It wasn’t until the results of the 2016 election that I realized something. Trump’s election devastated me for all the reasons everyone else feels: he’s an a**hole, he’s clueless, his ignorance is going to run our country into the ground, et cetera. But also because he’s a man – an incredibly unintelligent one, at that – and Hillary Clinton is a woman – an incredibly qualified and intelligent woman. I know that’s not the only reason he won. I know there are many other factors to take into consideration here, such as the overwhelming number of millennials who didn’t vote, the dissatisfaction of the white working class, the overall dislike of Hillary Clinton; the list goes on. However, I can’t ignore the video of Trump supporters calling Hillary a “whore,” a “slut,” and a “c***.” I can’t ignore the running list of women coming forward who are accusing Trump of sexual assault in some way or another. I can’t ignore Trump’s so-called “locker room talk,” nor when he said Hillary didn’t have the “stamina” to be president, or his countless other chauvinistic comments. Trump’s victory, in my eyes, was the validation of all these degrading words and actions that America, it appears, seems to have either completely ignored or consciously decided that they just didn’t give a shit. I feel, as a woman, personally discriminated against.
It’s very important to note that as a white person from an affluent family who grew up in a county known for its liberal elitism, I’ve never truly been nor felt discriminated against. The results of the 2016 election were the first time I felt otherwise. It was the first time I realized how easy it is to not even recognize, among many things, the blatant sexism women have to deal with every day.
Then I realized something else. I’m ashamed to admit it, but for the first time, I began to have a slight understanding of what it feels like every goddamn day for individuals of any marginalized group – all people of color, all people of different faiths, all people of different sexual orientations – to live in America. Of course, I’ll never fully understand, but at least I know that I will no longer distance myself from it. Just as ignorant as I was to my white privilege is how ignorant many men are to the blatant sexism and chauvinism that was made so seemingly obvious during the campaign. It obviously wasn’t obvious enough, however, because Trump won.
But I’m not writing this to point out how hard it is to be woman, or how unfair it is to be held up to these impossible standards that even Hillary Clinton couldn’t stand a chance against. Rather, I’m writing this because as a college student, I have the rare opportunity to take the time to learn about these issues that I’ve been blind to for so long, racism and sexism included. At Tufts, the liberal arts college I go to on the east coast, we have a culture requirement we need to fulfill in order to graduate. It’s three courses on any chosen culture outside of the United States, and although students often complain that it’s a burden to our schedules, I truly think it’s important for our education, our awareness, and our mindfulness. In addition to this requirement, however, I believe colleges should also have a women’s studies requirement. At the very least, students, male and female, should have to take one course on women’s studies so they too can begin to understand why this election was so frustrating for women, and to open the dialogue to at least talk about the issues women face on a daily basis that men don’t seem to recognize. I know one class won’t transform the world. But it’s a good first step in recognizing the truth so we can take further steps to change it.