The Silence after the Election Results

I didn’t think I’d be able to write today. Writing feels too much like talking and talking requires such effort. Talking means playacting at normalcy as if a misogynistic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, racist, ableist bigot was not just democratically elected to the highest political office in the United States. Talking means saying it’s okay. That things will get better, even though I don’t have a plan or any idea how that will occur. It’s either that or scream unintelligible nonsense.

Watching the elections results last night, my housemates and I were dead silent. We weren’t the only ones. Times Square in NYC fell silent.

I work at a high school for a college access program with low-income first generation college-bound students of color. It was painful to talk today. How do you look a seventeen-year-old in the eye and say, “This country just said it doesn’t care whether you live or die. Congratulations on submitting your college applications.”?

When a co-worker asked how I was doing, I told him, “It feels as if there’s everything to say, and yet nothing to say and I can’t say anything.” On the phone with a friend later this evening I repeated again and again, “I don’t know” because nothing I could say would have gotten either of us closer to feeling safe.

So many blogs and opinions pieces I’ve read today addressed minorities and told us to stand up, stand together and speak out.

641153And that sounds so powerful. Except I can’t picture what that means. Maybe my mind is still in a fog, but all I can picture is this weight on my chest and the heaviness of silence, struggling to have something to say, let alone something positive or encouraging or minutely helpful. But that can come later.

A few hours ago, I got into my car and just screamed. And it helped.

Not everyone processes the same, but please speak out (and write!). Even if you’re alone screaming into a pillow, even if you spew gibberish at a friend, or type nonsense on the page.  Even if you do not process through silence, please speak out. Take the time you need, but when you’re ready, speak out.

As Audre Lorde said, “Your silence will not protect you.”

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Invalidate me if I’m wrong not because of my sex

It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation about politics in my house. My brother is a Republican who believes feminism is ruining the world. Feminism is the cause of higher divorce rates and teenage pregnancies and abortions. Women are spending their time in higher education instead of looking for husbands. Men are being emasculated. Men are naturally better leaders and more logical than their female counterparts. It only spirals down from there.

My mother, on the other hand, is a Democrat. If she was old enough in the ’60s she would have been a hippie, but present  she’s a yoga teacher and a liberal activist who has no adequate words for her continuing frustration against Romney and the War Against Women. Unfortunately, her passion causes my brother to tell her she’s being over emotional.

This almost ran a collision course the other night when my mother brought up how she would leave the country if Mitt Romney was elected because of his and his party’s misogyny. As far as I know my mother’s claim to move to Canada is a hyperbole, but my brother flat out told her she did not know what she was talking about.

No explanation. Just, “You don’t know what you’re talking about and I don’t want to have this discussion right now.” It was as if he was being the bigger person by calming my mom down and walking away from an ensuing argument. I defended my mother, telling him we did know and we were knowledgeable, but he just continued to explain he did not want to get upset about politics over dinner.

I asked to say one thing and he almost didn’t let me. When I finally convinced him to let me speak I told him “Please do not invalidate our opinions.”

He said okay and the remainder of dinner was served with a heaping portion of awkward.

I write this and I’m afraid I’m vilifying my brother. I love him. He loves me. He loves my mom. But what he did was wrong. It did not make him the bigger person; it made him less.

He reads men’s rights blogs, goes online and argues against feminism (his definition) whenever he can, and this makes him feel politically involved and up to date on current events. He must know more than us. From the biased source material that he reads he, by default, must have more knowledge than the group of people whose rights are being discussed and who are directly affected by the issue. As women, we not only cannot know more, but we are automatically wrong.

I would not mind a chance to debate if he chose to invalidate me and then continue the discussion. I was not given this chance and so it is not about the merit of arguments I could have made or any counter points I might have had in regards to his argument. It is about my sex. As a woman I cannot be involved in politics. It is not even should not be involved because he did not give my mother or I the chance to argue and defend ourselves at all.

The chance to speak out, like our rights to decide how and when we give birth, is being taken from us. In our own home we could not speak out as he would not listen.

Feminism is needed more than ever; speak out for those who are silenced.