but motivation to prevent this happening somewhere else. This shock result can tear people apart or pull them closer together in their sympathy and promise, to do their best to not make the same mistake again. In doing so, in standing together, and not reacting with fear or hate, but with motivation and love, Trump cannot ever really be the winner.