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Pussy-hat Planet

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Say, did you know millions of people worldwide marched for women’s rights and against Trumpism last Saturday? (Samantha Bee had a nice summation.) I was among them. My husband was among them. My parents were among them. My mother — who isn’t quite as addicted to online media as her Gen-X daughter — wasn’t sure why the icon of the march was a simple, oddly-shaped hat, with corners that look like cat ears, typically in pink.

“Hey, Julie,” she said. “What’s up with that hat?” (Note: my mom doesn’t actually talk like this)

“It’s a pussy hat,” I told her. “The cat ears thing, that’s on purpose.”

We got interrupted by the chaos of being in the middle of a crowd of more than a hundred thousand people, so we never got to discuss the next part of that. Why was it a pussy hat?

Now, that’s a good question. I don’t know if you remember this — because it did seem to be pretty quickly forgotten — but back in October, it emerged that the man running for president had, on a live microphone, said these words to Billy Bush, both of them giggling like Batman villains the whole time:

(Standard trigger warning for what you are about to read. I apologize for the crude language and revolting, immoral sentiments.)

I moved on her like a bitch. I couldn’t get there and she was married. [..] I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful… I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. [..] Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.

There were many of us who thought the release of this audio had to be it for Trump’s presidential hopes, the final stake-in-the-heart moment. Because it absolutely would have been, in the Hollywood movie version of reality that most of us carry around in our heads. (You know, the same version of reality that makes you think all you have to do is walk around with a gun all the time, and someday you’ll be a hero.) The tape would play out over a loudspeaker, maybe at a campaign rally or something, and we would watch cheering turn to stunned horror, get a few final scenes of sad Donald and victorious Hillary, a female-power song by Beyoncé would start playing, and the credits would roll.

Obviously, that’s not what happened.

His popularity took a hit for a while, but then it seemed like everybody kind of — you know — somehow — forgot about it. The news cycle moved on. He didn’t do anything freshly outrageous. He didn’t have any press conferences. His handlers briefly took his Twitter account away. Mainstream media outlets were left free to spend the last few weeks of the campaign focusing on the real story, Hillary-emails-something-something, as a nation of people who mostly could not tell you what an email server even is gave vent to endless outrage that Hillary Clinton had at one point used a private one.

So, the election was a done deal. An admitted, unapologetic sexual predator with no qualifications and no moral center was going to serve as the U.S. president. We were told this was going to be okay. We were told to “respect the institution” and “give him a chance.” We were told “get over it, you lost” and “awww, aren’t you a pwecious widdle snowflake, go back to your coloring books.” We were repeatedly informed that his victory was actually our fault. Trump voters had to vote for him, you see, we made them do it. Because we have a “religion problem.” Because we were too concerned with “identity politics” Because we hurt their feelings too much when we pointed out their racism and misogyny.

Now the time had come for us to admit that we lost because we were wrong. It was time to swallow our pride, put aside our grievances, and play nice with the other side. DT won “fair and square” (in spite of voter suppression and Russian interference) and it was just, you know, really unseemly of us to kick up such a fuss.

And all the while — some of us — were screaming inside DID YOU HEAR THAT PUSSY-GRABBER TAPE DID YOU JUST FORGET ABOUT IT DID YOU EXPECT ME TO JUST FORGET ABOUT IT DID YOU DID YOU DID YOU

AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHH

In the movie version of reality, some clever hacker managed to make that tape play out over the loudspeaker while Trump took the oath of office. In the movie version of reality, that would fix things somehow.

There are people out there who would read this essay and say, “What? You’re still mad about that? That was months ago! Anyway, it was just locker-room talk. You shouldn’t be so easily offended. Snowflake.”

Basically, all of liberal America was being treated like the abused wife in a Quiverfull marriage. He only beats you because you’re so rebellious. That thing you’re upset about? It didn’t happen. And even if it did happen, it wasn’t a big deal. And even if it was a big deal, well, your completely unacceptable reaction is the much bigger deal and we all need to focus on that, ‘mmkay? You have to try getting what you want by being really quiet and sweet and agreeable. And if that doesn’t get you what you want, do it anyway. You don’t deserve what you want.

Trump’s electoral victory was the moment many of us realized that as cynical and pessimistic as we had been about the modern, religious-right-infused Republican party, IT WAS STILL WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT. We were giving them too much of the benefit of the doubt. We were assuming too much good faith on their part. All those calls to sit down, shut up, take our lumps, accept that this is all our fault? Abuser talk, bully talk, whether it comes from some rando Twitter egg or The New York Bloody Times.

When an abuser tells you to do something, do the opposite. Sure, they’ll hurt you for it. But listen, they were going to hurt you anyway. If you fight back, there’s at least the possibility of victory. Kneel in submission and you’ll get your head chopped off.

When the worst happens, we look for silver linings, hope, a passage out, a way to fix things. Maybe they’re not really there, but we have to find them anyway. For me the silver lining was this: clarity. Trump’s electoral victory was millions of people saying, essentially, “I’m sick of pretending to be a halfway decent person.”

Okay. Now we know where we stand. I, too, am sick of pretending you’re a halfway decent person. I’m sick of pretending you must have a valid point that needs to be considered. I’m sick of pretending that we can agree to disagree. You thought this election was a vindication for your side? You thought finally you could demand the respect, the deference you think you deserve? You thought finally all us snowflake-social-justice-warrior-politically-correct-whiner-losers would — I don’t know — melt away?

