Two days ago, a Facebook friend of mine began a poignant hashtag trend: #IhavemetTrump. While her specific words have not enjoyed any immensely viral attention, they incited a number of painful and bitter accounts of various women's experiences with verbal and physical harassment. These types of accounts, which are replicated in grossly mundane frequency in so many female lives, take place in scenarios where we least expect them -- when we depart our vehicles in parking lots, attempt to serve customers in our business settings, and make valid comments in the workplace. They take place in spaces where they are, unfortunately, more expected, like at a bar, walking home at night or out dancing with friends. We are, at least, more equipped to deal with these scenarios in the second, more run-of-the-mill set of spaces, as criticism of our behavior and modes of expression persist as valid topics of debate.
It is tiring to continue acknowledging this, to continue affirming these patterns to doubtful but otherwise respectful male counterparts. The spectacle of women's bodies, of women's behavior continues to amuse and to provoke, and so the progressive dialogue bounces backward again and again. While I did contribute to that thread, I felt simultaneously small and tearful and unsafe, even though the man who approached my solo self at a music venue two years ago has no idea who I am and has no power and likely no lasting desire to hurt me. He approached that night with ownership and justification in his chest, asked me my name and placed his hand as high as it would go on my bare thigh. And while it is far less worse than what some women are forced to bear, I will not forget it and have difficulty escaping the nausea it still provokes in me.
I will keep this short, and sweet. In a way it is not at all surprising that a man like Donald Trump has become the emblem of one of just two major political parties that somehow keep this country afloat. In one short election season, conflicting forces and strange contradictions have narrowed the average person's right to choose and think for themselves to a bleak, dwindling sliver of potential. Four years ago I and so many of my peers voted for the first time; before then we struggled to know ourselves and develop some sort of understanding of the country we live in. Five years ago our voices didn't matter. Today they do little more than to contribute to the cacophony of misinformation, of vile words spewed across internet pages. Today we stare into the face of money and power, into the portrait of gender-based progress at a standstill.
Tonight we listened to Mr. Trump apologize fleetingly for the comments he made 10 years ago regarding his apparent right to make sexual advances on women he finds attractive. He justified them in an exasperated, almost laughing manner, dubbing them examples of "locker room banter", made in the privacy of a tour bus in the confidence of a friend. He said this as though we all must be silly to consider his words damaging or indicative of the substance of his character. He said this, because boys will be boys. A 60-year-old man has the right to be a boy and to treat women as they must want to be treated, what with their makeup and their own physical manifestations of their achievements. These comments, he reminded us, no matter how bad they might seem, they are nowhere near as serious or as worthy of our attention as international conflict.
How many men nodded at his words tonight, pronounced in crystal-clear arrogance through a debate stage microphone? I wonder how many, previously conflicted, previously exploring uncomfortable and volatile emotions, were able to settle those feelings, to squish them flat, to protect themselves once more, and to think, subconsciously, "That's right, now, Mr. Trump. Thank you, sir. Thanks for reminding us what matters in this world."