Emotional Suppression and the Presidential Election

electionresults.jpgCome on, Allie. Stop being melodramatic.

Last night, in between the catastrophizing of which my anxious self perfected the art long ago, I found myself thinking that very thought time and again, like a broken record.

 Suddenly, the vindication given to racist, LGBTQIA-phobic, sexist, misogynistic, ableist, xenophobic sentiments in America didn’t matter. The very real fear felt by marginalized people didn’t matter. The vitriol continuing to pour into social media didn’t matter. All that mattered was that I, a woman, was being too emotional in a situation where an emotional response should not only have been warranted but also expected.

Before I go any further, let me say that much of the pain I feel is strictly empathetic. Yes, I’m a woman, but I’m also straight, cis, and white. Much of the bigotry represented by the election of Donald Trump does not and will not affect me, but it affects a large number of my friends, classmates, and fellow humans. In an effort to put an end to my complacency, I spent most of the day ruminating on how Trump’s explicit comments toward and otherwise implied dehumanization (and by extension, his supporters’) of women has shaped my insecurities as a woman, and after spending the last few hours in tears, I finally realize how much sexism hurts. It’s definitely personal.

I can only imagine the pain of someone who embodies one or more of the other identities that has been further delegitimized by Trump and the white nationalism he represents. And I imagine it’s pretty excruciating, but I will not speak for others who identify as non-white-cis-hetereo-able-bodied men. There is plenty of space for grief of all stripes, and the best testament to the grief this election has caused and presumably will continue to cause is through the sharing of personal experience. I digress.

It was only upon reading an article about Trump’s candidacy awakening (some) men to the blatant sexism women face daily that I realized how deeply I have internalized the misogyny fed to me in so-called innocuous ways. Rereading Trump’s “grab ‘em by the pussy” comment beside his now “president-elect” title struck a new chord with me.

Suddenly, all the years of unwanted ass grabs, nicknames (“deep throat,” “bumper butt,” “thunder thighs,” “marshmallow fluff” … get it? Because my ass is squishy. Lol.), and catcalls (“smile,” “bitch,” “hey baby,” “let me get your number,” “you got a man?,” et al) started echoing in my mind.

All the times my intelligence was called into question because I giggled or wore makeup reminded me of my now-subconscious walking of that tightrope every single day – pretty but not trying too hard, smart but not off-putting.

The confused looks I get for being obsessed with Star Wars, philosophy, and certain bands as if I can’t be as complex as men played behind my eyelids.

The second guessing by men of my contributions in classroom settings replayed in my mind (”Are you sure that’s the answer? Let me ask someone else just to be safe” when it was very clearly the answer.).

The years of slow and steady entanglement of my worth and my virginity thanks to fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity reared its ugly head. (“Tape loses its stickiness the more people it sticks to.” Yeah, I’m definitely comparable to a two-dollar roll of Scotch tape from Wal-Mart.)

The time a boy played a song that unironically said, “women are stupid and I don’t respect them” in ninth fucking grade rang in my ears.

The time I was mocked for not shaving my pubic hair reminded me how I have to apologize for my body’s natural state every single day.

The way Trump’s “flat-chested” comment recalled all the years I spent stuffing my bra. The way my bra-size matters at all.

The way my newly diagnosed Bipolar Disorder II gets written off as being either an overly-giddy, annoying stereotype of a girl or a selfish, miserable brat reminded me that I can never truly show the weakness that I supposedly embody as a woman to the world.

I could go on, but I won’t.

Some readers are definitely thinking that I’m just being dramatic at this point, but get this: little girls are taught that their physical appearance and personality must achieve perfect balance so as to neither revolt nor intimidate men from an unfathomably young age.

I am not one to wear my heart on my sleeve. A very select few people have ever seen me be emotional at all, but for the first time in a long time, today, I cried.

I go to extreme lengths to not take things personally, but all the suppression in the world could not help me today. I was inundated by years of repressed memories; years of internalizing shame and guilt for my body, mind, and personality; and years of being objectified while simultaneously being called vain for acting on said internalized objectification. The political is personal, and I’m sorry it took subjective experience with sexism for me to come to terms with that.

Perhaps more troubling and hurtful than the comments and actions of bigots is their vehement denial that 1) they harbor prejudices and 2) any systemic injustice exists at all. They dole out bigotry and undermine the ways in which that bigotry affects people. Maybe they lack self-awareness. Maybe they lack empathy. Whatever the case, a Trump presidency will be a constant reminder to many people that their identities are an inherent threat to the status quo and therefore, unwelcome.

And as for those who could ignore Trump’s sentiments to vote for him for “economic” reasons, congratulations. Your privilege is showing.

In spite of this, I am by no means saying Trump supporters are evil, but why must we continue to invalidate each other’s subjective experience under the guise of being “rational,” “logical,” or “objective”? Hint: all people have biases. No one can claim the intellectual high ground simply because he or she is immune to the emotional damage caused by the sentiments that gave rise to a Trump candidacy and presidency.

And for those of us who have been hurt, we need to stop delegitimizing our own pain. We’re already hurting. Lets step into that hurt, accept it, and channel it into activism. Suppressing it will only lead to more complacency, which is something we can absolutely no longer afford. I am confident this election will serve as a wake-up call to ourselves and to each other, if nothing else. We are past the point of no return.

Listen. Learn. Be receptive to other people’s pain. The odds are good that many of us are barely treading water in a sea of it. Lets not make apologies for our identities.

Lets make space for them even if we have to elbow our way through for a while.

We can, we must, do this together.

This post was originally published on the Huffington Post website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *