It wasn’t yet 10 a.m. on Sunday when a man sitting behind me on a Giants Stadium-bound bus cracked open two Bud Lights and handed one to his friend. “To Trump!” he said, raising his morning beer. They “cheersed,” and I leaned in, curious to hear where this toast was going.
The first man sighed before spiraling into a requisite rant about election-rigging orchestrated by Obama. His friend agreed, adding, “Sure, the guy’s a sexual predator, but COME ON! There are REAL issues!”
I almost choked on my bagel. My boyfriend squeezed my hand to express his horror (or to stop me from lunging at Trumpboi behind me, I can’t be sure). We exchanged knowing glances, but we didn’t have to have a conversation about what we’d just heard. We had already spent weeks in October talking about how pervasive yet unremarkable sexual harassment is in almost every woman’s life. We’d already counted the reasons women don’t report minor (or even major) instances of assault. He’d already heard me scream at the TV during the debates about how I’m about 1 billion times more likely to be harassed than to be a victim of a terror attack, a so-called “real issue.” We talked more about rape culture in three weeks than we had in three years.
Those conversations followed a year of discussions we’d had about gender-based attacks on Hillary Clinton, about the cruel way society treats ambitious women who seek positions of power, and the way some men are truly terrified of losing power in the face of evolving gender roles.
I’m not the first to point out that the Trump campaign did us a favor by exposing the deeply rooted misogyny that still runs rampant in our country. Suddenly, during a presidential election, conversations that were once relegated to feminist corners of the internet became the conversations dominating mainstream media headlines.
Women began increasingly talking about these topics with our boyfriends, our husbands, our dads, our male friends and our male colleagues. In “Pantsuit Nation,” a private Facebook group made up of more than 3 million Clinton supporters, several women wrote that they’d talked openly about personal experiences with sexism in an effort to convince their fathers not to vote for Trump.
In the wake of Trump’s pussy-grabbing media moment, writer Liz Meriwether beautifully articulated the experience of bringing men into conversations about everyday misogyny.
“I have watched, with some dark amusement, as men suddenly realized that these things had happened to almost all the women in their lives… It was weirdly gratifying to see men give a damn, to hear their awkward attempts at finding the right words,” she wrote in a piece for New York magazine in October.
On Tuesday November 8, the country proved its misogyny runs deeper than most of us could have ever imagined. We chose to elect a man who has admitted to sexual assault over the most qualified candidate in history, who happens to be a woman. And to be a woman who has to come to terms with that fact is deeply, deeply painful.
So, to the men who had any sort of eye-opening moment about the realities of sexism over the last year… Here’s what American women need from you now:
Remember 2016 when you’re voting in local elections. We can’t forget how the Republican party laid the foundation for Trump’s misogyny to thrive. In an October piece for New York magazine, Rebecca Traister asked:
Which is worse: Threatening to grab someone by the pussy or forcing someone to carry and give birth to a baby that is the result of rape? Which is worse: Popping a Tic Tac in preparation for forced extramarital kissing with a stranger or actively discouraging women’s full participation in the workforce? The answer is: None of these is worse; they are all of a kind.
When voting for politicians in the future, pick ones who believe women are people.
Remember 2016 when you witness (or perpetuate) rape culture. Call out men who catcall. Stop asking why women don’t report assault. Stop sending vulgar Tinder messages. Question your male friends when they make a comment that demeans a woman. It isn’t enough not to be a Donald Trump; don’t be a Billy Bush either.
Remember 2016 when raising your sons. This year we learned that using the “boys will be boys” excuse to give kids a pass for bad behavior is unacceptable. Teach your sons to respect women not only because they have moms and sisters. Teach your sons that women are their equals, because they are equally human.
Remember 2016 when you’re benefiting from male privilege. Could you imagine if Donald Trump crude, slimy, disheveled Donald Trump were a woman? Danielle Trump would never have gotten to the White House. Recognize that the gendered double standards Clinton faced mirror the gender dynamics most women are familiar with.
As Sarah Goodall, a 29-year-old from Minnesota, told The Huffington Post:
I would like the men in my life to know for every time women’s ideas and opinions are heard, they probably spoke those same ideas 10 times before and were silenced or dismissed. For every time someone has seen them as a leader, 10 others have seen them as too cold. For every time they are seen as friendly, they’ve been pegged as too passive to lead. 2016 highlighted the petty scrutiny no man is subjected to.
Remember 2016 when conducting yourself at work. Stop talking over women in meetings. Don’t assume other men are more qualified for jobs just because they’ve been conditioned to act like they are.
Remember 2016 when you think sexism is over because we almost elected a woman president. Women have spent the last year cataloguing our own experiences with misogyny and sexism as we watched Clinton face them on a national stage.
Every time Clinton was told to smile. Every time she was called “shrill.” Every time she was called “cold.” Every time she was held responsible for her husband’s actions. Every time Trump rated a woman based on her fuckability. Every time Trump (and his primary opponents) spoke about women as though we are victims of our own bad judgment, incapable of making choices that are best for our lives and our bodies. Every time a pundit excused Trump’s “locker room behavior” as something women should expect of men. Every time, we shuddered at how painfully familiar these events felt.
As Tasha Elizabeth, a 23-year-old from Louisiana, told HuffPost:
Though Trump might’ve been the first man THEY’VE heard say the sort of infuriating things he does, it’s not the first time I’VE heard them. I hear it every single day, and I’m willing to bet most of the women reading this hear it every day as well.
If you only take one thing away from the dumpster fire that was the 2016 election, make it this: Listen to women.