White Women: Stop Hating Yourselves

Post-It Note Project, Union Square
Post-It Note Project, Union Square

White women voted for Trump. We voted for a man who jokes about assaulting us. Who sees it as his God-given right to take whatever he wants from us, whenever he wants it, because he is a celebrity, he is powerful, he is a man. He deserves it. It's owed to him — and by "it," I mean us, because to him we are not people. We are objects. Trophies he buys in order to reward himself for a job well done.

We have come a long way in a relatively short span of time. These objects can vote now. These trophies can run for president. (We will lose, because we are either statues up on pedestals or we are tarnished and worthless; there is no in-between, no forgiveness for mistakes, because trophies are not people. But we can run.)

We want to be done. We are exhausted by this fight. It is terrifying to think that we still have so much farther to go.

But deep down, we all know it is not over yet. Not even close. It's what we talk about in our book clubs or on ladies' night when we can let down the curtain and be a little bit more honest. When we can admit, to ourselves and to each other, that men take a lot of work to keep happy. You have to tiptoe around their feelings. You have to whisper your ideas/thoughts/opinions, because if you speak too loudly, if you jar them too hard, they push back. Their skin is so thin and yet they can still push so much harder than we can. They are still stronger.

We like men. We really do. Joking, exasperated comments about sperm donors aside, we want men in our lives. We want those men to like us, too. We want their approval, the same way they want ours (or else why would they be so afraid of our laughter?).

But this is still their world. We are guests in it. Appreciated guests. Beloved ones, even, but guests nonetheless. Guests born and raised to understand the implicit rules here. Guests trained to be polite. To be courteous. To think always of our hosts, and the pressures on them, and the ways in which we can ease their burdens. We are here to serve as helpmeets. Mothers. Wives. (We know those jobs are important, so we perform them, even as we wonder why we are the only ones who must, even as we ask why care and compassion and help are not considered "real" jobs.) And if we are good at these jobs, if we excel at them and we find a kind and generous host to work for, we will be rewarded. They will take care of us.

These are the rules. We all know them, whether we admit it to ourselves or not. And we believe them, because it is easier to believe what surrounds us than to wake up and see the Matrix underneath.

If you stare at the source code long enough, however, you will see what else it leads us to believe. You'll start to notice how often we talk down on ourselves. How we mock our own "guilty pleasures." How ashamed we are to admit that we like that chick flick. How we apologize for our girly drinks and call ourselves basic bitches for enjoying pumpkin flavored coffee. How we insult teenage fangirls and the terrible books and movies and pop stars they love. How we put ourselves down for enjoying those same books or movies or pop stars. "It's stupid/crappy/mind-numbing/terrible, but it's a good distraction I guess," we say. (We do not do this when we talk about hastily-written political thrillers or subpar superhero movies or anything else we implicitly understand to be for men, even if that media is every bit as cheesy as the sitcoms we binge-watch.)

Do we notice the way we judge our own speech? The way we call ourselves and other women out for talking like "valley girls," for apologizing too much, for hedging our words, for speaking too quietly/uncertainly, for using vocal fry, for picking up teenage girls' slang terms, for using literally too much, for using literally figuratively, for saying "like" a lot. We throw those speech patterns around as a convenient excuse for why we do not get promoted. "If only she spoke more decisively in meetings," we say, "She would get that director position." (Spoiler alert: she would not. Those speech patterns are an excuse; they are not the disease.)

We grow up being tomboys. "We just don't get along with other women," we say. They tell us women are catty, and we believe them. They tell us it is normal for female friends to secretly hate each other, and we agree. When they cheat on us, they make sure we blame each other for their mistake. Society orders us to compete, tells us there can be only one, and we want to be that one, so we jump onboard.

We aren't like those sluts in their miniskirts. Therefore we can be taken seriously. We can be the exception. We can be "one of the guys," and by one of the guys, I mean we can be a person.

We are the cool girls. We don't get offended. We don't ask for more. We are not a liar. We voted for Bernie. We want to know where those emails went too. We don't trust her either, see? We aren't biased by our genitalia. We hate her too, just as much as you do. We don't like Trump either, but we've heard our guy friends talk just like him. We are the cool girls, and we want those guys to like us, so we don't say anything when they talk about grabbing some other girl against her will. We know they are joking. We know what those other girls are like, anyway. Those teases in their tight dresses and their fuck-me heels, falling down drunk. They would have agreed to sex if they were conscious, we are sure.

We understand. We're one of the guys. We voted for him because he wasn't talking about us, surely. He was talking about those other girls.

We do not see it yet. We are not conscious of our own power. The only way forward that we can see, the only way to be considered a real person, is to play their game. To follow their rules. To be the perfect houseguest and to hope our hosts are kind and generous in return.

We don't realize there is another way. We don't realize how many of us there are. We let society divide us for years; we let ourselves be content with our ladies' night get-togethers (though we may need to cut it short this week, gals, because he's feeling a little antsy about me spending so much time away from him; he doesn't think I should drink this much; he thinks I need better friends; he worries I like my friends more than him). We don't realize that we don't need their approval anymore. We do not need their permission.

We do not need men.

We want men in our lives. We really do, and that is good, because to want is to desire an equal. To need is something entirely different. We do not depend on men for our sustenance. We do not rely on their generosity anymore. We can elect to, but that is our choice, because we have the opportunity to take care of ourselves if we’d rather.

We do not need to laugh along the next time a guy we know calls another woman a slut. We do not need to agree about "those other girls." We do not need to be the cool girl. We do not need to apologize for our guilty pleasures; we do not need to be ashamed of our femininity; we do not need to call ourselves "tomboys" when we like masculine books/movies/activities because those are not only for men, they are for us too.

We do not need to be a perfect, polished trophy and we do not need to be a tarnished, lying piece of trash either. We are people, whether society wants us to be or not. We are human.

And we do not have to take this shit lying down.

We have made a mistake. We have elected a sexist, racist, homophobic, ableist hatemonger. But we do not need to stand here now and beg for his approval. We do not need to wait for him to cross the line any farther than he already has before we push back. We do not need to tiptoe around the men in our lives apologizing for our very existence. We do not need permission to make our own decisions and to control our own lives.

We do not need to hate each other. We do not need to hate ourselves.

Resist the urge to appease. Stop settling. Reject the behavioral conditioning we were all raised with. Pull each other up. Support other women. Embrace femininity in all its aspects. (Embrace the feminine side in men too, because God knows society spent long enough trying to stamp it out of them.)

Get intersectional. Learn about racism, homophobia, ableism, because if we’re going to unite, we need to face down all of our issues, including the ones that may not affect us personally. (Do not ask your marginalized friends to teach you about these problems. Do your own homework, emphasis on work, because it will be hard.) Stop throwing your sisters under the bus because you want to stay cool in the eyes of the boys. The truly good men won't judge you for doing it, and the ones who do? Remember: You do not need them anymore.

There is room at the top for all of us, as long as we stand united.