Last week was potentially a historical week, a turning point for women's rights in developed countries (and around the world).
I know, I know, you are going to tell me that I have gone made, and what is wrong with me for not seeing how they clearly are on opposite sides of the spectrum, how their views on women's rights are diametrically opposed.
You might ask me where I was that I didn't hear about Donald's talk of groping and forcing himself on (clearly unwilling) women and what about Michelle's "best-ever" first-lady's speech".
Well I've been here (in America actually) with most of you.
Donald prepares the stage
My guts were not wrenched when I heard the infamous recordings -- I was actually surprised by everyone else's surprise. I asked my husband: "How is this news?" Hasn't he shown throughout this campaign how much he disdains women?
Everything I have ever heard coming out of his mouth about women has been negative at best and beyond shocking at worst.
I was not dismayed like most of my friends who have tried to keep a cool head and see the "big" picture of this election. I was not personally hurt by Donald's words.
I thought Donald did an amazing job at portraying the level of sexism, woman degradation, abuse of women that we tolerate in all societies -- including "first world countries."
He was great because he was credible. He was truly being himself. Even after the tapes recordings were published -- he reframed his own words as being "simple locker room talk" and got his armies of PR to try to convince people that touching women's sex without their consent is regular men to men chitchat. Again, he was simply being aligned with his principle of "say what you need in the moment, deny it after."
What was truly shocking was how long it took for his party companions to disavow him...
Think about it -- it took having his voice on record, admitting to committing illegal acts for people to turn away from him.
Ok, back to teamwork. So Donald has done a stupendous job at personifying sexism and at showing us (as a collective) how big our tolerance to inequalities is.
Michelle sets the stage on fire.
Enter Michelle Obama, with a nod of the head, silently thanking Donald for preparing the crowds, bringing them to just the right place mentally and emotionally for her appeal to actually have a further reaching impact than any other call she has made so far.
Just as Donald used his talents to bringing so many women's issues to the forefront, Michelle used hers to reset our internal clock. She spoke of our temptation to dismiss what is in front of us because we don't know what to do about it; she reminded us that values matter, that compromise is dangerous in so many ways, that none of us (women and men) will ever be safe as long as we tolerate sexist speech and behavior. She reminded us of what does matter: what we say matters. It matters.
In the past 5 years there has been a rise of women's rights movements targeted mostly at "western" men and women. They remind us that we still have an unbelievably long road ahead of us towards the respect of women, let alone equality...
They address issues such as positive body image-sharing before and after Photoshop pictures.
They promote access to freedom avenues such as education and planned parenthood.
They lobby for equal pay and more women in executive positions.
They recruit celebrities who have had a first-hand experience at what horrors can happen when we are led to believe that we have special rights over others to boost their message (remember Lady Gaga's song "Till It Happens To You" ).
They commission studies to prove with facts that things are as bad as they say. Things are actually a lot worst -- in a large national survey of American women, only 16% of rapes had ever been reported to the police. The report, if you can stomach it, can be accessed here (it is from 1992 and not much has changed since...)
And some, such as One Billion Rising, stand against all forms of women's exploitation through grassroots movements.
And they have impact. They touch people. They help the victims. They open doors,
They make us think differently.
Yet they don't have the power of a presidential campaign.
Team Donald and Michelle For Real Change
None of them has had as many politicians take a clear stand and publicly say that predatory behavior (and even predatory conversation) is not only unlawful but morally unacceptable.
None of them was capable of making respect for women a presidential campaign topic.
None of them was capable of opening the eyes of millions of people to the impact the supposed "locker room" talks have on the real life of real women...and men.
None of them was able to reset our moral compass and make us understand that when we choose to ignore the reality of certain issues and let them wait, they will putrefy the very essence of our humanity...
So as my friends shared their shock, fear and consternation, I had a slightly different point of view on the situation...
As the days unfolded, my excitement grew because this past week could accomplish more for women's rights than all the efforts of the past 10 years combined.
And we can be part of the change. We can all contribute by refusing to remain a bystander, by speaking up when anyone is out of line, by offering our stories (because most women I know have at least one) and our support to the right people.