I woke up crying the morning after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.
It happened because I’d been crying in my dream, of course. I was at Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters with some close friends and other women, watching Trump’s numbers climb. How could this be happening? She was ahead in virtually all the polls. She’s the most qualified presidential candidate the US has ever seen. She’s so much better, smarter, more trustworthy, principled and experienced than her opponent, even senior Republicans were switching teams to support her. But as the inevitability of Hillary’s defeat became clear, we packed up the room somberly, taking down posters and stacking chairs, hugging each other, and crying. I woke up with tears on my pillow.
The fact that I am devastated by the outcome this election might seem odd to some, since I’m not American and Hillary Clinton was never going to be my president. But the pain I’m feeling isn’t about my personal circumstances, or whether the US election will affect my daily life. This is gender pain, and millions of women are reeling from it now.
A good friend remarked this morning that he didn’t see gender as a major factor in Hillary’s loss, pointing instead to anger and disruption, and the loss of grand American ideals. He said that we should be crying for all Americans, not just for women and men who are disappointed by a still-intact glass ceiling. He’s not wrong. There are so many people to cry for right now, and so much to cry about. The problem with a situation like Trump’s victory is that it has so many overlapping seriously upsetting implications, it is difficult to know which of them to mourn first, loudest and longest.
So today, I am crying about the hideous racism, hatred and division this man unleashes and legitimizes. I am crying about the threat a Republican majority government poses to the environment. (Good God, the Arctic!) I am crying about Trump’s disdain for American democratic institutions and processes. I am crying about the Supreme Court and the rollback of human rights that we are likely to see there under Trump, especially the hard-won right of women to control what happens to our own bodies. I am crying about his inhumane stance on immigration and refugee asylum. I am crying about the destabilizing effect he may have on NATO. I am crying about the fuel that his victory gives to xenophobic, extreme-right groups in other countries. Any one of these things is well worth crying about. But we also really need to cry about the undeniable role that misogyny has played in putting this monster, and all the potential monstrosities he brings with him, into the White House.
Yes, we women are disappointed that our horse lost the race, especially since she was the favourite, but that is not the source of our anguish. The far greater tragedy from a feminist perspective is that she lost to a grossly indecent misogynistic bully and sexual predator. That her almost comically high stack of qualifications were somehow trounced by his complete absence of them. That so many men (and, most profoundly distressing, so many women) in America feel ok enough about his hostility and boorishness to cheer him on all the way to the Oval Office.
We have watched him mock, ridicule, menace, invalidate and otherwise bully women all the way through the campaign, from Rosie O’Donnell, Alicia Machado and Megyn Kelly to Hillary herself. We watched him brag about grabbing women’s genitals and putting his mouth on theirs (let’s not call it kissing, please) without their consent, and then we watched him denounce and threaten to sue nearly a dozen women who came forward to tell us that his alarming boasts were not empty words. We watched him parade the women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct before the media in an attempt to leverage their suffering for his own gain. We read about the charges against him of allegedly raping a 13-year old girl.
While all of this turned our stomachs, it also stiffened our resolve. Hang in there, sister, we thought. Keep your head high while he digs his own grave, and your day (our day!) will come. Hillary’s victory would be womankind’s vindication for his abuse, and by extension for the abuse and indignities that all woman have suffered at the hands of men who are not running for president. His defeat would send a clear signal that the days when bullies can expect to get away with this shit are over.
And then the unthinkable happened: The bully got away with it. In fact, he was rewarded for it with power and prestige that he doesn’t deserve, and a leadership position for which he is completely unqualified. Through his words and actions, Trump declared that women’s rights don’t matter or aren’t real, and, to our horror, the American public backed him up on that. This is quite enough to cry about all on its own, so let us have our moment of mourning, for crying out loud.