I started writing this piece under the premise that Hillary would win. I even had a snappy headline: “She made history. Now let’s rewrite it.”
Now, as we pick up the pieces in what feels like a bad hangover, I realize that the message hasn’t changed; it’s even more pressing. Today, it’s necessary to make our voices heard more than ever.
Something herstoric happened over these past few months. With so much sexism crudely exposed, women’s stories have taken center stage. Finally, people are listening.
Hilary was scrutinized and belittled from the onset of the campaign, despite her vast experience and qualifications and in contrast to her male counterparts. Yet, it was Donald Trump and his sordid treatment of women that broke the straw on the camel’s back and ultimately strengthened our voices.
The tsunami of testimonies that flooded social and mainstream media following the leak of the Access Hollywood tapes have given an unprecedented platform to sexual assault. This unbridled feminine outpouring began in the U.S. but made waves around the world.
It’s been a game-changer. Women’s experiences have never enjoyed more empathetic, widespread exposure.
It’s made me and other women hold our heads higher. Hell, feminism isn’t a bad word anymore!
At the same time, this change has underscored the massive chasm between women’s experience and men’s awareness of women’s experiences.
Sexual harassment is a mainstay of our lives; I don’t know one woman who has not experienced it. Yet, the past few months have revealed that the men in our lives are unaware of it. This New York Times article, for example, recounts how Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” scandal precipitated a deluge of revelations of sexual assault between spouses. How is it that the two sexes have lived together, often as life partners, without being mutually aware of this fundamental experience?
The answer is that it was never out in the open. It wasn’t at the top of public agenda because men generally determine the public agenda.
Not anymore. Social media has opened up vast opportunities for women to wield power. We’ve begun to penetrate the mainstream media and influence the public agenda more too.
If you told me a few months ago that one of this country’s most esteemed journalists would be forced to resign following allegations of sexual assault, I wouldn’t have believed you. Had it not been for the U.S. election mess, Danielle Berrin may not have come forward, and I’m quite certain that Shavit would still be writing, speaking to Jewish communities abroad-and harassing women.
Trump’s win is terrifying and I can understand the acute fear so many Americans, especially women, feel. They face an uphill battle. Trump won despite of, and perhaps because of, his attitude toward women. Yet, that’s only half the story. What women have achieved in recent months transcends candidates and countries. I’m convinced that this dirty campaign spawned something irreversible. People are listening. Men are understanding.
We must ride this wave. We’ve got the mic. Let’s pump up the volume.
Let’s flood the media with our stories, thoughts and narratives. Let’s share our experiences in work, motherhood, singlehood, divorce, migration, assault and achievement—all that makes us different as women. Let’s rewrite history and the public discourse.
Words are power. Words can heal, and words can disintegrate even the most rigid, patriarchal structures. With words, we can reframe reality and start making the rules ourselves. Then, maybe we’ll get a taste of real equality.