Nah.

That is not going to happen.

I’m not even going to continue giving you the respect I was giving you, which you thought was so inadequate.  I no longer believe you are acting in good faith, that you believe any of the words coming out of your own mouth, that you ultimately want anything good for this country or this world. You don’t even want anything good for yourself, beyond simple moment-by-moment ego gratification. You’re an out-of-control toddler and you voted an out-of-control toddler to be the most powerful single person on the planet right now. Congratulations. You really showed us. You have successfully demonstrated why it’s a really bad idea to put toddlers in charge of things.

White evangelicals, all of this goes double for you. Because you’re my people and everything, I really wanted to believe those of you in the “religious right” voting bloc were misguided but sincere. Even though their leaders are all hypocrites and liars, I wanted to believe the typical seats-in-pews conservative evangelical really did hate Bill Clinton, gay rights, and abortion because of how important they found their own notions of sexual propriety. I thought they were wrong to interpret Christian teachings that way, and they were led into doing wrong because of it But I thought at least they were being honest about their own beliefs.

Trump exposed that lie. Conservative white evangelicals don’t hate the act of sexual impropriety at all. If a powerful white man does it, it’s a-ok. What they hate are civil rights. My rights. Your rights. The rights of everybody who isn’t wealthy, male, white, heterosexual, nominally Christian, able-bodied, cisgendered.

It’s patriarchy, combined with racism, weaponized into fascism.

Now, on a personal individual level, I know there are plenty of evangelicals right now who walk through the shadow of the valley of painful cognitive dissonance, as you grapple with your “pro-life” identity and whether that’s still an accurate way to describe yourself when you voted to put nuclear weapons in the hands of an out-of-control-baby-man, who is pushing an agenda that robs millions of health care, clean air and water, and financial security, an agenda that is explicitly about turning away strangers in need, exploiting prisoners, abandoning the sick, and ignoring the hungry. But listen, if your feelings are hurt when I point out that your support for the Trump agenda puts you on the “depart from me you evildoers” side of Jesus, think about what you mean when you call other people “snowflakes” and complain about “too much political correctness.”

You can join the resistance. Or you can be part of the problem.

It’s a planetary problem, and not only because the United States is such a large and powerful country. This fascist patriarchy is a dreadful zeitgeist that has been haunting us in different ways, in different places throughout the world. It’s Brexit. It’s ISIL. It’s Putin’s Russia. It’s gamergate and rabid puppies. It’s gang rapes in India and Brock Turner here at home, Sometimes the racism is more obvious, and sometimes the misogyny is more obvious. Sometimes the hostility to objective facts, science, and a free press is what you notice. Sometimes you notice the blatant attempts to establish a theocratic state. Sometimes it’s the nativism. Sometimes you’re the Taliban blowing up ancient Buddha statues  and sometimes you’re the Trump administration destroying environmental protection and threatening our national parks.

But the same glue binds all these atrocities together, a spirit of regression and backlash and authoritarianism. It’s easy to look at Trump voters and say “they want to repeal eight years of Obama” but it’s bigger than that. The global fascist patriarchy movement wants to repeal the ENTIRE FLIPPIN’ ENLIGHTENMENT. They want to reverse the last three hundred years of human progress.

This is hard to wrap your brain around, and the sheer enormity of it causes incredulity in some. I have been chided for suggesting that it was even possible for all 60 million Trump voters to be racists, as if such a thing is utterly without precedent in human history. But listen, “being a racist” is not a simple toggle, any more than “being a sexist” is. A vote for Trump was a vote for a racist agenda. It was a vote for a misogynist agenda. And no single thing makes that clearer than the pussy-grabber tape and the reaction to it.

Even as we speak, there are people taking the position is that I’m the vulgar one for talking about it 

There are still people trying to divide our side of this fight. People who think you can be for women’s rights without also being for the rights of transgender people, support Planned Parenthood without also supporting Black Lives Matter, oppose Trumpism but think the marches last Saturday were a bit over the top, right, aren’t all you pussy-hatted ladies just sore losers? What do you even want anyway? Shouldn’t you wait until acting president Mike Pence is actually taking away your right to contraception and travel without a male relative as escort before you kick up such a fuss? Right now you’ve got all the rights any woman could possibly want, and in order to demonstrate that, you should sit down and shut up. Anyway, why aren’t you home with your kids or making some dude a sandwich?

This is where, perhaps, the sheer overwhelming vileness of Trump might serve another purpose: unity of opposition. If there was ever a time when you — a middle-class white woman with moderately feminist leanings — thought the struggles of black women or trans women or poor women were not your own, now is the time to realize that’s not true. Trumpism, with its unholy mixture of neo-fascist populism, failed-state corruption, and traditional Republican opposition to civil rights and worker’s rights, threatens everyone, including those who voted for him. (Note: if you voted for Trump and already regret it, join up!) It threatens the future of everyone who lives on this planet and no, I’m not exaggerating. Now is the time to realize we are all in this together.

If we keep up a unified front of opposition and resistance, one thing is clear: there are more of us. And we’ve just begun.

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One Comment

  1. Sue Sue

    Well said, Julie. I’m still too choked by rage to be articulate, so thanks for doing the work here.

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