The Election of Trump
It has been a while since I’ve written. I had a post ready to go explaining my absence, which has been largely due to a new job with ample responsibilities and challenges.
But then Tuesday happened, and suddenly my own travails lost their significance to me. There is little else I’ve been able to think about besides the savagely disappointing loss we experienced on Election Day.
I was ill prepared for the actuality of a Trump presidency, and even less so for the grief that followed. I understand the political and intellectual ramifications of Tuesday’s outcome, but I have struggled to understand my strong emotional reaction to it — not wanting to get out of bed, crying sporadically, stomachaches, feeling like the world has taken on a darker shade.
I spent about a day feeling frustrated with myself for “overreacting” to the news— until I came to work and found my colleagues feeling many of same emotions. Everyone around me is grieving, in the truest sense of that word. Even the streets of New York City were quieter on Wednesday. No one spoke on the bus in the morning. People either were glued to their phones or stared blankly out the window. It was as if massive tragedy had struck.
We have all been trying to make sense of how someone with a campaign characterized by racism, xenophobia, misogyny, trans and homophobia — put generally, a disregard for anything except power and monetary gain — could actually have succeeded. We all know that sometimes the bad guys win, but knowing that doesn’t take the sting away.
Of all the “isms” we can talk about in relation to Donald Trump, the subject that I personally keep tripping over is his treatment of women. When I think of him, I feel the anger and violation that I feel when I experience or witness predatory behavior aimed at women on the street — except I feel it tenfold and it isn’t abating. I also feel betrayed by the women who voted for him, who let their fellow countrywomen down.
Worst of all, I feel a lurking sense of despair. Yet again, it has been shown to us that a man can say and do whatever he wants to women without facing any repercussions. Rather, he is rewarded with the highest office in the land.
Trump’s Ideal Woman
I’d never intended this blog to enter in on political discussions. Mental health issues do, of course, play out in the political sphere, especially as they relate to insurance coverage and treatment access. Generally, though, the issues at the heart of mental health advocacy impact all people, regardless of political leanings, age, race, socioeconomic status, gender, or sex.
This post is not an exception. Donald Trump’s striking flaws pertain not to his politics, but to his character. He has revealed himself to be a man of divisiveness; someone who foments hatred of the other. Whether deep down he truly believes the vile things he says is still a mystery. He showed us that he will go to any lengths to win over the groups needed to put him in power, regardless of his own personal values, which seem to change from year to year. (The sad reality, though, is that what we’ve seen is what we’ll probably get.)
We in the mental health advocacy and eating disorder recovery communities are committed to changing societal attitudes surrounding mental health, body image, and the way we think about the personal worth of each member of our society. We work toward changing the conversations (visual as well as verbal) that tell people — particularly women — they must look or act a certain way in order to be worthy of love and respect. We do this work by demanding truth in advertising, health at every size, body positivity, environments free of hate speech and bullying, access to treatment, among many other initiatives.
As an eating disorder survivor, I’m especially concerned with the way that false societal ideals — e.g., perpetual thinness, youth, beauty, and sex appeal — contribute to eating disorders and other mental illnesses. Of course, eating disorders are biologically based and multifactorial, and thus harmful images in the media don’t “cause” an eating disorder per se. However, they do cause levels of anxiety and depression that can spark eating disorders and other mental illnesses — and, if nothing else, a low quality of life.
Trump epitomizes the attitudes and beliefs that we in these communities spend our time and energy fighting against. He has said in no uncertain terms what he considers to be a “beautiful woman”: Voluptuous, but thin; young and pretty-faced; delicate, cooperative, submissive, soft-spoken — precisely the image of women that we see plastered to ads across the nation.
Trump preys on women not only sexually, but mentally. Women are there not just to grab, fondle, and satisfy his lust, but also to fulfill his starving ego, to make him feel powerful and desirable. Besides being blatantly violating, attitudes like his oppress women. They dupe us into believing that looks and sexual appeal are our only assets, and they keep us too preoccupied by bodily appearance to ascend to the powerful positions men hold.
So you know what? Fuck that.
If You Grab Me, I Will Grab Back
I’ve felt devastated for the last two days that we put such a vile person in the White House, someone who has repeatedly said demeaning, disgusting things about women. Now, however, I’m turning that sadness into anger. There will be no docility here. If you grab me, I will grab back.
Given this election, I am even more committed to fighting back against people like Trump. I hope all of you who read this blog will feel incensed rather than discouraged by the events of the past week (and months, and years). Do not give in to the rhetoric — the so-called “locker room talk” — about your body and your sexuality. Your dignity and worth are immutably yours.
Going forward, we have to continue to make ourselves heard. We have to shout from the rooftops that our bodies are our own and that we alone decide what we do with them and how we feel about them. We need to say over and over that we are more than the object of another’s gaze, and we WILL NOT EVER harm ourselves, starve ourselves, berate ourselves, or change ourselves to live up to an “ideal” someone else dictates just because it satisfies their needs or makes them money.
I am my own woman, and I decide what that means for me and how you treat me as a result. My dignity and worth are mine to keep.
No one — not a man, not a bully, not even the President of the United States — can take that away.
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