It’s my husband’s turn to put Hazel to sleep, a process that goes much easier when me and my boobs are not around. Tonight however, she was a champ. She saw me walk to the coat closet to grab my scarf and coat and cheerfully said “Bye, bye. Mama, bye bye?” I told her I loved her and left without any screaming toddler protests following me out the door.
But I didn’t go far. It’s another frigid night here in the Midwest and I am not ambitious enough to head to the local Starbuck’s or anywhere else. So here I sit on the floor at the top of the stairs just outside our apartment. I can hear her talking to her father in that sweet broken toddler English with her own secret gibberish interspersed. They are “saying goodnight to the house,” which is part of their special bed time ritual. “Good night lamp good night, see you in the morning, goodnight room, goodnight cats. see you in the morning time” I love them. They are so good. And my sweet girl, she is so eager, alive, and vulnerable it hurts me to think about it sometimes. But I do think about it, with a bit more worry now since the recent presidential election.
When I first listened to the tape of our now president elect, bragging about his sexual misconduct with such hubris and flippant disregard for women’s bodies, I got chills. I thought for sure we’d seen the last of him. I thought that after witnessing his disrespectful behavior towards Megan Kelly during and after the debate she moderated, and after his stalker like intimidation shenanigans towards Hillary Clinton during their last debate (the one where he called her a “nasty woman”), and before that, all those accounts of him barging into the dressing rooms of contestants competing in his pageants. But none of these incidents deterred 52% of White women from supporting him.
I mention this demographic specifically because it is the one whose actions I am most puzzled by. I thought we women had each other’s backs. At least in the face of such chronic, clearly, demonstrated misogyny. That was my hope anyway. But I’ll admit that quite early the night of the election, there was a sinking feeling in my stretch marked, left over baby belly. Call it “women’s intuition.” I somehow knew deep in my soul that he was going to win. The juxtaposition of hope against the cynicism that had me crying before the race was even officially over was enough to make my head spin like a top right off my body.
I feel it now as I anticipate marching with the women of Chicago on January 21st. We will do it in solidarity with those traveling from all over the country to participate in the march on Washington. A dispairing, pessimistic part of me says it will probably accomplish nothing. But there is another part there too. A little voice competing for attention. It says “you have to try…something. You have to make some kind of beginning…some demonstration of your resolve to stay involved in this process.”
I want Hazel to learn that no one can diminish you or strip you of your value as a human being–not even a president elect with a fragile ego and a penchant for hateful, otherizing rhetoric. I tell myself I am doing this for her–for her future self–when she will be old enough to understand you must not allow a bully to intimidate you into silence. But it’s more than wanting to set an example for my daughter. I feel the need to push back against an existential threat. It seems melodramatic to write those words and yet, somehow I believe them.
It was just 8 years ago that a girlfriend of mine and I went to the campaign headquarters here in Chicago for then candidate Obama and volunteered to make phone calls to potential supporters. We were filled with excitement. The belief that we were participating in a historical moment energized us. And on the night of his election, we joined hundreds of other proud Chicagoans in Grant Park and wept for joy.
But now, a different kind of historical moment is having its day. I don’t pretend to fully understand all the forces that brought us here. But to the extent that this zeitgeist the president elect seems to have captured is about racism, misogyny, and xenophobic thinking, I am filled with dread. I wonder how prescient Meryl Streep’s cautionary comments during her speech at the Golden Globes may be. What kind of long term impact will his manner have on our sociocultural environment? How will it affect the next generation?
My husband keeps impressing upon me the need to get involved at the grass roots level. Do something! Instead of lamenting over every new twitter tirade, or cabinet pick, or inflammatory news headline, take part in some local effort to effect change. Or to fight some of the change that may be coming. He’s right. I’m not sure what that will look like for me with a toddler in tow most of my days and nights. I will start with this coming Saturday’s march. I will continue to hope. And I will think about my girl. I will let my love for her and my desire to see her grow up in a country that values who she is, lead me to the next thing.