This election season has been worse than usual. Everyone (in the United States and in Denmark) is ready for it to be over. People hate Hillary Clinton. People hate Donald Trump. There have been accusations on both sides. Donald Trump thinks Clinton should go to jail. Clinton thinks Trump supporters are “deplorables”. People are literally talking about the threat of violence on election day.
All of this is bad. And anyone who has been reading this blog knows that I am voting for Hillary Clinton. But I want to clarify something. I’m not voting her because Donald Trump is a liar. I’m voting for her because Donald Trump is telling the truth (and because I actually like her, but that’s not the point of this post).
I know, it seems like the internet is filled with lists of all the awful things he’s done. The times he’s changed his mind. The people he’s insulted. It’s filled with business ventures gone wrong, sexual assault allegations, and lies he’s told. But I’ve been watching Mr. Trump. I watched the debates. I’ve seen videos of his rallies. And when he says “I have more respect for women than anyone”, when he says “The blacks love me!”, when he says “Mexico will build a wall”, he is not lying.
How do I know?
I know because the rich television producer who pulled me towards him to kiss me while his girlfriend was out of the room was very sincere and confused when he asked “why not?”.
I know because the man who walked me to the taxi stand at 3am because I didn’t feel like telling him to stop touching me anymore asked very sincerely what the problem was, and if maybe his offering me his jacket would help.
I know because the man at the rowing club a month ago really thought that we had had a good conversation.
I know because the response I got when saying I didn’t want to be called slut during sex was whore.
And I know because the facial expressions, the body language, the sincerity in these men’s voices as they speak with me is the same as what I see when Donald Trump speaks. It’s a real desire to know, to understand, for me to explain exactly what it is about them, their looks, their ideas, or their power that I don’t find attractive.
We can call it sexism, we can call it mansplaining, we can call it assault. That’s what it is. But we should not forget the sincere look, the true misunderstanding, the true honesty that is behind it all. It rarely comes from people with bad intentions. It almost always comes from people who have fallen “victim” (as Trump would put it) to a culture which has told them over and over and over that women like powerful men who are TV producers, who offer them their jackets when it’s cold outside no matter the circumstances, who can at least pretend to know something about things they don’t, and who are able to keep in control no matter what.
When Donald Trump says he respects women, he isn’t lying. For him, “grabbing women by the pussy” is just locker room talk. For him, it’s a compliment to say he might date his daughter. For him, it’s only logical that beauty queens should be careful about what they eat.
It’s only logical that the Mexicans will want to build a wall. Only logical that Muslims are dangerous. Only logical that he might not accept the election results.
I truly believe that Donald Trump is not lying when he says that “the blacks”, “the gays”, “the women”, “everyone” loves him. Because honestly, how could you not love someone as rich, powerful, loud, and confident as him?
And that is exactly why I am terrified to think of him as the next president of the United States. His confidence, his loudness, his money, even his “saying what’s on his mind” make him seem really powerful, like no one can defeat him. His campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” implies that he can do something for the people who have lost their jobs and who are afraid of the United States becoming a place with a white minority. And I understand that there are people who want a strong man in their lives. I understand that there are people (many of them white men) who feel forgotten and angry that their jobs are gone and worry that “the blacks” and “the Mexicans” are the reason for it. Those are very real, very personal issues that need to be addressed.
But it does no good for those who have lost their jobs, who have no college education and who feel forgotten to sit in a room together and complain. The people who need to hear those complaints are the ones who haven’t lost their jobs. The ones who are doing fine after the recession. Even the ones who have immigrated to the United States and haven’t done their homework on American history and traditions. The ones who are so educated they don’t know how to hold down a job in anything but academia. The ones who don’t know how to listen and take people without a college degree seriously. If I’ve learned anything about Donald Trump, it’s that he is very good at talking, and not so good at listening.
I know that when that television producer with the fancy car pulled my body against him to kiss me when I was doing fieldwork in Turkey, I was afraid. I was afraid for my safety. I was afraid for my reputation. I was afraid of what his girlfriend might think if she found out. I was afraid because he was stronger than me. I was afraid because I didn’t have a way to get home that night. And that fear was also very real, very personal, and needs to be addressed.
But just as it does the jobless and forgotten no good to complain to each other, it does no good for me to sit in a room of feminists (especially other white female feminists) and talk about these issues. The people who need to talk about this are the people who call us their “wives, sisters, and daughters”. The ones who, like Donald Trump, are not lying when they say they respect women. The ones who want to be allies but don’t know how. The ones who are horrified to find out that women they know have faced sexual violence on one level or another. The ones who didn’t know what sexual violence was until they found themselves accused of committing it.
I know it’s not only the president’s job to fix these problems. But I also know we need to elect someone who can listen.
I understand that everyone is afraid of what is going to happen next Tuesday. But no matter who you are, no matter how hurt you feel, no matter how scared you are, no matter if you’re afraid of immigrants or of men or of the government, I can not stress enough that we are, in two words, Stronger Together.