A Conversation Across Generations: We must stop the normalization of collective misogyny.
by Andrea W. Doray and Reem Mikhail
The election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States has not only exposed a culture of collective misogyny in America, but is also actually encouraging it. For example, a local politician in Connecticut, Christopher Von Keyserling, was arrested days before the inauguration for reaching between the legs of a female colleague and pinching her in the genitals after an argument about politics. He also said that if she told anyone, it would be his word against hers, and who would believe her? Although surveillance footage corroborates the victim’s complaint, Von Keyserling has plead not guilty, calling the incident a “joke.”
According to the Hart Courant, Sarah Littman, a fellow delegate of the same political body, Greenwich Representative Town Meeting, said, “I can’t believe we’re still discussing in 2017 if it’s okay to touch a woman anywhere, especially in her private parts, while she’s working.”
This hits all too close to home for me. When I was 18, I worked at the front desk of a manufacturing plant, and was the only woman on the site. One of my duties was to go back into production and collect time cards for payroll. One day the superintendent of the plant – a married man – was waiting for me. He pushed me against the wall, trapped me with his body against mine, and pressured me for sex. I got away and, from then on, only went for the time cards when he was off the site. He continued to stalk me, sometimes following me on my way home to hang around outside the post office while I dropped off the company’s mail.
Some years later, while I was vice president of an advertising agency, one of my clients was a wealthy real estate developer. We were driving to his job site when he took his right hand off the steering wheel and reached across the car to grab my breast. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I wondered what I could possibly have done to invite this crude advance. I was supposed to fly with him on his private jet to another of his properties, and when I declined, we lost the account.
Sadly, such incidents are still happening. Recently, during a business meeting, the man sitting next to me told a “69” joke, and said he missed the days when he could slap a waitress on the ass and not get smacked for it.
When I reflect on the current state of our nation, I am dis-appointed to say the least. I see a deficit in our culture, which is so deeply embedded with sexism that there is massive complacency and acceptance of it.
I felt betrayed by the tokenism used by Clinton’s campaign, which focused on the “first woman president” narrative, and this did not pan out as the Democrats hoped. Although this would have been a historical feat, simply being a “woman” was an essentialist notion that did not guarantee victory in the end.
I read a comment in the New York Times the day the latest news broke about Donald Trump’s boasts of sexual assault, and I paraphrase here: If you are female, you have had someone else grab a private part of your body without your consent. This is certainly true for me and most of my contemporaries.
Although this may have been happening less frequently, less systematically – due in large part to the women
who have come forward, the women who support them, and the decent, compassionate men (and they are in the majority) who are appalled and outraged by what goes
on – Trump has once again given America permission to persist in victimizing women.
Unfortunately, it’s not just Trump. Both Trump and Hillary Clinton represent elitists with massive wealth and privilege. They do not represent America. They perpetuate the privilege that is played out in our society for those with immense wealth. Even with all the scandal surrounding Trump’s admission – “grab them by the pussy” – he was elected president of the United States of America. Clinton, despite her Foundation’s relationship and acceptance of donations from Middle Eastern countries with deplorable and violent laws and practices towards women and girls, won the nomination of the Democratic Party.
Feminists, both second wave and millennial, cannot afford to give a “pass” to any candidate, even women. Rather,
all candidates, and anyone in positions of power and authority must be held accountable for hate, abuse, and discrimination of girls and women in our own communities and that of the global community. Why does the concern and focus about sexism and misogyny only become priority when someone is trying to win an election?
Part of the answer may be that people cared so little about revelations such as Trump’s “pussy” tape. Do they believe that such behavior is uncommon? And why do we continue to blame and shame the victims?
I know why women stay silent. I know why we endure the objectification, the humiliation, the fear. It’s because
this type of discrimination and harassment doesn’t only happen at the exalted levels of Trump’s celebrity. It happens to wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends
and best friends in all walks of life. It’s because women are not believed or, worse, are believed but brushed aside as inconsequential. I can’t believe we are still protesting
A collective and broad culture that crosses lines of
gender, religion, race, ethnicity, and socio-economic class contributes and perpetuates sexism. These are the thoughts I ponder as I sift through the news and hear the stories of women and girls all over the world who face off with sexism and misogyny every day.
I think of my two young daughters and what they will face throughout their lives. It will not always be a man with power. Friends, teachers, or even family members, could, in their own ways contribute to this culture of collective sexism. My responsibilities to my children are to model the strength they will need to resist, fight back and learn the strength of their voices to advocate for themselves and others.
And I think of the younger women in my life and can only fervently hope this will no longer be true for them. And I can’t help but believe that this public culture of collective sexism in the United States only contributes to systematic victimization of women around the world.
Today, my generation and millennial feminists, as well as the young women behind us, must face the future together. We must resist, we must speak out, we must stand with and support the women and men who have fought, and continue to fight, the normalization of sexism and misogyny.
Andrea W. Doray, M.A., is President of Writing for Peace. She is an author who writes frequently about social justice and human rights. Reem Mikhail, mother, daughter, sister, wife, feminist, is a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Denver.
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